The Diocese of Hung Hoa, in northwestern Vietnam, ordained 16 new deacons on February 14, 2023, three of whom are ethnic Hmong. “We hope some of them can serve the growing number of Hmong Catholics in our remote areas,” said Fr. Nguyen Ngoc Ngoan, who works with the diocesan Lay Ministry Committee.
The Hmong are a Christian minority living in the remote mountains of Vietnam in an almost self-sufficient lifestyle. A marginalized group, they represent about 1% of the Vietnamese population and suffer from multiple forms of discrimination, including outright persecution.
The number of Christians belonging to this ethnic group has increased in recent years, but few priests and deacons minister in the regions concerned. These are the provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau and Son La, located in the northwest of the country on the border with Laos and China. The three regions combined have nearly 16,000 Christians, but only about 20 priests, according to Fr. Ngoan. A parish priest in Dien Bien province since 2016, Fr. Ngoan ministers with three other priests to 3,000 Catholics, two-thirds of whom are Hmong.
Encouraging new vocations
For Fr. Joseph Ma Ca, who is also Hmong, the arrival of three new deacons belonging to this minority is good news to be able to better provide the sacraments thanks to their understanding of the Hmong way of life, culture, and language.
“During confessions, for example, some priests cannot understand what the faithful are confessing to them, and people don’t always understand what penance the priest is giving them either,” he explains.
The three recently ordained Hmong deacons are also, according to Fr. Joseph, a concrete way to inspire vocations among young people from this minority in Vietnam.