Vietnamese Catholics bring festive joy to needy kids – UCA News

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Sisters distribute gifts and food during event to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival
Children from poor families receive gifts from Saint Paul de Chartres sisters to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 8 in Hue. (Photo: UCA News)
By UCA News reporter, Hue
Published: September 13, 2022 03:33 AM GMT

Tran Ngoc Hien clapped enthusiastically while singing folk songs and played games at a gathering to celebrate Tet Trung Thu or the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 8.
Hien, an orphan who lives with his grandmother on a river boat in Hue, gratefully received moon cakes, milk, colorful balloons and money from a nun at the event held in Trieu Son parish in Thua Thien Hue province.
“I am delighted to be here as this is the first time I have attended such a folk festival,” said the 10-year-old orphan whose father died of AIDS and mother abandoned him.
Hien, who is thin and pale, said he would give the money to his grandmother to buy food for them.
Hien is one of 50 children who joined the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, held by the St Paul de Chartres sisters.
The children are from families who live on boats and collect used items for a living. Some are children of those who suffer from HIV/AIDS.
Sister Agnes Tran Thi Binh, an organizer, said the full moon festival that fell on Sept. 11 is the year’s biggest one for children “so we try our best to bring the festival joys to disadvantaged children so that they can keep alive hope for a better life in the future.”
Sister Binh said during the gathering they sang folk songs, played traditional games and received food, toys and 400,000 dong ($17) each.
She said four nuns pay regular home visits to 30 women with HIV/AIDS and their children, give them food and money, and say prayers for them.
Thich Thoai Nghiem, a Buddhist nun from Long Tho Pagoda in Hue, said many Catholic volunteers held the festival for 100 children with physical disabilities at her pagoda on Sept. 7. They also offered the children rice, milk, instant noodles, oil cooking, fish sauce, sugar, sweets and colorful lanterns.
The nun said she highly appreciated local Catholics bringing festive joy to children, regardless of their backgrounds. The pagoda provides free accommodation for disabled children from poor families.
Sacred Heart Father Joseph Phan Tan Ho, who has a good relationship with the pagoda, said children should be given opportunities to enjoy happy childhoods that support them to grow up fully later.
Father Ho said local benefactors made donations to the pagoda.
Mary Mai Thi Hanh, head of a youth group based in Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, said 100 group members collected used items from local families during summer to buy gifts to offer to children suffering from cancer at a local hospital.
Hanh, 38, said they also took 25 children who live on boats on a picnic at Canh Duong beach and play football with other children. They tutored students who performed badly at school last summer.
Daughters of Our Lady of the Visitation Sister Maria Nguyen Thi Lam said six nuns gave food to 100 children to celebrate the festival on Sept. 7. The children are the offspring of fishermen in Phu Vang district who cannot put to sea due to the high price of fuel. Last year they were badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sister Lam said many children have to drop out of school and work in local markets for a living. Others fail to gain jobs in Hue and have to collect used items and sleep under bridges.
Nguyen Duc Nhu, a third-grader at Vinh Thanh Elementary School, said her two sisters left school and joined their mother selling fruit at a market to put food on the table. Her father works at a construction site.
“I was given notebooks, moon cakes, milk and other food to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. I am happy with them,” Nhu, 8, said, adding that she had not eaten moon cake for the past three years.
Thua Thien Hue province is reportedly home to 4,000 children who live in harsh conditions and another 9,000 others are from poor families.
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