This year, 2022, marks 65 years since the return of the Society of Jesus in Vietnam at the invitation of the local Church. The Jesuit mission in Vietnam had ceased with the worldwide suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, but the Jesuits returned in 1957 after almost two centuries of absence. This year is also the 15th anniversary of the signing of the decree by former Superior General Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach SJ elevating the Vietnamese Jesuit Region to the status of a province.
To celebrate these two important occasions, the Vietnamese Jesuits have released an ebook that highlights the presence and apostolates of the Jesuit brothers. “We are convinced that the growth of the Vietnamese Province through the ups and downs of the past 65 years is due, first of all, to the grace of God and the commitment of different generations of Jesuits, among them are our Jesuit Brothers,” said Vietnamese Provincial Fr Vincent Pham Van Mam SJ in his preface to the book.
All the articles in this collection, besides one, were written by the brothers themselves, and each story is replete with insights into their vocation. As Fr Anthony Nguyễn Cao Siêu SJ writes in the Foreword: “The vocation of the Jesuit brother is a mystery. Only when you meet and talk to a Jesuit brother in a deeper state from the bottom of your heart can you probably understand a little of this mystery.”
Indeed, the book goes into the heart of the vocation of the Jesuit brothers. Reading through it is like talking to a friend who has revealed his heart to you. The brothers share their life and service as Jesuits in their home province or as missionaries in distant places. They share their joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams.
The book also offers a glimpse of the history of the Jesuits in Vietnam and the role that the first Jesuit brother missionaries played in the growth of the Society in the country, and the inspiration they left behind.
Of the more than 14,000 Jesuits in the world, only about 800 are Jesuit brothers. Hardly have they written about themselves and on the mystery of their life. The Vietnamese Province hopes that through this book, people will have a deeper understanding and a greater love for the Jesuit brothers.
The province also hopes for the book to serve as an introduction to young men who are discerning their vocation. Perhaps it can help them respond to the call of religious brotherhood.