Vietnamese Jesuits are young and they give priority to accompany young people in their country. They do this in a variety of contexts, for example, with university students, but also, at the service of the Vietnamese Church, with seminarians. Here are the testimonies of two Vietnamese Jesuits involved with young people.
Nguên Thái Son works full-time in youth ministry. He summarizes his attitude and involvement as follows: “Our apostolate aims to offer a solid formation in human values, in the spiritual life and in commitment. We highlight aspects that general education in Vietnam does not really offer, such as methodology and critical thinking. Secondly, we encourage young people to embrace and live traditional Vietnamese values so that they may integrate them in a positive way with what contemporary society has to offer. Then, as Jesuits, rooted in the tradition of the Spiritual Exercises, we want to help young people to live a deep spiritual life, to become mature believers. All this, intellectual and spiritual formation, is oriented towards the service of others, especially marginalized people. The young people we support will then have a positive influence on the environments in which they live and work.
Among the flagship activities of the Jesuit’s pastoral care of the students in Vietnam, the “summer retreat” comes first to mind: this is a week of Spiritual Exercises in which some 1300 young people participate each year!
Trinh Duy Suyt teaches and accompanies the seminarians in the Northern part of the country, at the Hanoi Seminary. He is part of a long tradition. Before the current political regime took power, Jesuits were already serving the Church of Vietnam while in charge of the Dalat Seminary. More discreetly now, they support the dioceses by giving courses, and especially, as spiritual directors for seminarians.
Here is how Suyt speaks of his commitment: “I notice that seminarians have a great desire to commit themselves to the service of God and the Church. The number of seminarians is increasing and, thanks to mutual assistance among them, they persevere in their commitment. However, there are many challenges. Clericalism is part of their mentality and they must be helped to change their way of thinking from a pastoral service reserved for the faithful to a pastoral care of evangelization focusing on those at the periphery. The importance of spiritual depth must also be emphasized. A new formation programme for priests was adopted in 2016; this is, in my opinion, an important tool. It promotes the values I stress: conversion, the purification of vocational motivations, and, above all, friendship with the Lord.”
All over the world, the Society of Jesus wants, in the coming years, to give priority to accompany young people who are seeking meaning in their lives and who desire to find meaningful ways of commitment. The Ignatian tradition, adapted to our times and diverse cultural contexts, will be a major instrument to achieve this goal.