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23/9/2011 - RMG - From Vietnam to the new frontiers of the Salesian mission

(ANS – Rome) – On Sunday, 25 September, among the 74 missionaries who will receive the crucifix and the missionary mandate from the Rector Major will be Joseph Cosma Dang The Lam, a Salesian from Vietnam in formation heading for  Bangladesh.

Joseph Cosma explains to ANS that the missionary dimension has not been absent from his life: “Our Province was founded by missionaries and then the Rector Major made an appeal for the missions. But especially since we offered ourselves as missionaries the Lord has been blessing us with more and more vocations. I think this is a good reply from a Vietnamese Salesian.”

As with many of his confreres the discovery of his missionary vocation was the result of seeing and observing other missionaries: “In 2002, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Salesian presence in Vietnam, Fr Van Looy, then the Vicar of the Rector Major, gave the missionary cross to a Salesian from Vietnam. At the time I had been in the aspirantate for just two weeks  and I still had to think more deeply about my religious vocation, but already I felt in me the desire to be a missionary. Afterwards I listened to other  missionaries from  Vietnam and a distant relative of mine, a Jesuit priest helped me to understand what Jesus wanted of me.”

At just 29 years of age, Joseph Cosma has considerable experience in evangelisation. When he was 18 he began to teach catechism: “I wanted to help the youngsters, teaching them the things that I had learned. I thought I would help them to change, but it was I who changed!” This experience has also borne fruit: among his pupils 2 have begun formation in the religious life – one with the Salesians and one with the Jesuits – and 2 girls have begun the same journey.

Now he is going to Utrail, in Bangladesh, a country with a Muslim majority and where the Salesians have been working for just 2 years: “It is a new mission land and we have a lot to do. I have tried to study Islamic culture a little and I have found out things about the country on the internet, but when I get there I shall have the chance to really know the country.”

When someone in Vietnam asked him why he was leaving as a foreign missionary when in his country Christians are 6.5% of the population and there is much work of evangelisation still to be done, Joseph Cosma replied: “This is my vocation, I cannot do otherwise. Becoming a missionary is not only going to make converts, but changing one’s own life and that of others through the Gospel.”

There are 8 Vietnamese in the 142nd Missionary Expedition. 29 left in the three year period 2008-2010 and if those who left for the missions before this are added there is a total of 67 Salesian missionaries in the Congregation from Vietnam. These are numbers reflecting missionary promotion in the “Saint John Bosco” Province of Vietnam, and it is in this context that the missionary vocation of Joseph Cosma came to fruition.

Published 23/09/2011

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