From Convert to Priest; Vietnamese Doctor's Dedication to the Sick

Was Influenced by His Care for Lepers

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HANOI, MAY 13, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Fides).- Ten years ago, doctor Augustinius Nguyen Viet Chung treated physical diseases, now Father Chung is a doctor of souls.



Father Chung, 48, was a doctor in Ho Chi Minh City when he encountered the Catholic faith ten years ago. After a period of spiritual and theological formation, he was ordained a priest on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, at the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor in Ho Chi Minh, southern Vietnam.

The ordination Mass was presided over by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Vu Duy Thong of Ho Chi Minh City. In attendance were Father Chung's relatives and a large number of men and women religious. Many Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, having worked with Father Chung, said: "God's grace works miracles: he is no ordinary doctor and at the age of 40 he changed his life and decided to offer it completely to the Lord."

Father Chung was drawn to study medicine through the example of a foreign missionary who devoted his life to the care of lepers. After obtaining his degree and specializing in skin diseases, he worked at the Ben San State Hospital along with some Vincentian Sisters.

The "example of the Vincentian Sisters was very important for my conversion: their dedication and love for lepers spoke to my heart," he said.

"Working as a doctor," Father Chung related, "I said to myself: I am able to cure their disease but how can I cure their solitude and sense of being abandoned? Then I encountered the Catholic faith and I found the doctor of souls, Jesus Christ."

Baptized in 1994, he entered the Vincentian Congregation four months later. Today Father Chung works at the center for the terminally ill run by the sisters in the Cu Chi district, some 30 miles from Ho Chi Minh City.

The Vincentian Congregation arrived in Vietnam in 1954 and presently has 13 priests, 12 deacons, and 43 seminarians in the country working in evangelization among ethnic minority groups and serving the poor and the sick.