Christmas comes early for Đồng Nai's Catholic community

December, 20/2020 - 07:02

People all over the world are excited about the upcoming Christmas season. At Biên Hòa Catholic Church in Biên Hòa City, local Catholics are preparing to welcome the new year and the day of Christ's birth. 

The main entrance of the church has been set up with a huge LED morning star, a symbol of Jesus Christ, while the surroundings are lit up with hundreds of LED lights and stars. VNS Photo by Phương Mai

Biên Hòa Church has prepared for its Christmas Mass and accompanying celebrations with large, colourful displays decorated with LED lights and nativity scenes.  

BY PHƯƠNG MAI

ĐỒNG NAI - People all over the world are excited about the upcoming Christmas season. At Biên Hòa Catholic Church in Biên Hòa City, local Catholics are preparing to welcome the new year and the day of Christ's birth. 

Biên Hòa Church in Biên Hòa Parish is one of the oldest and largest churches in Đồng Nai Province with a community of more than 16,000 Catholic members. 

The church attracts thousands of local parishioners and visitors during its special Christmas service, accompanied by colourful and elaborate decorations in peaceful surroundings.

This year, Christmas preparations started in November thanks to local parishioners who volunteered to set up the nativity scenes and decorate the church. 

"There are so many things to do before the celebration, so we need a lot of support from local parishioners," said Nguyễn Quang Tiến, head of the Biên Hòa Parish’s administration board.

The large and elaborate nativity scene is built next to the main entrance. — VNS Photo by Phương Mai

The main entrance of the church has a huge LED morning star, a symbol of Jesus Christ, while the surroundings are lit with hundreds of LED lights and stars. 

The large and elaborate nativity scene has been built next to the main entrance. A 10m-high Christmas tree with hundreds of LED lights has also been set up, together with several small nativity scenes surrounding and inside the church.

Priest Năng

Priest Philip Lê Văn Năng (centre), who has been the Biên Hòa Parish Priest for 32 years, has made many efforts to develop the parish. — Photo from the parish’s Facebook page

However, the most awaited event in the holy season is Christmas Mass on Christmas’s Eve led by Priest Philip Lê Văn Năng, who has been a priest for 32 years.

"About 1,000 parishioners from Biên Hòa City and neighbouring localities will come to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ," said Priest Năng, who came to the Biên Hòa Parish in 1998.

During his years of service, the Biên Hòa Parish community has risen from 7,500 to over 16,000 parishioners, and is now the largest Catholic community in the province.

The parish has held hundreds of cultural activities for children and youth. Charitable activities to help the needy and sick in both Biên Hòa Parish and rural parishes in other provinces have also taken place. 

“Thanks to the leadership of Priest Năng, the Biên Hòa Parish has become a strong Catholic community,” said Trần Thị Vinh, 68, who has been going to the church since she was a child.

However, Priest Năng’s most remarkable work for the parish was the construction of the current Biên Hòa Church.

The church was first built across the Đồng Nai riverbank in 1863 by a foreign priest, becoming one of the first three centres of Catholicism in the province.

The new brick church was built in a new location near an old one between 1870 and 1872.

In 1972, Vietnamese priest Nguyễn Văn Sum began to rebuild the church with one storey. The 40m by 24m construction had to be postponed in 1975 due to lack of budget, but it was finally completed in 1991.

In 2008, Priest Năng recognised that the church was too small to handle the increasing number of community members and services, so he decided to build a bigger church after collecting opinions by polling local parishioners.

Construction began in April 2008 and was completed in October 2010.

The new church covers a total area of 5,561 square metres, with a capacity of 3,000 people.

According to Priest Năng, the church has a shape of a fan because "a fan brings cool wind to people. The new wind that Biên Hòa Parish community wants to send to life is love from the Eucharist and Word of God”. 

Above the main entrance is an engraving with the words of Jesus: “A new command I give you: Love one another.”

“The church is the fan spreading love to everyone,” said Priest Năng.

When the new church opened, it quickly became the centre of the province’s Christmas celebrations. 

Children from Biên Hoà Parish sing to celebrate Christmas last year. — Photo from the parish’s Facebook page

Along with bright and elaborate decorations, a music show is also held on Christmas Day at the church’s yard. Children and young people from the parish sing classic Christmas carols and perform nativity scenes.

Parishioner Vinh said: “In spite of worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has brightened up for Christmas in hopes of a new start and happiness for everyone. The priests and the parish have done the same and have prayed for good blessings for everyone.” VNS

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