Blessing, prayers and celebration
As noted earlier, Fr. Bernie Rosinski attended the dedication of the first SCJ house in Vietnam. Previously, he wrote about his initial impressions of Vietnam. Here, he reflects more specifically on the house and the dedication.
“You are invited to attend the dedication. . .” The dedication took place in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, Vietnam. It is the first SCJ building in the country. So, of course, I planned to attend and was glad of the invitation. [Fr. Bernie was nearby in the Philippines teaching English.]
After seeing the skyscrapers of modern downtown Ho Chi Minh, the use of the word “building” is rather pretentious here. We are speaking about a rather modest edifice. However, its construction was a boon to the city economy, even if only a small one. It took over a year to build and thus gave steady employment to many workers. It required materials and thus furnished purveyors the opportunity to sell goods. It needed equipping and thus helped local merchants provide household furniture and equipment. In other words, its existence benefitted the country, the local economy, and the SCJs who were pleased to invest funds in this fashion and in their own future.
We visiting SCJ dignitaries (as I use it here, “dignitaries” is a pretentious word) were taxied from their hotel at a reasonable morning hour to the site of the building. While awaiting the arrival of the bishop to bless the structure, these and invited guests had ample opportunity to climb the stairs and walk the floors to see the new construction. It was simple and functional: rooms to sleep in, eat in, study in, and pray in.
With the bishop’s arrival to conduct the blessing and dedication all the guests moved to the ground floor to witness the proceedings. It began with an outdoor ceremony at which Bishop Peter Kham and Fr. Tom Cassidy gathered to cut a red ribbon at the building entrance, a ribbon ceremoniously held by several Vietnamese religious women. After reading some prayers, the bishop proceeded to walk through the building and sprinkle holy water as is normally done at a house blessing. Fr. Tom Cassidy was one of the scissor-wielders because the US Province helped finance the new construction.
His work done, Bishop Peter departed and the remaining guests attended a liturgy that featured beautiful Vietnamese music and singing that was very reverential. In his homily, Fr. Tom made the point that every culture reveals a face to God that is unique in the world and that, if lost, is lost forever. When the celebration was complete, the group dispersed to the ground floor to await a very fine, catered banquet that again gave employment to the local economy. Guests were seated under tents and at round tables. I estimate the number of guests approached 300 or so. They included clergy and religious men and women. The laity were present in great numbers, many of them family and relatives of students. The celebration was also honored by the presence of local civic and military authorities who graciously shook hands with the foreigners visiting their country and made several toasts during the banquet. “Yo!”
While some people had actual cameras, everyone had a cell phone with its included camera function and so photos were made by everyone who could do so. People were asked to pose in a variety of settings and circumstances, grouped by table, or by garb, or by family, or by function, or by anything else that caught the photographer’s fancy.
In the early afternoon the party broke up with the arrival of the caterer’s truck. His employees needed to take their equipment and themselves to another setting somewhere else in the city. People began to disperse. The building will slowly become inhabited in the weeks ahead.