Period of shock and dispersion (1975-1985)
During the first months of the year 1975, the months preceding the one that the majority of south-Vietnamese called “ implacable deaf hatred Day”. Attacks were everywhere in the provinces, at the same time in Saigon, ”free” bombings, without precise aims, dropped onto the city practically all days by 4 o’clock in the early morning. People were in panic and tizzies, houses were burnt, properties lost, people died…Taberd even received 4 bombshells of 120mm diameter, causing the death of a Brother and a guard .Public demonstrations followed each other. A movement fighting against the phenomenon of rotten mandarins and scribes leaded by the Redemptorist priest Tran Huu Thanh exploded.. It was this doubling manifestation leaded by The priest Thanh and by the communists that made the authorities of the old regime in trouble. The more Day D approaches, the more disturbances were accelerated : bombing the presidential Palace by the pilot Nguyen Tan Trung ; others onto a primary school at Cai- be, casing the death of lots of childrebn; Bombs hidden in theaters…All these created a terrifying fear upon the population of Saigon. During this hot time, our schools in Saigon became refugees’ centers, stopping all schooling‘s activities to welcome peasants from provinces in war. People moved along the streets hurriedly with anxious faces. The streets were empty. Only the oppressive military car horns, , fire-fighters or ambulances were heard. The city seemed to be a dead one. However, the previous day (29th of April 1975) of the final fall of Saigon, the city became suddenly noisy, people started going out off their home. Some of them pillaged all things in the warehouses, shops, sheds, depots…of the state, because all gates were open and the guards were already ran away from their post. The others went to the Ba Son port, district 1, to take on board there. What about the brothers in these days ? News were heard that according to the negotiation, a part of the South will be entrusted to the communists! The panic of the population influenced even the brothers’ life. I saw in act the weight of the History upon the institutions and on the mentalities as Edgar Morin often reminded it in his newspapers. First, knowing the news of the brothers’ fate in Ban Me Thuot, the brothers living in the provinces were really so shocked that they searched all means to reach Saigon : from Hue, Nha trang, Da lat, My tho giving up all behind them: houses, schools, personal and community things…Brother Visitor provincial ordered the Directors to give each brother 100.000 VN dong to preview all eventuality in case of communications would be interrupted. Because, this time, the office of the Archbishop had sent his viewpoint “ Not to abandon the believers” as it happened in 1954, brother Visitor and his council decided not to organize any officially evasion in whatever kind or form it was. Yet, they left an open door to those who had personal reasons, would like to follow the stream of people who prepared an Exode (over one hundred of brothers). Later, the “mystery”of the echec of Bro Felicien Huynh Cong Luong who had contributed the money with an ancient to buy a boat, was revealed. Nobody could know what had happened with this ancient
Thus, inofficiously authorized, with 100 000 VN dong received, about thirty young scholastics and about sixty brothers of other communities came to Vung tau (Cap St Jacques) and Phuoc Tinh  in order to find out the means of “deliverance the Country”, the expression used at this time meaning going out off the country. Almost all the brothers could realize their project .
For my part, I had no velleity to become an expatriate. This is not because I have a great love for the homeland or the Institute ,but simply because being a person in The South VN, I have no personal experience about this new regime and that aged 30 yet, I could not see what I would do abroad. This is why, in the afternoon of April 29th 1975, I drove a car with 3 brothers in it to Bason port, without embarking myself.
The 30th of April 1975, at 10 AM, the president Duong van Minh, a 3 day-president, self-possessing the shortest presidency declared the capitulation. Some were delighted, others cried with rage. Brother Superior being in embarrassment, could not know what direction to take. The brothers were dispersed, looking for means to survive. Another group going to Rach gia,in southern VN, followed discreetly the crowd of people to the direction of Thailand. The consequences of this dispersion persisted and took root deeply during several years and were so hard to be transformed.
In his uncertainty, the Superior could not see what way to follow, what right orders to give, what good directions to take? Some were profitable, others were less. The writer reminded these events simply to illustrate what was written and to complete what he had heard.
I show below the itinerary of the phenomenon of the nationalization and the “offer” of some of 6 schools in Saigon: Taberd, Mossard, Duc Minh, Hien Vuong, Thanh My, Chanh Hung. Join the Agreement of the Archbishopric and the Decision of the Government as proof. Pellerin, a lasallian school in Hue (Centre VN) was not “Offered” and Vung Tau, retirement home were not “offered” as well. But, what matter “offered” or “ borrowed”, to get them back seemed, till now to” look for a needle in the haystack”. I was inspired from official texts that I had them translated in French later. One of these hard works is not to twist the content of the text from one language to another.
From the fall of Nha trang on April 3rd 1975, people of Saigon had the feeling that the ancien regime was ended.
After the collapse of Saigon, the Archbishop of HCMC created at once a Committee of Education to try to solve better the catholic schools and private ones in Saigon and in the outskirts. This committee consisted of following: the Priest Nguyen Thoi Hoa, headmaster of the secondary school Chi Thien and Brother Nguyen Van Linh, the District auxiliary Visitor of the brothers in VN. Father Hoa was appointed President because he merited of the country or, so called by the people of South VN nam vùng, one who takes reactionary activities by disguising oneself in gentlemen of the ancient regime, the person that President Nguyen Van Thieu called the one who” eats the rice of the Republic of VN but worships the communist phantoms”. The Archbishop decided to choose the right person in such a complex political situation. This committee was in action at once for the coming Academic year in September 1975: negotiations with school owners, analysis advantages and disadvantages, study of contract concession of the administration of schools at the Education Service…So the first contract was signed…
In all VN, the community of brothers was located inside the school. Nationalizing schools goes together with rejection the brothers sooner out off this social setting which was founded with so much sweat and blood.
Lasan Duc Minh School
March 1975 : Following the rushed events occurred in the highlands and Centre of VN, the school organized exams of the second Semester in order to have the school report book ready sooner.
About the haft-April 1975: After sending back home the pupils, Br. Lucien Hoang Gia Quang, visitor provincial transferred his Office to Duc Minh.
At the end of April 1975: Brother Bruno had a solid trench constructed inside the yard of the school in order to shield onself against bombardements. However,the communists won the victory so fast that we could not think, and we had no chance to use it. At the same time Duc Minh became a welcoming Center of the refugee Brothers from several schools : Mossard(Thu Duc) Saint Joseph (My Tho) and other brothers from the Central of VN.
May 1st 1975: The communist authorities called the people for a manifestation.
May 3rd 1975: A group of soldiers came in garrison there during 2 months. They ordered to put them back all guns and to conduct a search of the school and community.
August 1975: Br. Nguyen Phu Trieu was appointed as Director of La San Duc Minh .
September 16th 1975 : The authorities gave order to re-open schools. La San Duc Minh got 1,500 children at the first day of the re-opening day. Brother Maurice was named Head of the Directorate, executing his function under the control of a representative of the Service of Education. It was a tactics so “ cunning” that the Brothers in particular and other school owners in general could not imagine unless it was hidden under an utopian hope by themselves to be able to continue his administration of the school .
October 7th 1975: La san Duc Minh received an official Circular No 576NP-75 from the Bishopric of Saigon, announcing the Agreement between the Bishopric and the Caretaker Government of South VN to nationalize all catholic schools. Following is this Agreement:
Bishopric of Saigon
180 Phan Dinh Phung, Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City, October 7th 1975
President of the Caretaker Government of South VN
c/o The President of the Front of the Country
Being conscious of the duty of all people in this present time to collaborate with the authorities to found the country, solve the pressing needs of the people whose education needs and in the orientation of the Declaration of the Catholic block at the General Assembly of representatives of Private schools which carried out on September 20th 1975, and in according to the Request of the Central Education Committee, we are happy to make you know that we are consented unanimously upon the suggestion of nationalization of all private schools considering as means of execution of the policy of gratuitousness of the Government and we are ready to leave to the Service of Education all catholic private schools belonging to the Bishopric of Saigon , since the academic year 1975-1976.
We hope the Government will accept this suggestion as a luck from the Catholics who contribute to the common interest of the Country , a sincere collaboration fo the catholic schools with the Government to well solve the pressing needs of the children and their parents.
In case of this suggestion accepted, other problems will be solved directly with the concerning schools.
Nguyen Van Binh ,
Archbishop of Saigon
(Signature and sealed)
October 10th 1975 : Information from the Committee of Catholic Education  and from the Service of Education of HCMC on the execution of the policy of nationalization of all the catholic schools.
December 9th 1975: Signing and transferring La San Duc Minh to the Education Service of HCMC. Brother Boniface Pham toan Hoan was responsible to make clear the premises and the property belonging to the religious community.
Some brothers went on teaching in the public schools with a salary 35 dong a month.
Following is the general information about the nationalization of the catholic schools in saigon :
Republic of South –Viet Nam
General Information of the Service of Education of HCMC
and of the Committee of the Catholic Education
About the nationalization of the catholic private schools.
In order to execute the policy of nationalization of the revolutionary Caretaker Government of the Republic of South VN in regard to the catholic schools, declared at the General assembly of catholic private schools which carried out at Taberd School on September 29th 1975,
Pursuant to the Official Circular of the Archbishop of Saigon sent to the President of the caretaker revolutionary government of the Republic of South VN,
The service of Education in HCMC, on behalf of the Ministry of Education&Youth and the Committee of Catholic Education, in the name of the archbishopric of Saigon, agree after discussion, on the following items about the catholic schools belonging to the Archbishopric of Saigon:
1-The Archbishopric of Saigon agrees with on the signing of the right of use of the schools belonging to the archbishopric of Saigon from the academic year 1975-1976.
2-The right of proprietorship of these schools belong forever to the catholic church. In case these schools will be used in other goals, not in that of Education, it’s necessary to have agreement of the two sides.
3-The government is in charge to maintain these schools and all their equipments as well as all the general recurring expenses ( Water and electricity, telephone…) and the taxes during the time of using them.
4-The government takes on maximum their teachers and employees who are working in these schools having all necessary conditions of service in order that they could keep on their professional formation, they would be assured to continue their jobs and the government would give preferential treatments to those who want to change their profession.
5-During all the time of signing services and to assure the good running of these schools, the Service of Education will appoint officials to come in help the directorate of the school.
6-The religious continue to stay in the premises called “monastery”. The government has to respect the catholic life of the religious employees as well as the the activities of believers’ communities in case these schools are near the church.
7-The Service of Education will intervene so that the religious ,at their age of retirement benefit all the status of social indemnities in accordance with the government laws.At the dame time, the government will pay attention to the needs of the retirement centers of the teaching-religious.
8-A procès-verbal of devolution and reception will be written and signed between the local authorities and the concerned schools.
9-This document will be executed by the virtue of the spirit of this general circular.
of the Committee of Catholic Priest
HCMC, October 15th 1975 in HCMC
Head of Service of Education
Luong le Dong
(Signed and sealed)
Here is the Procès- verbal of the devolution of La San Duc Minh
REPUBLIC OF SOUTH VIET NAM
of the primary school, first cycle and second cycle LA SAN DUC MINH
Address : 146, Vo thi Sau Street, District 3
December 9th 1975 at La San Duc Minh
Pursuant to the spirit of the Circular No 576/VP/75 of the Archbishopric of Saigon, sent to the President of the caretaker Government of South Viet Nam and the general information of October 15th 1975, between the Service of Education in HCMC and the Committee of Catholic Education concerning the Nationalization of the Catholic private schools,
The terms of Devolution of premises and material things of the school are made in accordance with following conditions :
Article 1 : The Catholic Church of the Archbishopric of Saigon agrees on the devolution of all premises and material things to the revolutionary government, belonging to the Primary school, the First cycle and second Cycle of La San Duc Minh in accordance with the list of declaration of things and the including schema, within sight of The Service of Education.
Article 2 : The Service of Education receives the devolution according to the article 2.
Article 3 : The two sides execute the devolution and reception in conforming with the spirit of the general Circular on October 15th 1975.
Article 4 : Being administrator of the school, Bro. Boniface Hoan will execute directly the devolution to the caretaker directorate of the school. The temporary directorate of the school assumes the charge of maintenance and using the school in its limits and rights from this day.
The procès-verbal is made in 6 copies to hand over to:
the Service of Education of HCMC
the Committee of the catholic Education
the revolutionary people Committee of District 3
the administration of School La San Duc Minh
the School La San Duc Minh
the Office of Education District 3
Side of reception Side of Devolution
The representative of the Directorate The Administrator of the school
Nguyen Phu Trieu Pham toan Hoan
(illisible signature) (signature)
revolutionary People committee of District 3
Pham van Trung
(signature and sealed)
May 1976 : The primary and first Cycle of La San Duc Minh were disolved. La San Duc Minh from now on has the name : Second cycle school TRAN QUOC TUAN. The community of Brothers suffered a total crisis, both financial and spiritual. On the one hand, like the majority of people in South VN during this period, they had the manioc mixtured with rice in each already poor meal : a fish and a bowl of soup. The same food for every day. Lots of brothers changed their profession of teaching at school to get other jobs in order to get money : give particular lessons in secret, make art items, move to the ” new economical zones”, etc…And on the other hand, afraid of being detected as “religious”, they did not put on their soutane any more;no Holy Mass in Community; frequent absence at spiritual exercise time…..
June 10th 1978 : By virtue of the General circular signed between the catholic Education Committee, on behalf of the Archbishopric of Saigon and the Head of the Education Service of HCMC , “ the right of ownership of the schools belonged forever to the Catholic Church.”In case these schools will be used in other goals, not in that of Education, it’s necessary to have agreement of the two sides”.
This Act of devolution was from the zeal of Priest Nguyen thoi Hoa, both president of the catholic Education Committee and himself communist among the Clergy in the ancien regime leading a “revolutionary activity”, that ones called these categories of people “ those who ate the rice of the Republic while worshiping the communist phantom”, cited above.
However, thinking this fervor was not enough to show himself faithful or dutiful to the new regime, he started to initiate a second step, an act much more” heroic”, totally consacred to the service of the new regime: to manipulate the situation so much that all these catholic schools must be “offered”. And he was successful.It is this act”offer” that blocks all hope to recuperate these schools.
Following is the Act of “offering” Lasallian schools in Saigon, signed by Brother Lucien Hoang Gia Quang,Provincial visitor at this time, according to the “patriotic”, initiative of priest Nguyen Thoi Hoa and his vice president, bro. Fidele Nguyen van Linh, the auxiliary Visitor of the brothers.
Institution of the Christian Brothers
District of Viet Nam
53 B Nguyen Du street, District 1, HCMC
REPUBLIC OF SOUTH- VIET NAM
To : People Committee of Ho Chi Minh City
Topic: Devolution and “Offer” the lasallian schools in Ho Chi Minh City
I am Brother Lucien Hoang Gia Quang, Provincial Visitor of the Institute of lasallian Brothers in Viet nam, owner of the Brothers’ schools in Viet Nam, domiciled in No 53 B, Nguyen Du street, District 1, HCMC,
Pursuing on the Circular No 576 of the Archbishopric of saigon signed on October 10th 1975 and the general information of the Education Service and the Catholic Education Committee signed on October 15th 1975,
Our Institute of the Christian Brothers in Viet Nam executed the devolution of all the school establishments in HCMC to the competent authorities, consisting of :
The school Taberd, No 53, Nguyen Du street, District 1, HCMC. Procès-verbal signed on Dec.12th 1975.
The school La San Duc Minh,No 146,Vo thi Sau street, District 3, HCMC.Procès verbal signed on Dec 9th 1975
The school La san Hien Vuong, No 282, Vo thi Sau street, District 3, HCMC. Proc»s- verbal signed on dec. 9th 1975.
The school La san Chanh Hung, No 79, Au duong Lan street, District 8, HCMC, with a letter of felicitation from the part of the local authorities of the People committee delivered on October 31st 1975.It is here a special case to sign. This school was under the direction of Br. Andrew Tuyen in the ancien regime. He himself offered it to the local authorities without asking permission of anyone from the Institute. It must be sincere to recognize he was up to date and far-sighted.On the other hand, the authorities gave him another house as indemnification, in district 3 ,HCMC.
The school La san Thu duc ( Mossard), No 43 Hoang Dieu street,Thu duc District. Procès –verbal signed on October 16th 1975.
Beforehand, we “offered” to the authorities of the People Committee of Thanh My district ( Today named Binh Thanh) :
The school La San Mai Thon, “offer” signed on Sept.7th 1975.
The school La san Thanh My, “offer” signed on Sept. 16th 1975
The policy of the Reform of Socialism of the Government was explained to us, particularly at the time of the meeting on March 20th 1978, organized by the front of the Country, in the presence of representatives of the Education Service of HCMC.This is why, all the premises we had done as devolution,we “offer”them all to the Government. We “ offer” still more :
1-A number of rooms belonging to the school Taberd after the proposal of the mentioned directorate.
2-The premises belonging to the religious of the school at Au Duong Lan street,District 8. Only a guard living there today.
3-The housing of lasallian Sisters, located next by La San Mai Thon, ward 28,Binh Thanh District. It is composed of 5 rooms of 3m x 6m. Not being used, we “offer” them to the Education Office and the Front of the country of the Ward.
In the premises newly “offered”, Some familities living there since a long time with the Institute’s autorization.In case the authorities need these rooms for common usage, we suggest to solve these questions friendly…
About the Convents existing inside the offered premises (schema), we propose to let them intact. Later, when we will arrange the lodging of brothers, we will give the authorities practical suggestions.
We have no other aspirations than these being favored by the authorities in order that we could have possibilities to continue to live and serve as good citizens and good religious. So, we suggest that :
The brothers who have the age of working, continue to serve according to their capacities
-The brothers who were retired could benefit the Help of the Government, hoping:
a)to keep the property of Mai Thon, the Retirement house of the aged brothers.
b)to get the autorization to change easily domicile to Maithon, at least for the brothers who, in the Familyooklet,were enrolled in HCMC; So, because they are aged, or because they need special care or because of the production for the case of young religious.
c)To give preferential treatment to the possibilities of self-sufficiency of the retirement house ( to breed animals, riziculture..) by diminishing or abolishing taxes or by other helps.
Members of a Congregation of an educative specificity, persons who lived in and for education,we are conscious of the importance as well as the needs of education, mainly today, in this period of re-building of the contry .We hope the people committee will consider our “offer” as a contribution in order to favour the necessary conditions to construct a good educative system of Socialism in our City.
HCMC on March 26th 1978
Brother Lucien Hoang Gia Quang, Provincial Visitor
(signature and seal)
For information, at the same time sent to:
Front of the country of HCMC
Service of Education of HCM
Archbishopric of Saigon
It is this ACT of OFFER signed by bro. Lucien Hoang Gia Quang
On March 26th 1978 that blocked until now,
All attempt to take again the schools.
And here is the response of the People Committee of HCMC:
HCMC, the 19th of June 1978
Topic: nationalization of the private schools of the Catholic Congregation of La Salle Viet Nam
People Committee of Ho Chi Minh City
Being based on the laws of organization of the People Committee and the Committee of administration delivered on October 27 1962;
On the option of the military of the City about nationalizing the private schools;
On the decision No 434/TTg signed on October 30th 1976 of the Government Minister concerning the option of reception of the “offer” of private possessions;
-By examining the demand of “Offer” of schools of the Institute of De La Salle Viet Nam belonging to GHTCG ( Catholic Church) signed by brother Visitor Hoang Gia Quang on March 26th 1978;
-Pursuing on the report No 736/TBXH on May 18th 1978 of the Committee of Reform of the city and the practical situation of the private schools of the Institute La San requesting to “offer” them to the Government, and the proposal of the Education Service;
Article 1 : permit Mr Hoang Gia Quang to represent the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools belonging to GHTCG (Catholic Church) and to “Offer” the Government the following schools:
1- La San Taberd, No 53, rue Nguyen Du, District 1,
2- La San Duc Minh, No 146, Vo thi Sau street, District 3,
3- La San Hien Vuong, No 282, Vo thi Sau street, District 3,
4- La San Chanh Hung, No 79, Au Duong Lan, District 8
5- La San Mai Thon, No 143/13 XVNT, Binh Thanh District
6- La San Thanh My, No 1B Dien Bien Phu, Binh Thanh District.
Article 2 : Signing of service to the City Education Service of the 6 schools run under the status of Socialism.
Article 3 : The Service of Education has the Responsability of
- Collaborating with the Service of TC (Finance), of UBVG.TB (Committee) and the concerned offices, to start the procedure of the census of possessions of the schools, and establish the procedure to manage them according to the laws.
- Collaborating with the Service of NLND (…. ?) to solve the problem of housing of religious outside the premises of schools and continue to solve other ones left in the aforementioned schools.
Article 4 : Offices of the People Committee, executive Committee of the city, directors of different services, presidents of Districts 1,3 and 8 are in charge to execute this Decision.
On behalf of the President of the People Committee of HCMC
Vice –president :
( signature and seal)
June 1980 : The school Tran Quoc Tuan was dissolved and gave up its place to the “ Permanent Center of formation of the Cadres of the Party”
The financial situation of the community gave alarm.There was nothing in the Budget. A small amount of money in the band lost . The brothers had to take what had left and sell them at the flea market : sheet metal, kitchenware and housethings,tables,desks, wardrobes, cars, motobikes, etc…
Each brother took care of his private life, searching different means to earn money and only paid a share to the community for their necessary food.They kept their superfluous money to “ assure the future “, said a brother who gave private French and English lessons.
After his death, over 7 taels of gold was found inside a small box hidden on the shelf behind the books in his room. A fortune I could never imagine to get at that time. Another who passed the night at his home, coming to the community every day to glue the paper boxes by means of tearing nice books in the library.
Each shared out for oneself the things of the community according to one’s initiative. The sofas of the sitting- room was even “borrowed” by another with the promise to get them back “ when the community will need it”. The small table of the living-room was evaporated without reason and only found it out in one of the rooms of an individual, and at random in his relocate about 10 years later !
Quarrels between colleagues were sometimes exploded. Two brothers, for instance ,occupied a room each to give private lessons of English and French.These rooms were neighbouring and one of them occasionally gave remarks to the other requesting less noise during his teaching.But one day, not mastering his anger, he knocked his brother with blows…
Furthermore, frequent visits of the police at night or in broad daylight were “annoyed” us really. In every visit, one forced us to open all rooms, public and private to control the present dwellers and look for everthing so called suspect under the eyes of the regime. As the result they confiscated over 40 strip cartoons of Lucky Luke, Walt Disney…level - headed in our small library, evaluating them “decadent” . At night, when we heard the precipitation of the door bell, we understood surely we will be disturbed . There they are at least 5 agents in front of our entrance gate! Two of them stayed in welcome “ to bar our escape” the others followed us upstairs and started their control.Those who were present and the ones having the name in the family booklet had then to introduce themselves one after another ,and showing their ID card. After that, they proceeded the visit of all rooms under all lighted lamps.
As the consequence of the Act of “Offer” schools signed by Bro. Visitor Lucien Hoang Gia Quang, the brothers live always in the perpetual situation of insecurity and, in the trouble of constant being, at all moment, chased away, the spirit of the brothers lowered extremely.” Disputes about ideas” concerning the new ideology to the power appeared in converstions.Such a word is enough to start a dispute : “ I feel really liberated at the commuist arrival”. In general, one lived from day to day without planning the future .The community loked like a hotel where each person does not worry about what brings nothing to his personel interest,exactly like what said Bro.superior John Johnston: “ The community FSC ( brothers of Christian schools) is far away to be a “tactic Force” or “ a team of Work “. This is a community with a Mission. At the same time, it is much more “ a pause to tank up” .I must assume that sometimes there were some of us who considered our communities like “ a service station”, placed on the highway of the daily life, stations where were satisfied our needs of food, of housing and clothing .Excuse me, if theese words seemed to be ironical. It is not my intention to be this and I know that my remark is exaggerated. Nevertheness I think that, very often lots of our communities could not give a real priority to a community life.”.
So, one after another, they left the Institute.There were years where the community had only 4 brothers left.
La San Hien Vuong.
At that time , I was working at La San Hien Vuong , district 3 of Saigon.I also participated to the meeting of all teachers for the election of the new Directorate under the leading of a representative of theEducation Service.Then, to show one’s being broad-minded. The representative of the authority suggested the assembly to choose a director and others members of the directorate among the former professional Staff. As a result, a brother was proposed to be in charge of this responsibility. And me,too. However, everybody refused this charge. A brother proclamed firmly: “ I don’t accept . If you voted for me, I will not work at all, inspite of all”. For me, I gave them my refuse with a more flexible reasom: “ I will return to my native village to work my land”.
The situation being blocked, the representative had his last words: “ If you could not choose a director among you, I will send you one “. Hearing this, the teachers were started, concerted and finally found out a director “among us” who was Brother Theophile,our former director.
Practically, our Brother director whispered to the brothers of our community.before, to insert ourselves in all sections “ to assume our presence “. Inwardly, I did not accept this opinion, but I dared not however express it, because, at that time the suspicion reigned everywhere, even in the community of brothers. The weight of a non-democratic regime was to impose a so blurred threat that we could not know if it was real or supposed. There were 2 members of the community who enrolled on the list of the so called “ patriotic teachers”, an association founded by the communists in the war time. This act of inscription sowed a mind of division and warning in the relationship and communication between borthers .
A few months after the re-intrance of the accademic year of 1975-1976, in october began the census of furniture and materials…and all things used in the service of children. This was a skillful tactic which stuck out the imagination of all school directors who, by professional obligation, let intact the materials for good functioning. They thought the schools could not be nationalized .After the census , all was sealed and considered as materials belonging to the school.
The community was composed of 8 brothers in 1975. A few months later , 2 brothers and me we enrolled to work the land and 3 others came to take our place without however collaborating with the school.They both left the country as boatmen for oversea. Two others asked the autorisation to live in a house of a private person on a trial basis to form a small community living in the middle of the people.This experience had no success: one of them left the Institute, the other returned to the traditional community of Taberd.There were still 4 brothers left, 2 of them died and another went out as boatmen.The only one aged brother stayed and signed the “ offered paper” the last floor of the school. Another community was so closed.
The school Pellerin (Huê)
Pellerin is one of the pretty big school in Center of VN. The school is wellknown thanks of its nice emplacement and of its large propriety.The however left it, with their great regret, a month after the fall down of Saigon. This is because they did not want the same “History of 1968 repeated”. During the general attack in Spring of this year 1968, all brothers stayed on the spot. Two brothers who worked in an annexed school of Pellerin were arrested, killed and collectively buried.
April 1975 : abandon of the school.
May 1975 : there was only one brother Rodiguez Hoang Kim Dao who came back there to “ take guard the school” after the reunification of the nation.
: Mr Tu Son, representative of the people Committee of the province Thua Thien Hue came to see Brother Dao in order to Borrow the school to give particular complement lessons to the people of the Cadre. After negociation the contract was signed between Bro. Rodriguez and Mr Nguyen Khac Mai, representative of the Education Service of Thua Thien Hue with the signature and cachet of approval of Mr TU SON, for a 5-year period. Since this day, bro. Rodriguez moved to a small house outside the school.
After 4 years of functionning, the direction of the school was transferred to another place without informing the proprietor: the “ school of the Party” afterwards was transformed to a school of Sports.
Bro. Hoang Kim Dao and bro. Nguyen Cao Qui, in the name of the Institute, gave their First reclamation of recuperation of the school, signed on December 8th 1994. They had no positive response until now.
The retreat house at Vung Tau
Situated on low hill five minutes far from the beach, it was dominant at the time all the “Bai Sau” beach of Vung tau. Three brothers at the age of retirement still stayed there to “ take guard the house “ newly restored by bro. Bruno with the goal to transform it into a Meeting Center of Districts of Brothers in Asia.
Seeing the house “ uninhabited” ( word used by the Habitation Office of the Quarter), the Habitation Affairs Service of Vung Tau city proposed to the Superior to borrow temporarily this house for the commun service.
Following is the entire text:
Habitation Affairs Desk
Vung Tau city
No : 194/PHD/TXVT
REPUBLIC OF SOUTH VIET NAM
To : Institute of Christian Brothers
53B Nguyen Du Street, District 1, Ho chi Minh city
De La salle Institute, situated in Thuy Van Street, Thuy Van Quarter,Thang Tam, is presently uninhabited,
As the country is constructing a common economy to the whole country[7}.Then, local material proprieties must be to the service of the purpose in hand to construct the economy of Socialism.
The Habitation Affairs Desk of Vung tau city announce the temporarily borrowing of this house for the common service.
Vung Tau October 18th 1997.
Habitation Affairs Desk of Vung tau city
Head of the Desk
Dang tan Thanh
Signature and cachet
The administration of this house was then transferred to the one of Vung Tau city under the only condition I had known : The intervention of the authorities of Binh Thanh district in HCMC to transfer the official residence of the brothers, this meant to enroll their names into the family booklet of the Retreat House at Maithon, our Retreat House. “ It’s easy”,said someone. However, during about 10 years after the abandon of Vung Tau,these brothers had to come back there to demand the paper of Absence from Cap Saint Jacques so that they could demand the one of their temporary Presence at Binh Thanh, An exchange non-equitable and a departure unsatisfactory.
Bro Valentin Nguyen Cao Qui himself made his first reclamation of recuperation of this house since 1996, without result. And myself I sent my own complaints since 2004. I have been waiting for a good news for 3 years.
This is so, the schools of Saigon and surroundings had been nationalized in 1975, one after the other.Three years later, another heroic act gave the brothers a knockout: act of “offer” ín 1978.In any case although all the schools of Saigon had been “ offered”, all the communities had had the chance of not to be made to leave home and out off their school’s proprieties in spite of several attempts from the direction of the concerned school. There was some time the brothers of Taberd were about to leave somewhere else .
Thanks to their firmness or their wise flexibility or negociation one didn’t know anything about it, the Brothers still keep for themselves a “pretty large” space at the 4th floor of which they transformed into auditorium for the annual gathering on the celebration of Saint John Baptist De La Salle Day and the December 8th, while the communities in the South were completely closed, in My Tho, Soc Trang,and can Tho. Particularly in Nha trang, the Brothers were chased away from their schools and communities. Just as in Ban Me Thuot , the brothers were completely robbed. The Bishop, however gave them another house in the center of the city as their community. And so on.People who know a little the past of the brothers whispered “ Pitied Brothers, you lost so much, all !”
Anyway,”offer” or “ borrow” has till now no difference regarding the authorities. The only important thing is that the proprietor signs and leaves their house.
2-Departure of the Brothers
Real facts that lead to put the question of Identity
The departure of the Brothers in 1954 to the South and in 1975 to oversea, their collective abandon of the teaching profession at the arrival of the communists by adopting another one which has no relation apparently with their traditional profession; consecutive and repeated departures ; perplexed minds, one wondered on the future. Having no security in the present, no quiet sleep at night because of very often surprised visits, policemen at midnight to control presences and absences; brothers who joined temporarily their family for help, disorganized communities, dismissed brothers from schools considered as unfitted in socialist schools…All these gave rise to a compassion feeling in the ones, a suspicion on reason for life of brothers, in themselves and in others.
This year, VN celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu Victory,on the 7th of May 1954. The years passed. To remind this great event was not the goal of reviving the wound or maintaining the hatred.It’s just to say that the Institute of the Brothers and its Educative Mission are strictly linked to the social life of the country and that the politic events influenced enormously on their life. Some said that the event of “April 30th 1975” was the cloning of that on “ May 7th 1954” for the catholics in general and for the brothers in particular.Millions and millions of catholics escaped hurriedly to the South of VN, leaving all their proprieties individually or with their family, to risk one’s life, after the proclamation of the Geneva Agreement in 1954 . All the schools in the North had to be dissolved: Puginier school, in Hanoi , founded in1894, with 1425 children; Saint Joseph Haiphong, founded in 1006, with 1097 school boys.These 2 schools were closed for good on September 15th 1954 at the same time, those of Nam Dinh founded in 1924, of Phat Diem, in1932…
Was that a “ splendid and sumptuous death” ? Always possible! But it was a painful wound for the District of VN.
All the same,the brothers followed the line of people moving to the South, left all behind them schools, children, parents, friends, all works of which themselves and their predecessors had built with their sweat on their foerehead.
On the way of their escape, the communist soldiers addressed to the emigrants this prophetic parole: “ We are going to see ones others in the South soon,” .
It is true that the history repeats and this prophetic Hello was fulfilled on April 30th 1975, much more catrastrophic than that in 1954, It was the phenomenon of “ Boat people”.
March 1975 : Collapse of Ban Me Thuot ( on the highlands) where 12 brothers had been living,and running 2 booming big schools . News from Ban Me Thuot made us know about the arrestation of these brothers, and the communists brought them forcedly into a forest accompanying a group of people. People thought that it was the end of their life yet. They were however all liberated after about some 19 days of “penitence”.
April 3rd 1975 : Collapse of Nha Trang . All the brothers of Da Lat and Nha Trang looked for possible means to reach Saigon, without bringing anything, hoping to escape from the communists. They were all made a mistake.
April 30th 1975: Collapse of Saigon : A few days before the day D, the curfew of 24/24 h was strictly kept on all over the city of Saigon , The streets were empty and morose. Worried, anxious , people of Saigon watched the TV or listened the radio to get the hottest news. April 4th ,1975 ,at 10 am , the new president of the Republic of VN, a 3-day President, surrendered. The tears ran on the eyes of all I met said reluctantly “ that’s the end”. By curosity, I went out of the school to relax a little and see the course of the unforgetable events of History. There from a distance, an endless line of communist soldiers stepped forward on the street, towards the direction facing our school, to reach the public park in front of the presidential Palace of the ancient regime. A small detail that I never forget: It were the bonzes who leaded bringing in their hand the flags of the national Front of liberation of South VN, this unit of troops of victors.
Then started a new life for the Brothers.
DEPARTURE OF BROTHERS TO FOREIGN COUNTRIES
During the the last month left, the brothers lived the same feelings of distress and fear like of those of saigon citizens, by preparing a boat to go oversea. Embarassed before such an unexpected situation, Brother provincial and his Counsel gave this general directive : “ The District has no organization for the Brothers’ Departure to Oversea. But, each brother could choose an opportune way according to their personal judgement, pursuant to the religious spirit and to the security of their life”. Each brother then received 100 thousand dong to realize one’s personal project. Each goes to his own way. The majority went to Cap Saint Jacques and Phuoc Tinh, at the beach where fishmen were ready to take the boat at anytime to reach a ship of the 7th American Float anchoring somewhere else.
From the collapse of Saigon, over 150,000 Vietnamese, including a great number of brothers, left the country. In the following years, nearly 2 millions departed at their turn, legally or clandestinely.Since 1975, the Pacific Ocean became the grave, the enormous cemetery of thousands of exiled people by boats, drowned deaf. Tha sea pirates only reigned later. One over four boat-people joined the bottom of the sea. Two brothers did not escape from this calamity. At the time, under the eyes of the communists, these people were considered as traitors. Nowadays they become patriotic people because their economical contribution to the development took a very important position. As for the exiles , an impression of farewell ejected from their eyes at the departure day. Alike, at the end of the 80s, started a movement of official departure to foreign countries either for familial reunification reason or for that of having served in ancien Army. What a contradictory spectacle at the airport! It requiered several years of waiting for the passort and visa from the welcome countries. Departure to meet again the loved beings after over some ten years of separation might be a happy day, the day at which people imagined to admire flourishing smiles on all faces, of those who left and those who continued their life in VN. However, there are only eyes drops, looks expressing adieu, a total despair of non- seeing again for ever.
A few months after the fall of Saigon , a test of effectives showed an absence of about 100 professed brothers and some thirty young scholastics. And yet there are actually around twenty, inserted into different districts of USA,France,Canada, while the rest had left the Institute for ever. In the annex, I re-wrote a talk with one of the brothers who left the Institute to adopt a civil life.
Brothers who returned temporarily to their family
Responding to the individual needs, brother Provincial gave the autorisation to a certain number of brothers to have a life out off the community during a period of 3 years or over to help their family in distress. Some others re-joined their family just only by a desire of working ground. In reality, at bottom of their heart, it was a pacific revolt,thinking that “ the way of administration did not conform to my professional conscience, when discovering dishonest manipulations from the Staff , the success of students who did not reflect their true knowledge”, or”a passive acceptance with resignation” , or a net refusal to collaborate with the new regime by “ staying immobile to observe what happen, waiting with patience a more favourable moment to recuperate the education career”9], or waiting for a comming new day, and hoping “ a somewhat very vague dream to be able to live some other way”10], as said some brothers.
The District owns a land of some hectares, about 2 kilometers far from the center of Saigon of which the brothers had previewed to transform into a Sports Camp for the students of the brothers’ schools in Saigon and surroundings. This plan was failed on the arrival of communists. Then in order to keep the land, at least thought the Provincial, he left each family of brothers who wanted it a stretch of land of 1000m2 . And in fact, this brother had left his community to live there lonely. Considering the politic situation both complex and difficult, the Provincial accepted these new status of brothers who existed only in the history of the district of VN. Each brother was connected to a nearest community from one’s house, and every month the brother reached his community to “be warmed oneself “. A few years later , a new community was born and named “ community of New Road” nicknamed “ diaspora community” whose members consisted of all the brothers who, by a special reason, had been still living outside traditional communities . This solution was not the best one but permitted to justify the illegal situation of their absence. This community came to an end gradually; from 1986 as its members re-joined the ones the communities the others their family for ever or went to foreign countries.
Brothers who left their teaching profession
At the end of 1978, a decree discharged teaching priests, religious and nuns as “ unfit in a socialist school”. The historical materialism prone by Karl Marx did not get on well with religious to whom the religion was not “Opium of the people”. A small number of brothers(6) was kept on because the headmaster of the school needed them. The others were dispensed with their service. Nowadays, there are only 2 left who teach at universities, the one at the university of architecture and the other at economy one. He who taught at the Economy university, and only from the beginning of the 80s, never dared to reveal his identity of Brother !
What did the brothers do after giving their traditional profession up ? All financial ressources were suddenly cut outright. No provision, each community had to manage for their living. It was so the vietnamese proverb came true: “ God created elephants, made grow grasses also to feed them”. But the people of Saigon were resourful and had a fine feeling of commerce. Immediately after the collapse of Saigon government, the north people invaded the South. They bought all and anything at the market because they could not find them in the north. Then, open-air markets appeared everywhere like mushrooms. Resembling the majority of Saigob citizens, the brothers got out off their home to the flea markets…to sell all things : beds,desks, wardrobes, sheet metals, dishes, cameras, camera films, cars..etc..Thanks to these sellings the brothers could survive during these years of dearth. To maintain in good state the house of retreat caused also a financial problem: about 40 aged brothers to take care and to nourish. In society ,those who succeeded to escape out off the country as “boat people” started sending packages to their family in VN : clothes,T-shirts, medicines, beauty articles…these were almost re-sold all, these allowed to nourish the family 3 months each parcel of 20 kg. The vietnamese brothers in foreign countries did the same. The 20-parcels kg sent to the bro. Provincial to respond to different needs of aged brothers and to support the communities in difficulty.Bro. Provincial recommended me to sell off these medicines and other things. Here I am with a new job.!
Then, those who still had good health had to look for earning living: breeding, growing mushrooms.farming , wandering photographer, odd jobs, worker at the building site…However, the most suitable job for the brothers was to give language or math lessons clandestinely to the syudents. In the first 10 years after the reunification of the country, a grouping of over 10 people was suspect in the eyes of the local authorities, so a permisson was required for it. Before 1975, people worked without any worry of money,benefit or deficit. All these were in the charge of Br Director, Procurator,or Bursar. Nowadays, each brother must manage. This made the brothers have the best quality of maturity and self-government. But there was also a price to pay: selfishness and individualism followed by a stockage. Each brother only took care of himself , he disposed the money earned freely or stocked to “ Preview the future”, this was quite opposite to the spirit of religious abandonnement that required religious to put all in common as demanded the Congregation. This act of “ Self-government”, becoming immersed in some brothers, was difficult to give it up till now. Brother John Johnston had made this remark : “ If the expression “to act by oneself” becomes a sterotype (a negative), it will bring an exact general description of what happened to several of us and to a great number of our communities and our Districts. In so many cases our communities had become “ federations of self-governing individuals” , our Districts “ federations of independent communities” and the Institute “ federation of independent sectors”. Lots of us insisted not only on their “right” to decide how they will live,where they will inhabit and what services they will bring up but they also supported that the Institute, in its different levels, had the responsibility to bring them its total support and without conditions, some others were even waiting for that. In the most extreme cases – that was, thank goodness , the exception – our communities and even our Districts had become “ havens of security” for egocentric individuals”.
Houses occupied, properties confiscated
Brothers’ friends , children’s parents, benefactors - at the Brothers’ Meeting, expressed this same observation: “ The brothers had lost so much”, They are not wrong. 23 schools “offered” to the government.The more you lived far from Saigon,the more you faced to disadvantages. An idea from the communists came true successfully in the process of nationalization of catholic and private schools. Firstly,the authorities introduced one /two members of the Party to be the second position in the director committee, while the director of the school was always being the owner.The Brother director was pleased and encouraged the brothers to split into every sections in order not to loose their presence. But, being director of the school, he wanted that all ran well.This was why he logically kept tools and equipment intact for the good running of the school.A few weeks later, a committee went to inventory all things, tools, tables…And the following year,our Director was sacked, handing over his position to a member of the Party. The first part of the game lost.
In theory, all premises under the service of children must be left to their usage.With respect to this principle the brothers’ premises and also the ones “offered” to the government took the form of the leopard Skin, said people like “teeth of a comb”. The Brothers and members of the Party lived side by side mingledly.There was a permanent suspicion among them. The circulation of brothers under their eyes in the same place was really a thorn to be picked off as fast as possible. The fastest and the most legal means was to denounce them as “ reactionary”and in a cetain day, imprisonment was assured. This was the case of Soc Trang schools (South) and Mossard (Thu Duc). Schools and properties were totally swept away and the brothers incarcerated.
Also, the schools of Can Tho (South) and My Tho (South) had the same fate. However, a little more aged and chance, the brothers rejoined the ones of the Retreat House at Mai thon(Saigon).In Hue, Ban Me Thuot and Nha Trang , the Brothers were made to leave their schools and located in another new terrain. Only the brothers of 3 communities Duc Minh, Hien Vuong and Taberd still lived in the domain of school, those of which were not put to the usage of Children before 1975. Thinking that we would be treated as schools’ befactors was real imagination.The staff considered the Brothers’ presence like an obstacle, looking at them with suspicious eyes, watching out for the right opportunity, a “ right” reason to pull them by force or to disturb them so much that they themselves gave it up. For instance, one day Br. Simeon of Taberd, being in his room on the 4th floor and scantily dressed enjoyed the music with a headphone not to disturb his neighbors. Suddenly, a group of policemen accompanied by a member of the school, went upstairs hurriedly and penetrated into the brother’s room to arrest him in such a situation: wearing underwear and headphone on ears, with a triumphal air as if they had just discovered a so long wanted criminal. They forced him to the direction of the school. The Brother was liberated then because they recognized (at least) their ignorance ! “ In His bedroom and on the 4th floor”, this small detail showed us that the brothers were permanently watched .To whom was the fault ? It was the fault of all. For this reason, at Taberd, after having “ offered” the school, the brothers opened another gate to be able to use it “ in emergency” said they. In the other cases, they went out and come back home by using the main entrance like ordinary but with a certain “provoking” air: “ This is my house, I have all right to move, who dares to forbid me?”. This attitude a little “ill mannered”, ready to the struggle, brought also good results : the brothers had still kept their small remaining part. It must be some 10 years to get the lessons from experiences:” The communists attacked only those who were afraid of them and accepted to step back”.
The domain of the Brothers’ Retreat House at Mai Thon occupied a 12 hectare- surface. 10 hectares were “offered” to the cooperative. Also 13 000m2 at St Jacques Cap, 27over 31 hectares in the province of Dong Nai were “offered” by the same person : Br. Lucien Hoang Gia Quang, with a view to share it with the poor of the region!The armed fellows came and took over 5 over 8 hectares at Phu Son(Dong Nai) to enlarge their farm of pigsty …
This political crisis and its disastrous effects have had the power to create mentalities which have to fit to the worst situations.The youth nowadays knew nothing about this period of their history and were not interested in these heroic deeds of real and ideological struggles.
Brothers who prepared to the priesthood.
The will of the Founder is that he who governs the Institute must be a Brother.He often spoke them about it and insisted on lots of times to the brothers so that they would choose among them a superior to succeed him.
Remembering that in 1686,”the ecclesiatical authorities” had beated up the election of the Brother as Superior of the community to replace the Founder. A simple lay person “ having no strength of character could not acceed to such a responsibility” ! Never mind! Mr De La Salle made ready to the Priesthood brother Henry L’Heureux , chosen by his companions to succeed him.His goal, in fact, stayed inchangeable : To give the brothers themselves the responsibility of their “Association” . To fix this lack practically, the founder provided him the Latin and helped him follow the Theology lessons. After that he sent him to Paris to prepare him directly to the Priesthood, hoping that being priest, nothing would oppose to his succession as the Head of the Institute , himself, this perseverant and silent worker, nicknamed “ big bull”, allusion to his height and his behaviour. However, Br. Henry suddenly fell ill and died in a very short delay. This brutal death was interpreted like a sign of a distinct feature requested by the vocation suitable for the Christian school brothers  : “ They would be able to be priests, nor to claim to the ecclesiastical status”. The superior will not be Priest but layman like all his brothers.
This intuition of Mr De la Salle was quite conformed to the spirit of the Church that will precise 274 years later at Vatican Concile II in the Constitution on Church :
“ He who received the ministerial Priesthood enjoyed a sacred power to form and lead the sacerdotal people , to do, in the role of the Christ, the sacrifice of Eucharist and offer it to God in the name of the whole people; the believers, themselves, according to the royal prieshood that are theirs, compete to the offering Eucharist and carry on their priesthood by receiving sacremants, prayers and thanksgivings, the testimony of a holy life,and by their renunciation and their effective Charity.”
This formal rule stays valid till now like in 1686. Repeatedly, the priesthood in the Institute was put in question at different General Chapters in Rome. But this decision stay always an original characteristic of the Brothers’ Institute expressed through the article 2 of chapter 2 of the Ruleof the Christian Brothers approved by Rome on January 26th, 1987.
“An Institute of Pontifical right composed exclusively lay religious”. ( Rule .1,2)
Before 1975, some people also left the Institute to adopt the priesthood life. But a changing movement of orientation after the reunification of the country gave rise to a big Question of Identity for others, in spite of themselves. The reasons for which they chose the priesthood or prepared themselves to the priesthood could say in only one vista : to look for another possible apostolical field of activities somewhereelse. Let’s mention among others:
Br. Pio Do Van Dong head master of a primary and secondary school at Ho Nai in community with Br . Archange Trieu Van Loc, he “offered” his school to the Government in 1976 and inserted to the bishopric of Nha trang. He was ordained priest after 2 years of preparation. His life seemed to be happy and effective. Eloquent, he was often invited by several Congregations for different sessions or retreats. However, for his personal reasons, during over some 10 years at the end of his life, he left his diocese of Nha trang and lived in 3 or 4 different religious congregations or monasteries , one after the other. He also presented his will to come to live in a lasallian community in Saigon. But the the brothers’ Chapter refused it.The community of Nazareth Congregation at Thu duc was his last refuge. At the end of his life, in 2003, he went to the USA to visit his parents and friends. A heart attack took his life out off this world. His corpse was transported by air to VN and was then buried in Nha trang, his original bishopric.
At the same time, Br. Archange, much older than Br.Pio, his predecessor chose himself the Cistercian monk life, in the same year of 1976. He left this worl finally at the beginning of 2005.
Brother Liguori, expert teacher in Chinese and French in our big schools, also opted for the Cistercian life,a few years after the collapse of Saigon. Well-educated man, he was very successful in his new life. But, a somewhat nostalgia or regret of the past life made him to present to the District chapter twice at least to come back to the Institute. He did not obtained the agreement.Finally he died in this monasty at the beginning of the 90s.
Br, Camille Nguyen Van Chau, former Director of School D’Adran, professor of Philosophy,wanted also to become priest. He had followed together with another Bro. Guillaume Nguyen Phu Khai, the required lessons of preparation for this goal, during 2 years. In the end they both persevered in the Institute saying they would like to be priest-brothers, it’s to say priest but not leaving the Institute, this never esists in the history of Brothers. Brother Camille died in 1987, at the age of 83 while brother Guillaume, aged of 81, continues his life with his co-brothers at the Retreat house in Mai Thon.
Br. Casimir Phan van Chuc, PHD in Lille,director of Taberd Community before and after the event of 1975, director of the Scholasticate, formator of young brothers ,would like to be priest. He had a very optimistic attitude towards the communist regime, believing firmly to the new governors’ comprehension. Director of Taberd Community , he did not give any autorisation to scatter and hide things and materials…all belonged to school. He declared firmly : “ this school belongs to us.What belongs to this school, belongs to us .We dispose them as we want, even to burn them”. This conviction pushed him so far by putting signature on lots of papers which did his successors harm. During this period of perturbation, he attended the course of preparation to the priesthood. He stays however always brother because of the refusal of the ecclesiastical authorities. Presently, he is living his infirm life near by the brothers in the retreat House at Mai Thon.
“ I failed to become priest”, told me Br. Albert Nguyen Quan Tien, born in 1921. He was 54 in 1975, member of Taberd Community and very efficient nearby the children of Primary Section. It was not no reason and thoughtless way that he gave up his profession and community, nor without distress when joining temporarily his family in the South VN. During his stay at his family, he was always being in good spirit of a religious by his “works” nearby the priests.He was so efficient that the bishop of his diocese woulk like to ordain him priest. But the Letter of approval went astray and from the appeal of Br. Francois Tran van Anh, he reintegrated to his old community after 8 years of absence! Today, he is 84 and always in good form. Every day little children join him to learn reading and to do exercises of writing. He always feels he is a lasallian brother.
The brother who has just been ordained Priest at the beginning of this year 2006 in Australia seemed the most known in the catholic world in VN as well as in foreign countries : Father Michel Pham Quang Hong, born in 1947, being Brother in 1966.Talented, painter, good scout,teacher of Judo and Karatedo, he was well succeeded near by the youth by his eloquence. Since his boyhood, he had a passion for gun games”. He kept it on by making collections of guns, grnades of all kinds and he exposed them in his room. The communists were so sensible to this that in 1978,all the brothers and joung boys of the community were arrested after the inspection of the police. They found out there guns, cartridges,grenades…And he was sentenced 13 years in prison close ( at that time it called “re-education camp” and another 12 years. A large building in a several hectares domain at Thu Duc was confiscated, 12km far from Saigon. Thanks of the “indulgence” of the government and because of their “very well educated attitudes” , both of them were liberated in 1987. It was in fact a trial time for him during a few years after the liberation. Being under the administrative watch , he had to see regularly the police once every two weeks.He lived in a brothers’ community. However, for fear of being compromised, he rarely visited the brothers in other communities. Besides, some not very likeable attitudes and stares from some brothers made him in deep inferiority complex, thinking because of him the brothers had lost the school and property. Being his friend , I looked for all possible means to make him reintegrate into the community without success. Br. Michel tried to fit himself little by little to the situation and to show himself useful and efficient . Firstly, he accepted the invitation of the Sisters and vicars for lectures on different occasions: Retreats for the young, the aged people and parents…
Talented and eloquent , he attracted lots of people to his lectures so much that his lectures were recorded to be sent abroad.He seemed to be radiant but frequently absent from community. In 1996, he was appointed as director of the Scolasticat (formation house after the noviciate) . By his large amount of activities outside, he continued to be absent, a little less, but almost frequently for such a director of the Scolasticat. In 1997, he went to Australia for 2 weeks with a group of Karatedo teachers.In 1998 he went to there for the third time , did not get back to VN and demanded the politic status of refugee. Thanks to the intervention of Br Gerard Rummery, he got all necessary papers to stay in Australia. In 2003, he started to solicit to be priest. In order to be legal, he gave me his reason as following : “ on serious reflection and after consulting wise people, I feel not fit to the brother’s life any more . I demand the autorisation to leave the Institute to be priest”. The news of Br, Michel being priest was launched on internet with his photo and biography. Some people I know agreeded with his choice as “ he can do nothing as a brother”. In other words, there is no work for this brother to do in the Institute. Some others let out a regret of sigh to lose such a talented brother. Others asked me with a pitying smile : “ Where is Br. Michel?”. And it is true that , since his leaving the Institute, as I know, he broke off all relations with the brothers. In all cases his departure was a real perturbation for young brothers, those who were with him in the Formation House : the Scolasticat.
To change the orientation by adopting the priesthood life is something very normal. But the choice of massive leaving the Institute in this social and political context at the critic moment accelerated the suspicion and doubt on the identity of Brothers and the Mission and reason for being of the Institute in the new regime. Especially, the majority of these brothers were directors, the “ columns” of the District, the formators who, repeatedly spoke with conciction of the necessity of the Institute and of its finality which is to provide a human and christian education to the youth,especially to the poor. And now, they chose or tempted to choose another way. They had all their liberty to act in accordance with their conscience. But, willy-nilly,they hat put some regret in our heart.
Repeated sallies (goings-out)
All communication with the Mother House in Rome was interrupted since the arrival of the communists. Normally the brothers,who, having emitted the eternal vows , wanted to leave the Institute, had to demand the exemption of their vows from Vatican via the Br. Superior General in Rome. In this social context, Bro. Provincial received the order from Br. Superior to be able to solve all the problems without his opinion. In this important case, he only needed to put his signature on the demand of the person concerned and presented the signed demand to the archbishop of Saigon. It seemed that the Congregation of brothers was the one that the calamity of 1975 touched the most directly and heavily so much that the archbishop obliged to cry with humor at the arrival of the Provincial: “ I would not like to see you”. This word showed a somewhat trembling of his heart in front of a large amount of brothers’ departure, moreover from Br. Provincial and his co-brothers. It was not only a trembling of heart or a somewhat sadness but also a tremble for those who still adhered on the institute.
Not including the 6 years in Juvenat (alumnat) where they followed their secondary studies, the brothers had to attend a long specialized formation before emitting their perpetual vows: 6 months to a year in Postulat House, 1-2 years in Noviciate,3-5 years in Scolasticat, and at least 3 years of apostolical life in communities. This meant 7 years and half to 11 years of probation before taking final decision to persevere in the Institute until the end of their life. An enough time for a serious reflection.
Before 1975, there were yet a few special cases of postulants who came back to their final decision. But the majority of those who left the religious life were the temporary vows’ brothers ( annual vows or triennial vows) and occasionally only. 65 perpetual vows’ brothers left, those who emitted their vows at the age of 40-50 ! A great number of them were directors and formators; an old 9 year- Provincial and also the founder of a congregation of De La Salle Sisters! Repeated and impetuous “goings out” during a few years did not exist and forced then the responsible leaders to reflect again the situation of brothers.Why this phenomenon ? Is it because “ the perception the Brother had of his identity seems to be influenced by some variables, inter alia: age,style of formation,capacity in relation to partners, ecclesiastical comprehension…”.
What people think
Compassion ( or pity) of lay old children
“ The identity is buit little by little ; It does not depends only on us but also on the image others sent us”
It is true that the brothers were not seen after 1975. The brothers do not travel in soutane on the streets.People only see them in churches.Even when they do the catechism at the parish church, most of them wear civil costumes. The brothers “ disappeared”, think people. At the time of a”Teachers’ Day” on November 29th 2003, organized by the vicar of Cau Kho Parish, HCMC, an old boy of brothers, a young lady showed her surprise, saying: “ So many brothers today”.And, at the end of the ceremony,an aged person came to whisper at the ear of a brother: “(Since 1975) I never see appear so many young brothers like today”. This surprise of those who know the brothers expresses implicitly their concept, their imagination that the existence of Brothers go in pair with that of their schools.
Old Boys,benefactors, well known people of brothers in general, when they met a brother, the same questions were repeated, always in low voice, with compassion and regret: “ what are the brothers doing now?” “ When will your schools be given back?”. One of my friends in the same promotion, having left the Institute, met me some years after the collapse of Saigon, saying:” what are you doing at the moment? The reason of being is no more…”. Such questions reflect the concept of the image of a brother: a teacher in a school,or the unique mean of education of brothers is to run schools. No more schools, then, no more brothers, no more true brothers.This is the logic of all those who knew the brothers. They could not imagine the existence of brothers without schools.
Recently, the ancients of Taberd got together on April 2005 at a restaurant in HCMC aiming to rekindle their friendly relations as Lasallian Old boys in the future.They are almost in retreat today. That is over some 30 years they had” waited for this year”, said one of them. Being present there about some 30 “old boys”, among them there were “patriotic” well known big names such as : Ho Ngoc Nhuan,Ngo Cong Duc, rev. Huynh Cong Minh and some others…who, before 1975, stayed in the occupied area by the Republic of Viet Nam (ancien Regime) and leaded a revolutionary activity.During this evening party, they only had exchanges without anything related to politics. I was invited to this meeting by an ancien I knew well, accompanied by another Brother. Seeing our appearance, in civil costume ,of course, every body expressed his joy to see us again, the successors of their Teachers. The Agape was going on in a familiar atmosphere , opening, welcoming and promissing an encouraging future. Some questions and observations touched me directly: “ Do the brothers still exist today? asked me one of them with an astonished air; I have thought all the brothers were “dead”, exclaimed another both amazed and apparently happy; “ we are going to study what we should do for their future life”, completed another; “ what’s the use with the brother Visitor today, in case there is no more lasallian school?”. To all these questions, I gave them a briefly resume of the true educative Mission and what the brothers are being forced to fit themselves to the social situation in order to live their vocation despite the lost of schools.
This showed that there is also a confusion of the image of a teaching-educating- Brother, deeply soaked in the old generation mentioned in the acts of the 43th Chapter General : “ there is sometime confusion between what we are and what we do. To rely on an identity purely functional may create an imbalance between the professional and vocational aspects of our life.”
Observation of an ancien priest on occasion of a celebration
Ancien of the Brothers, the vicar of a parish in HCMC was invited to celebrate the holy Mass of the Annual Retreat closure at the end of June 2004.The vietnamese brothers, as custom dictates, wore their soutane on the occasion of celebrations during the year: burial ceremony, SJBDLasalle Day, annual retreat closure… but always and especially in their private ownership . So surprised to “ still see” a great number of brothers in soutane, he expressed his impressions in homily: ´I could not think the brothers were so numerous…” In other words , I thought the Institute of Brothers were obliterated at the same time with the Lasallian schools.
* Sharing from a female Provincial of a Pontifical congregation.
On the occasion of the Reunion of major Superiors of Congregations existing in VN on May 2003, a female superior of a pontifical Congregation told me in low voice: “ the brothers did no more education ?”Asking me this question expressed both commiseration and compassion, I was speechless, really astonished that the concept of education, the confusion in meaning between teaching and education be engraved deeply in the mind of a female Superior, what’s more with people.! She knew well the situation of brothers Before and after 1975. I did not give her any response.
*even with western Brothers
As far as , at the reunion of Brothers Provincial of all the districts in the world. The representative of each region presented to the Assembly how their district lived during these 3 last years the Proposition 12 of Chapter General in 2000:
In order to make progress the educative service of the poor, the Chapter General appeals for the Visitors of the Districts and Sub-Districts, Delegates and Presidents of Delegations and their Councils to measure what is the degree of contribution of their Districts, Sub-Districts or Delegations’ works of the educative service of the poor.
Some Districts were only composed of aged brothers and had no new vocations several years ago. In some countries , schools still belonged to them, but reaching the retreat age, they had no more rights to continue their teaching profession. The ones felt a certain pain, the others a somewhat deprivation of not being able to live their vocation which is the “ educative service of the poor” mentioned the Proposition 12. This is why one of the reporters suggested a proposition: It had better re-define the lasallian identity. One brother expressed the same opinion at the linguistic group reunion after that, saying : It must be necessary to re-define the lasallian Mission. I shared also my own personal reflection and tried to live it since 2000 and more intensely in 2003:” Re-define the lasallian identity is not the question.The problem is to re-discover the image of the Brother masked so long under a coat of successes of our big schools, this makes us think that the school is the unique means of living our educative mission”.The silence of the brothers was not a sign of agreement however, maybe a sign of not being persuaded it.
 to know that 100 000 VN dong at that time, it was the price of a tael of gold which is equivalent to 12 000 000Vndong , about 800USD
 these were fishing ports.
 this committee was founded by the archbishop himself. The chairman of this committee was the priest Nguyen Thai Hoa, who had had ”very intimate relations” with the communists before 1975. His vice-chairman was a lasallian Brother, Fidele Nguyen van Linh. They were both manipulated to make “Offer” all the catholic schools.
 Vietnamese currency.
 I thought it was a good preview but superfluous , because this property ot the retreat house was not in the category of premises under the devolution which were the schools.
 John Johnston,Pastoral Letter,1987, p.27.
 This sentence written without subject was translated word for word to be cleaved to the master copy, this showed the level of studies of the author of that official circular.
 Annexes , p.6 line 181.
 Annexes, p. 11 ,line 313
 Annexes,p. 5, line 151
 John Johnston,Pastoral letter, 1989, p. 26
 Charles LAPIERRE, Monsieur De La Salle,192,p. 75
 id .p. 74
 id . p.75
 The Acts of the 43th Chapter General, p. 35
 id . p. 35
 id . p. 35