In Vietnam, a charity clinic for rural peasants at the Thai Xuan Parish in the Xuan Loc Diocese has completed 20 years of healthcare service.
The Dominican Missionary Sisters of the Phu Cuong Diocese started a clinic in 2002 for people in need in the Thai Xuan, a hamlet in Xuân Lộc District, South Vietnam.
At that time, the area was a dense and unexplored forest with many wild animals and malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Consequently, Catholic families, priests and the Dominican nuns, who formed a tiny village, struggled to survive in that place.
Since the Thai Xuan land is naturally fertile and suitable for agricultural use, it attracted many people from all over Vietnam. Over the years, many moved there to settle and build their lives.
The hardworking and poor peasants could not afford healthcare for their illnesses.
Keeping in mind the difficulty of the living conditions of people, the Dominican Missionary nuns established a charity clinic in 2002.
It aimed to provide free health care for the poor.
About 60 patients, including elders, youth and babies, visit the clinic.
Most of them are from the poor laboring class, says Sister Anna, an in-charge of the clinic.
According to her, some are parishioners of the parish, others are from neighboring parishes, and some are non-Catholic patients. As they cannot afford to go to a hospital for their treatment, they all come to the nuns’ clinic.
The clinic uses a healing method to blend traditional Asian medicine, Western medicine, and prayers offered to God, explains Sister Anna.
Most patients who come for treatment with acupuncture, physiotherapy, or water infusion can both have their illnesses treated and, at the same time, listen to hymns or spiritual reflections that enable them to ponder on God's words.
This approach strengthens their faith in God as they face the suffering of sickness, says Sister Anna. “They believe that God heals them from their illness.”
A 45-year-old Catholic patient with spine disease said that his illness has been severe. The doctors suggested an operation, but there was only a 50% chance of success.
Besides, the hospital cost for spine surgery is about 80 million Vietnamese dongs (around US$ 4,000). Thus, he worries and feels sad about his illness. Hearing about the Dominican nuns’ clinic and their therapy methods, his mother took him there for treatment.
Knowing the severity of the man's illness, Sister Anna spent much time talking to him the first time he came. And then she took him to pray with Saint Martin, who is the patron saint of the patients.
He comes daily to the clinic for treatment and listens to hymns, religious reflections, and stories from the Bible.
He believes that God will heal his cancer. With steadfast faith, he attends daily Mass and recites Rosary. He has become more optimistic and worries less about his illness with his spiritual activities. Now his health is better than before.
"I am grateful to Dominican sisters for their spiritual encouragement to help me courageously accept my illness with joy and faith in God. Hopefully, I will [live] longer," he says.
Another poor woman regularly visits the clinic for physical therapy for a degenerative neck condition leading to numbness in her hand.
"I am thankful to Dominican nuns for supporting me to have a good place to treat my illness, as I cannot pay for the treatment,” she says.
Currently, her health is better than before, and she patiently continues her therapy until she can recover.
“Looking back on our nearly 20 years of doing charitable work with our poor patients, we thank God for His graces especially for sending us donor agencies and benefactors from inside and outside of Vietnam to aid us in this ministry,” says Dominican Sister Mary Nguyen Thi Phuong Lan (Nguyen), and an English teacher for the Catholic college of the Xuan Loc Diocese in Vietnam.
(With inputs from Global Sisters Report)
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