New provincial for Jesuits in Vietnam

The new provincial of the Vietnam Jesuit Province was formally installed on December 8.  Fr Vincent Pham Van Mam (Fr Mam) SJ succeeded Fr Joseph Pham Thanh Liem (Fr Liem) SJ who served as Vietnamese Provincial for the last six years.

Members of the province, guests and collaborators joined the Mass celebrated by the new provincial in the chapel of St Joseph Jesuit Scholasticate in Ho Chi Minh City.  In his homily, Fr Mam focussed on four important elements that he wants the Jesuits in Vietnam to pay attention to: participation, dialogue, collaboration and discernment.

He shared that on the day he found out he was to be appointed provincial, he laughed because he could not understand why God had chosen him despite his limitations. Then on the second day, he was filled with anxiety but on the third day, the words of the Gospel rang in his mind, “For with God, nothing is impossible”, and he felt peace.

He recalled the verses from Luke. “For with God, nothing is impossible” (Lk 1:37) and “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38).

“If the first sentence is an invitation to faith, the second is the conviction of faith and a radical commitment. Mary experienced both,” said Fr Mam. He stressed this experience of Mary and the importance of saying “yes” to the mission of the Society of Jesus today, sharing that it was why he chose to be installed as provincial on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Jesuits in Vietnam at the installation of Fr Mam as Provincial

Fr Mam joined the Society of Jesus on July 16, 1976, the year of the reunification of Vietnam. The political situation was very delicate, especially when it came to religious affairs. From 1978 to 1990, he worked at a communist farm for nine years and joined military service for four years.  During this time, he sometimes studied philosophy.

In the 1980s, the Jesuits in Vietnam were being persecuted. Many Jesuit fathers and brothers were imprisoned, and Fr Mam and the other Vietnamese Jesuits not in prison lived underground.

He returned from his service in the plantations and in the military in 1990 to continue his philosophy and theology studies at the Saint Joseph Scholasticate. He was ordained on September 6, 1997 and professed his final vows on July 23, 2003.

Between 1996 and 2002, Fr Mam held various positions as Superior, Ministry Coordinator, Candidates’ Director and Acting Pastor. From 2004 to 2006, he studied at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in the Philippines where he finished with a master’s degree in Pastoral Study.

Upon his return, he served as Assistant to the Rector of the Saint Joseph Scholasticate and Dean of Philosophical and Juniorate Studies.

In 2010, he became Acting Superior of Epiphany Community and Acting Pastor of the Epiphany Parish in Ho Chi Minh City, and five months later became Rector of St Joseph Jesuit Scholasticate, his last position prior to being appointed Provincial.

Before the Mass, Fr Vincent Pham Dinh Khoan SJ, Socius of the Vietnam Province, expressed his sincere and deep gratitude on behalf of the whole Province to Fr Mam’s predecessor Fr Liem for his generous service as Provincial. He thanked him especially for demonstrating cura personalis to the Jesuits in Vietnam and encouraging them in their apostolic work.

Fr Liem acknowledged the cooperation of the whole province and thanked Fr Mam for his courage in taking on this new assignment entrusted to him by the Society.

A simple party was held at the scholasticate after the Mass.