“Keep your Catholic faith until the end of your life”
Father’s words resonate with Phung Van Hai, who decided to become a Catholic to marry his fiancée at a life-changing time
Phung Van Hai was considering marrying a Catholic woman he had met in his delivery job.
“I wanted to have faith in the same religion,” he said.
So, he first visited Kawaguchi Church in Saitama Prefecture, Japan in November 2019.
Hai, now 27, came to Japan from Vietnam six years ago as a student, having borrowed money from his home country to cover the cost of studying abroad.
After arriving in Japan, he worked part-time while studying at a Japanese language school for two years, then studied design at a vocational school for three years.
During this time, he slept less than two hours a day. Her monthly income was about 80,000 yen (US$700). In addition to living off this, he sent money to his family in Vietnam to pay off his debt.
“My house was poor, but I had no choice but to work hard,” he said. “During these five years of study, my weight went from 70 to 55 kilograms.”
Vincentian Sister Maria Le Thi Lang helped Phung Van Hai learn catechism (Photo provided)
After his struggle, Hai graduated from vocational school and got a job with a supermarket company, making long-distance deliveries that sometimes involved three days and two nights on the road.
At work, he met D, a Vietnamese technical trainee. Eventually they started to think about marriage, but the biggest problem was the religious differences. Hai, who grew up in a Buddhist household, told his parents online that he wanted to marry D and be baptized a Catholic. His parents respected their son’s feelings and agreed.
Even though his father supported him, he had a warning: “Faith is important in life, so if you are baptized just as a formality for marriage but you don’t have real faith, that’s a problem. Keep your Catholic faith until the end of your life.”
Van Hai was depressed because he did not understand the content and format of the mass at all.
However, the shock when Hai visited Kawaguchi Church for the first time and attended mass was more than expected. He was depressed because he did not understand the content and format of the mass at all. But his fiancée continued to encourage him.
From February 14, 2020, Hai began attending an introductory course led by Sister Maria Le Thi Lang, a Vietnamese Vincentian nun based at Kawaguchi Church.
As the coronavirus pandemic prevented face-to-face classes from April, Hai and Sister Maria began using an online catechesis course and an online marriage course which are each offered in three-month four-month sessions. times a year.
Catechumen Phung Van Hai and his catechist Sister Maria Le Thi Lang near the Marian Grotto of Kawaguchi Church. (Photo provided)
One day, Hai was moved by a question asked by Sister Maria: “Who are you? For Hai, the question meant, “Who is God?”
As Hai continued to ponder the matter, he and D felt deep sadness when she became pregnant late last year, but immediately miscarried.
“No matter how much I cried or thought, I couldn’t comfort her,” he said. “All I could do was pray for her. I could only pray.”
Praying to be able to accept reality, his grief and pain, Hai felt “the presence of a warm God who is close to us”. It was “the moment I met God”.
“I want to help people who, like me, do not know God to know the presence of God.”
Rather than avoiding their suffering, the couple chose “the way of trusting in Jesus” to recover. After about a month and a half, they found they could resume some kind of normal life.
Hai says he realizes he has changed to “live with trust in God” and as “a self that treats others with compassion and respect.”
He shared his experience with others in the online catechesis course. He says that when he shared, he was greatly encouraged by the existence of a Catholic community that mourned with him and rejoiced with him. It gave him the power to live.
Hai explained his dream, “I want to help people who, like me, don’t know God to know God’s presence.”
He will be baptized during the Easter Vigil on April 16.
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