400 Years of Jesuits in Vietnam

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Father General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, concelebrated the anniversary Mass for 3,000 people gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

On Sun., Jan. 18, over 3,000 Catholics gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to participate in the concluding Mass marking the arrival of the first Jesuits in Vietnam 400 years ago. The event culmination of a year-long celebration that started last January when Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, celebrated the opening Mass. That Mass had a congregation of over 1,500 with over 100 additional priests concelebrating. This year’s closing Mass included Father General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, as one of 14 concelebrants, and main celebrant Jesuit Bishop Cosmas Hoang van Dat of Bac Ninh located in the north of Vietnam near Hanoi.

The Jesuits who arrived in Vietnam 400 years ago, came after the death of Italian Jesuit missionary Fr. Matteo Ricci. While they had originally intended to go to Japan, they quickly began to befriend the local people by learning their language and culture. Since those Jesuits arrived, Christianity has continued to grow and spread in Vietnam. Additionally, the Jesuit presence there has grown as well. The Vietnam Province is one of the largest Jesuit provinces in the Asian Pacific Jesuit Conference.

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Teaching in Vietnam

Fr. Schineller poses in front of a statue of Jesus.

Fr. Schineller poses in front of a statue of Jesus overlooking the city of Vũng Tàu in Vietnam.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Jesuit missionaries arriving in Vietnam and bringing Christianity with them. To start off the year, Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, celebrated a Mass with over 1,500 people in the congregation and over 100 priests concelebrating.

In addition to Christianity growing in the country during the last 400 years, the Jesuit presence there has grown as well. The Vietnam Province is one of the largest Jesuit provinces in the Asian Pacific Jesuit Conference, with 197 Jesuits and an astonishing 200 serious Jesuit candidates.

In the tradition of Jesuits coming to the country, Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ, traveled to Vietnam from February 8 through March 3 to teach theology. This was his second time visiting to teach – he first came to Vietnam in 2011 after Fr. Ai Pham, SJ, dean of the faculty of theology at St. Joseph Scholasticate requested help. In 2014 Fr. Schineller returned to Vietnam at the request of Fr. Pham. “His request and my own desires coincided so I went back,” said Fr. Schineller. “My main job in past has been teaching theology, at Chicago, at Boston and in Nigeria. Teaching is deeply in me and I can teach a variety of subjects.”

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