Vietnamese sisters bring relief to flood victims


• Sisters' wellspring in Vietnam: Giving people low-cost or free water opens the way to more services

Fr. Michael Hoang Xuan Huong, left, pastor of Hoa Ninh Parish, traveled by raft to hand food to people isolated by flooding. (Courtesy of Vinh diocese)

Hue, Vietnam — Sisters from various congregations are offering emergency aid to tens of thousands of people badly affected by floods in central Vietnam.

A tropical low-pressure system's heavy rainfall Oct. 13-16 caused flooding that claimed 29 lives, with one person missing and 30 injured in four provinces of Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Quang Binh and Quang Tri, according to reports issued by the Department of Natural Disaster Prevention and Control.

Floods damaged over 121,000 houses and 15,000 hectares (about 37,000 acres) of crops. Many hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and dikes were also ruined.

Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity of Vinh (MCV) are collecting food, clothes, blankets and other basic supplies from people outside of the area to help flood victims.

"We are giving rice, cooking oil, instant noodles, and cleaning water to villagers," said Sr. Mary Nguyen Thi Mai, superior of MCV, which serves the Vinh diocese. "We also visit and console them, provide health care for elderly people and children, pray for the dead."

Mai said convents from other places that were not affected by floods have made donations to victims as a way to live out their charism of mercy in the Year of Mercy.

Some convents in the worst-hit provinces of Ha Tinh and Quang Binh were inundated by floodwater that washed away their books, rice, sewing machines, poultry, pigs and other belongings, Mai said.

Phu Kinh Church was inundated during the Oct. 14-15 flooding. (Courtesy of Vinh diocese)

"Our water-purification systems in the areas were also damaged by floodwater," she said.

Mai said many nuns are cooking in churches and serving rice and sesame mixed with salt to victims.

She said brothers and sisters from other congregations have also given emergency aid to villagers affected by floods. Redemptorist Fr. Paul Nguyen Xuan Duong, a singer, held a concert in Nghe An Province and raised 430 million dong ($20,000) for victims.

Lovers of the Holy Cross of Vinh Sr. Agnes Nguyen Thi Nhung said nuns opened their convent in Ha Tinh Province's Huong Khe District to shelter 150 elderly people and children during the floods.

"We are asking benefactors to help local people rebuild their houses," she said.

Sr. Mary Tran Thi Hong of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate Congregation, based in Hue City, said she and about 10 other nuns visited Huong Khe District on Oct. 22 and offered health care to people there.

Local people were lacking food, garbage remained on their houses' roofs and walls, mud covered floors, and wells still had muddy water, Hong said, adding that they lost everything during the flooding.

"We try to call on benefactors to generously give food and money to victims so that they can repair or rebuild their houses and return to normal life soon," she said.

Farmers sheltered their cattle in Hoa Ninh Church during the floods. (Courtesy of Vinh diocese)

Church appeals for donations to victims

Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, said on behalf of Vietnamese bishops: "I would like to call on benefactors, priests, religious, all peoples of God in the country and abroad to offer generous help to flood victims so that they can overcome current difficulties."

Linh said overnight, local people lost crops and need basic food, clothes and medicine.

"This is a good opportunity for us to discover Jesus' countenance among other people in the Year of Mercy," he said in an appeal issued Oct. 18. "Jesus [is] among our brothers and sisters who are destitute [and] hourly waiting for us to save them."

Linh also urged Catholics to "pray for those killed by the floods to be in God's peace, and for their relatives to return to normal life soon."

Fr. Vincent Vu Ngoc Dong, head of Caritas in the Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese, asked all local parishes, congregations and associations to donate as many basic supplies as they can to share with flood victims. 

[Joachim Pham is a correspondent for Global Sisters Report based in Vietnam.]