LAUGHTER FILLED THE classroom at the Archdiocese Pastoral Centre of Ho Chi Minh City on a warm September afternoon. They came from students comprising fresh graduates in psychology, priests and religious, and active church volunteers from all walks of life, all eager to learn about lay counselling and all eager to help strengthen the family through this ministry.

The two-week course was initiated by Father Louis Tuan Anh Nguyen, Director of Family Ministry in the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, and the teachers were Singapore-based counsellors Jesuit Father Charles Sim, Dr Francis Heng, Jesuit Brother Gerard Choo and Maria Plengsangtip.

Father Louis Tuan Anh Nguyen had seen how Family Life Society (FLS) operated while in Singapore last April for a Family Symposium organized by FLS and the Catholic Research Centre of Singapore. He and a group of
like-minded Vietnamese Catholics then decided to introduce lay counselling for their archdiocese.

Before the course began, counselling notes provided by FLS were translated into Vietnamese.

During the lectures and small-group practical sessions, university lecturers and graduates trained in psychology translated and explained to the participants what was said by the Singaporean trainers so as to help them grasp the counselling concepts and, hopefully, enable the participants to apply them effectively in their own language, culture and situation.

The participants were very impressed and filled with enthusiasm after the course, which not only taught them theories but enabled them to practise the counselling skills under supervision. They also enjoyed the opportunities for presenting, discussing, and sharing their experiences after each lesson.

Cardinal Jean-Baptist Pham Minh Man of Vietnam presented the participants with a Certificate of Attendence.

The course, with its new training methodology and materials, has provided Father Louis Tuan and his group with more ideas of how to conduct their own counselling courses, and the participants look forward to the establishment of their first Catholic Counselling Centre in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Singaporeans were impressed by the vibrancy of the Catholic Church in Ho Chi Minh City and the nearby Catholic villages.

However, there is tension in Hanoi between church and state regarding confiscated church land, and the church in Vietnam requests Catholics to pray for a peaceful resolution. -

By Maria Plengsangtip

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