Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Early Vietnamese Catholic in Penang

Early Vietnamese in Penang

There is no historical record of any early Vietnamese in Penang. Unlike Burmese, Siamese, Indonesian, Chinese ,and Indian. But there was records of Catholic Vietnamese in Penang, coming as seminarian in College General,Penang. They were living in Penang for some years.

Catholic Vietnamese in Penang
The past record of College General however reported there were students from Vietnam, who come to study in the college in 19th century.

After considering various places, Penang - a British colony since 1786 - was chosen because of its political stability and its geographical location which made it easily accessible to the other mission lands. The procurator of the MEP, Fr. Letondal, went as far as Mexico to collect funds for building the new seminary.

In 1808 Fr. Lolivier (MEP) arrived in Penang with five semnarians from Macao and the following year the revived College began anew in Pulau Tikus with 20 Chinese Seminarians, and soon after to be joined by other nationalities. In the entire history of the College, a total of 87 dioceses and ecclesiastical regions used to send their seminarians to the College for their priestly formation. Among them were Burma, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Macao, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore,Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tongkin and Vietnam. It is precisely because of the international make-up of its students that the seminary came to be conferred its popular and well deserved name “College General”.

In 1834 and again in 1884 persecutions of Catholics in Annam (Vietnam) forced seminaries to flee to Penang to continue their priestly studies. College General Penang had always opened its doors to seminarians especially those experiencing persecution and other difficulties.
n 1834-35, persecutions of Christians in Annam (Vietnam) forced the Vicar Apostolic and a score of seminarians to flee to Penang to continue their priestly studies and among them was Philip Minh who was martyred in Vietnam in 1853, beatified in 1900 and canonised in 1988.

In 1884 there was another wave of persecution in Annam. Fourteen priests and catechists were massacred, many of them former students of the College. About 24 seminarians managed to escape and were sent to Penang. The Vicar Apostolic of Hue (Annam), Mgr. Caspar, wrote at that time, "The seminary in Penang welcomes all anguished souls and receives them like a loving mother. It is a refuge open to all who are in want .... Thanks to this college, our Mission of North Cochin-China remains, more than any other mission perhaps, supplied with priests. This precious college had rendered, renders and will render immense service."
(source: http://www.collegegeneral.org/aboutus/history.htm)

There is relic and statute of 5 Vietnamese martyr saints in the College General, Penang( please visit the web site, http://www.christian-journey.com/college-general-penang/ for the photo of the statute). They were seminarians of the college , and were martyred over the years and have eventually been canonised. Their names are:

1. St Philip Minh/ Philip Minh Van Doan (1815-1853), he was beheaded in 1853, beautified 1900, cananised 1988.
2. St Peter Quy/Peter Quy Cong Doan (1823-1859),he was beheaded in 1859, beautified 1909, cananised 1988.
3. St John Hoan/John Hoan Trinh Doan (1798-1861), he was beheaded in 1861, beautified 1909, cananised 1988.
4. St Peter Luu /Joseph Luu Van Nguyen (1816- 1854),he was in prison and tortured to death in 1861, beautified 1909, cananised 1988.
5. St Paul Loc/ Paul Loc Le Van(1831-1859), he was beheaded in 1859, beautified 1909, cananised 1988.
(source: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=5434)

Notable Vietnamese alumni of College General died as martyrs
Andrew LANH (HEAU)
Joseph THANH
Anthony BUU
Joseph THAT
Dominic CANH
Joseph VINH (CHUC)
Francis NHUT
Matthew MAO
Ignatius TUYEN (KHANH)
Matthias TRANG
Ignatius VINH (DUC)
Michael HOAN
Jacob NEN
Michael SU
Paul TY (CHAU)
Peter LUAN
John Baptist CO
Stephen LOI
John Baptist HUAN (HAO)
Joseph CHUNG
Joseph BUU
Joseph SI
Joseph LONG

Joseph TRINH
Ludoric LAN
Subdeacon Simon DAT

Andrew THI
John Baptist HUY

Jacob LOAN
John Baptist LUOI
Peter BINH
Philip CUU
Thaddaus HOI
Thomas DUN

Alexius LOC
Joachim BAO
Joseph CAM
Michael CHIEN
Peter LUAN
Peter KIEM
Thomas TUC

Due to the many of the alumni of College General, Penang, who had died as martyrs, the college is also known as " College of Martyrs".

Vietnamese alumni of College General appointed as Bishops
1. Paul Nguyen-Dình Nhien, Coadjutor Bishop of Vinh, Vietnam (1963-1969); Titular Bishop of Gisipa, Carthage (1963-1969)
2. Jean Baptiste Tran-Huu-Duc, Vicar Apostolic of Vinh, Vietnam (1951-1960); Bishop of Vinh, Vietnam (1960-1971)

June 18 was a significant day for the community of College General and priests in Malaysia who celebrated the feast of the college martyrs — St Philip Minh and companions, and the launching of the celebration for the 200 years of the establishment of College General in Penang.

Related articles/websites:
1. College General, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_General#cite_note-College_General_Martyrs_2-8
2. Mass for the Vietnamese in Penang Diocese,9-3-2008, http://www.penangdiocese.org/pages/posts/mass-for-the-vietnamese-in-penang-diocese547.php
3. http://www.christian-journey.com/college-general-penang/(for the photo of the Saints' statute)
4. http://www.collegegeneral.org/aboutus/history.htm

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