I guess many of you have heard that I visited Asia during the summer. I preached a retreat to over 20 of the Scalabrinian Seminarians who are studying theology in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. This was in Manila, Philippines. I also visited our postulancy and novitiate in Cebu, another city in the Philippines. I spent five days at our seminary in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.
It was a wonderful experience. Asia is a completely different world with a young population reaching into a brighter future. We need not be threatened by them for they are embracing much of our culture. I hope that they do not lose the very unique and rich traditions that are there’s.
I ate a lot of rice and noodles and many vegetables, some of which for the first time. The diet suited me well and I even lost a few pounds, which I gained again on my return.
What I appreciated most in both countries was the importance they place on relationships. People are not rushed and take time to enjoy each other’s company with long coffee breaks and boisterous meals.
I was also impressed with the faith of Catholics in those countries. In the Philippines, notwithstanding problems with radicalized groups and terrorism, people practice their faith and it penetrates their every day lives. In a communist country like Vietnam it is amazing how people continue to practice their faith with relative freedom. The struggles to do so in the past have given the Vietnamese people a deep sense of appreciation for the faith that they profess.
I am grateful to have been of service to our seminarians and to have the opportunity of visiting these two countries. The experience will stay with me for a long time. I have surely been enriched by it.