In a celebratory event in Saigon on Saturday, Fr. Joseph Ngo Si Dinh announced to thunderous applause that the “number of friars, nuns, sisters, and lay Dominicans in our family in Vietnam has increased substantially and already reached to the population of a diocese!”
Fr. Joseph Ngo Si Dinh, Vietnam Dominican Provincial, spoke to attendants at the 2009 Dominicans’ Traditional Family Day held at St. Dominic Church on Nov.7. He reported that the Order now has 150 friars, and that the number of nuns and sisters has steadily increased at the rate of 200 annually.
Fr. J.B. An Dang told CNA that one of the main contributors to this rapid growth is the involvement of the Lay Dominicans, known as Third Order Dominicans, of which there are up to 103,000 professed in Vietnam. Lay Dominicans are reported to be actively involved in their parish activities and their Dominican formation is said to be well-supported by local parish priests and diocesan bishops.
Cooperation between the branches of the Dominican family and the diocesan structure in Vietnam is viewed by many as a primary reason for the steady growth of the order, despite the difficulties of living in a communist country.
The history of the Dominicans in Vietnam can be traced back to the 17th century, explained Fr. An Dang, with the arrival of missionary priests John of the Holy Cross and John de Arjona. Over the next several hundred years, the order continued to grow despite numerous violent persecutions against Christians.
In 1975, soon after the communist takeover of South Vietnam, all schools, social services centers, and formation houses of Vietnamese Dominicans were seized and all foreign Dominicans were expelled. The majority of native Dominicans survived by working on local farms and their religious lifestyle had to now accommodate harsher living conditions. Many lost their lives under the circumstances, while others returned to their families.
Despite this struggle, the order has continued to exist and flourish. Support for the Dominican Order in Vietnam has also come from overseas Dominican communities, including a regional vicariate based in Canada.