Martyrs of Vietnam (Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions)
Feast Day: November 24
Canonized: June 19, 1998
Portuguese Jesuit priests first came to Vietnam in 1533 to preach the word of God to the people of the kingdom. These missionaries also brought the sacraments to Japanese Catholics who had been forced to leave their land because of persecutions. However, a law was passed in Vietnam that made it illegal for people to belong to the Christian Church. The Jesuits had to minister in secret until 1615, when they were allowed to build a permanent mission for Catholic worship.
Andrew Dung-Lac was born in Vietnam in 1795. He grew up Catholic and became a priest at a time when the Church was welcome in his country. Father Andrew was a parish priest and a prayerful example for his people. Many people came to believe in Jesus and were baptized because of Andrew’s preaching and service to others.
But in the 19th century, persecution of Christians began again. Between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed, and the Jesuits were driven out of the kingdom. Christianity was kept alive by faithful Catholics who could not live their beliefs openly; they hid the brave missionaries who did manage to sneak into Vietnam. People who were suspected of being Catholic were forced to deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. If they did not obey, they were arrested and often put to death.
Father Andrew was arrested. The people of his parish raised money to free him. He moved to another area of Vietnam and continued his ministry. He was soon arrested again, along with another priest, Father Peter Thi. They were treated brutally by their guards and were executed in 1839.
Between 1820 and 1862, Father Andrew and 116 Catholics died as martyrs for our faith. Among them were a bishop, priests, men, women and children who loved Jesus so much that they refused to deny their faith in him.
We honor Andrew and the martyrs of Vietnam as saints. We can show our respect for them by praying for all people who are persecuted for their belief in Jesus.