The first week of the second session has begun. Fr. James Dominic, Br. Patrick, Br. Huy and I have new students eager to learn English. This time around we feel a little more prepared. Unfortunately for the Vietnamese brothers this means more homework, but this will only help them more in their quest to speak English. One thing I have learned teaching English is how much I do not know about the language and how difficult it really is. The opportunity to be here is wonderful, but it is also humbling. I am learning something new every day about the language I learned as a toddler. Independent clauses, irregular verbs, the simple present tense, these are things I have used every day but had no idea when I was using them or how to point them out in a sentence right away. I guess you really do begin to learn something when you start teaching it.
We teach six days a week and have Sundays off, but each Sunday we go on a trip. In many of our day trips we visit different convents of Dominican Friars and Sisters. It has truly been a blessing to go on many of these trips and see the large number of Dominicans in Vietnam. Two weeks ago we went on a day-long trip and made many different stops along the way. Our first stop was to a convent of Dominican Sisters. We attended the Mass of Profession of Perpetual Vows where 17 sister committed themselves to Christ for the rest of their lives. It was a beautiful ceremony, and we were happy to be in attendance. This was one of the many convents we have visited in Vietnam. If I heard the friars correctly there are over 15 congregations of Dominican SIsters in Vietnam. Last week we visited a convent where they had more sisters in formation than they did in perpetual vows!
The friars are not doing too bad themselves. After attending the vows ceremony we went to the novitiate for the friars. We were able to spend some time with the novices and had a short conversation with them. This year the Vietnamese Province has 22 novices and they were shocked when we told them we had six novices in our novitiate. We had to explain to them that six novices in one class is a pretty good number in the United States. In August these 22 men will make their first profession, so please keep them in your prayers. Also located on the same compound as the novitiate is a shrine to St. Martin de Porres. The church itself was pretty small, but the compound had a large outdoor area with many benches that act as pews during big ceremonies. One of the friars told me they get over 10,000 people to visit the shrine on the Feast of St. Martin de Porres!
While we have not had the chance to meet any Dominican Nuns, there is only one monastery here in Vietnam, we have had the opportunity to spend time with the Dominican Laity. It is hard not to, since there are nearly 200,000 members of the Dominican Laity in Vietnam. This large number has to do with the great ministry and presence of the friars in northern Vietnam in the 19th and early 20th century. Nearly a month ago Br. Patrick and I had the opportunity to go to the beach with some friars and members of the Dominican Laity. It was a great day as we were able to spend some time in the water (which was very warm!) and just sit back and relax. Though many of them did not know English it was still wonderful to be with them. They even encouraged Br. Patrick to sing a song, and so he sang "Walking in Memphis".
It has been a great opportunity to meet many of the members of the Dominican Family in Vietnam. Some of my most memorable experiences have been with them. Though our time here is coming to a close very quickly—Br. Patrick and I are leaving in 18 days—I look forward to more visits with the sisters and the laity. Hopefully we will also be able to visit the nuns, making sure we have not left out a branch of the family. Please keep the friars and us in your prayers as we continue our English lessons.