Student Ministry of the Vietnam Province: Accompanying young people to find Christ

Jesuits all over the world are well-known with education mission. The Vietnamese Jesuits also lean toward education mission in a very particular and contextual way. In fact, while some Jesuits contribute to clerical formation for local churches by teaching philosophy and theology in seminaries, many other young Jesuits accompany with Catholic Student Groups as group pastors or mentors, which is so-called “pastoral ministry for students” in Vietnam province. Although Vietnam Jesuits do not have any universities in education system of the country, they can have a good effect on Catholic students through this ministry.

[Photo 1] – Mass in the retreat day –  Advent 2018, Saigon.

Most of universities are located in big cities in Vietnam. Leaving their own hometown for these cities, the Catholic students find to have a good environment for living their faith, which is not met by public universities. For this need, many Catholic student groups were found, accompanied by diocesan priests or religious congregations. Until now, there are about 65 Catholic students groups in Vietnam; and 40 of those groups are mentored by Jesuits. Each group consists of about 50 student members, mentored by 1-2 Jesuits. After graduating from universities, the members become alumni and continue to help the group by sharing their experiences, or contributing financial fund for group’s activities. Some groups have celebrated their 30 years anniversary already.

In each group, Jesuits are like mentors of student administrative staff, help the staffto organize weekly activities. Sometimes, they become spiritual companions of the members whoface difficulties in the modern life of youth. The vision of this mission is to be creative solidarity with students, help them to search knowledge, virtues and faith through group activities such as prayer, Mass, faith-sharing, retreats, social works, teambuilding activities and talks on Ignatian spirituality. Especially, every summer holiday, 20 courses of 5-day Ignatian retreat are held for Catholic students across country. The total number of retreatants is more than 1000.

Anna Trang, a member of Thien An Catholic student group in Saigon, feels very happy when she has a chance to learn about friendship and to love when taking part in the group’s activities. She is very grateful for the serving of Jesuits in her group. She shared: “Jesuitsplay with us, they learn with us, they listen to us and they share with us. They make us feel safe and teach us about God’s love via that very humble way.” [see more at the video link below]. Young Jesuits in the society also experience more deeply the need of the youth through this mission. Be with the universal Church, Vietnamese Jesuits are listening to the youth. Be with the youth, they are finding ways to live out their Catholic faith in the Church and in Vietnam society.

– An interview with Anna Trang, memberof Thien An Catholic Student Group.

Dominic Le Van Luan, SJ