Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Seminary Community Celebrates 117 Vietnamese Martyrs

Story and photo by Phillip Shifflet

On Tuesday, November 24, in St. Joseph Chapel at Mount Angel Seminary (MAS), the Reverend Bartholomew Dat Pham, SDD, the Pastor of Our Lady of LaVang Parish in Portland, celebrated Mass on the occasion of the Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions. The seminary community was joined by other seminarians and priests from the Vietnamese community, as well as three sisters from the Adorers of the Holy Cross.

Before the Mass began, Fr. Pham and Deacon Joseph Nguyen of the Diocese of Orange offered incense before an icon of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, who were canonized in 1988 by Pope St. John Paul II. The act of offering of incense is a sign of respect and reverence in the Vietnamese culture.

Reverend Bartholomew Dat Pham

In his homily, Fr. Pham reflected that, having entered his religious order only two months after the 117 Vietnamese martyrs were canonized, "My superior and the priests who were in charge of our formation asked us to study really hard about their lives, about the situation: how the foreign priests and bishops came to our country to evangelize the Good News of the Lord, and how they were tortured and persecuted. The more I learned about their lives, the more I loved God; and the more I loved God the more I tried to be faithful to God."

Fr. Pham also shared stories from the life of Sts. Andrew Dung-Lac and Paul Le-Bao-Tinh. While in prison, St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh wrote these words in a letter to seminarians: "The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind--shackles, iron chains, manacles--are added hatred vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is forever."

"Their lives have impacted us very much," Fr. Pham said. "We have more vocations because we are deeply influenced by the lives of our Vietnamese martyrs."

Fr. Pham is a member of the Domus Dei Clerical Society of Apostolic Life, which was founded in 1630 by the French Jesuit missionary Alexander de Rhodes. Many members of Domus Dei fled to the United States in 1975, when the communists took over South Vietnam.

Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception nearly 127 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

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