24/03/2005 00:00 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Residence of the Angels

Rare orphanages have many names like Angels’ Home, which is also called Duc Anh Home, Bui Chu Orphanage and St. Angles’ Family, but I like the name Angles’ Home most. That was not due to Sister Tuoi’s explanation: “All children who die prematurely become saints, so the orphanage is called Angels’ Home. This name was given by the Rome Holy and the Home also has the name Saints’ Hill”.


Sister Nguyen Thi Lanh
is taking care of the
under-4 year-old children.


Attending a mass
in the church.


Children participatingnbsp;
in a dancing class.


Priest Pham Ngoc Oanh has 11 years of working
as Director of the orphanage.

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Rare orphanages have many names like Angels’ Home, which is also called Duc Anh Home, Bui Chu Orphanage and St. Angles’ Family, but I like the name Angles’ Home most. That was not due to Sister Tuoi’s explanation: “All children who die prematurely become saints, so the orphanage is called Angels’ Home. This name was given by the Rome Holy and the Home also has the name Saints’ Hill”.

Each of its names is linked to a landmark of time. Each landmark of time bears much significance. More than 150 years ago, in 1852, Reverend Father St. An (Joseph Diaz Sanjurjo), from Spain, when starting his mission, established an orphanage named Duc Anh Home in Xuan Ngoc Village, Xuan Truong District, Nam Dinh Province, about 120 km Southeast of Hanoi,to nurture and educate the desolate, orphaned and disabled children of under 12 years old, regardless of their religions. Since then, his successors have continued consolidating and expanding the orphanage.

It was a happy day when all children from Duc Anh Home wore nice dresses and went to the church to attend the Sunday mass and the 63rd birth anniversary of Priest Joseph Pham Ngoc Oanh and his 41st consecration. All of them call Father Oanh, Director of the orphanage, their Dad. Whenever he comes back home, they are happy and welcome him with smiles and jubilant looks. Seeing the cozy atmosphere and beautiful flowers, no one can think these children have unhappy destinies.

After the ceremony they came back home and had a rest as required by the Home’s regulations. I walked around and saw that not all children were asleep. In the room for the under - 4 year old and disabled children, Sister Nguyen Thi Lanh were gently massaging the back of a child who led a vegetable existence. With an extreme gentle and clear voice, Sister Lanh said: “This child is one and a half years old.” One could hardly imagine that this woman with a benevolent face and an honest smile had taken care of those children with serious diseases for four years. She had received many unfortunate children and taken care of them with all her heart. Her hand has gently closed the eyes of many ill-fated children to see them off to God. I could not say anything when visiting other rooms reserved for older children, paralyzed children, girls’ room and boys’ room... Each room is a hearth for the children with different wretched destinies. They are cared for by the Sisters and women who volunteer to stay at Duc Anh Home and devote their life to caring for the children as if they were their mothers.

Through his 11 years of working as the Director of the orphanage, Priest Oanh remembers the names as well as habits and behaviours of all his 158 children. He cares for each of them, from applying for their birth certificates and their schooling to taking them to the hospital for medical treatment... with the responsibility of a father. In their curriculum vitas, the old priest is always signed as their father. The only matter that always beats him is the children’s question when they grow up, “Why am I here, Dad?” There is no simple answer for their question. However, their sadness is fugitive. Living with a father who has great love for them, these ill-fated children feel happy, so their home is always full of laughter. The parishioners in the surrounding areas often hear the clear singing of the children from St. An Family in Bui Chu parish:nbsp; “We miss you when you are away from home, Dad... We are very happy when you come back home...”

Story: Trung Kien

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