Some months ago--probably in mid-February--I e-mailed some of my family and friends with requests for prayers for a Salesian missionary who'd been very seriously injured in an assault at the school where he was working far out in the "bush" of Papua New Guinea.
Finally we've had some news on his gradual recovery. It comes from the news service of our SDB region for East Asia and Oceania:
Taking risks in mission life
MANILA: 1 May 2009 -- There are times when mission life can be unpredictable. Fr. Anthony Nguyen Ngoc Dung is a Vietnamese Salesian who shares snippets of what happened in his near-death experience after being physically attacked by a student in Don Bosco Vanimo in early February.
His Salesian vocation began when he was still 18 years old, amid a young and suffering Church in Vietnam. He entered the aspirantate in 1996 and the novitiate in 1997. On August 15, 1998, he made his first profession. The then-Bro. Anthony spent his first year as a practical trainee in Vietnam in 2001-2002.
He came to the Philippines on March 16, 2002, as part of the exchange program between Vietnam and the Philippines. He was assigned to Don Bosco Canlubang, where he organized the school soccer club, winning friends among the youths through sports. Bro. Anthony had his first taste of the missions when he was sent to Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, from May 2003 to 2004. It was finally in August 1, 2008, that he was ordained to the priesthood. In his love for the missions, Fr. Anthony spent his first year of priesthood back in Vanimo.
Fr. Anthony recalls the attack on February 12, 2009. It was at 6:30 p.m. during supper time with the boarders. The boy, a grade 12 student-boarder, approached him at the dining area while everyone was having their meal. He received the boy with a smile, but he was greeted by being struck with a bush knife straight to the right shoulder, opening a deep wound. The laceration hit vital parts of the large veins in his arms, causing heavy bleeding. The boy kept swinging the bush knife as Fr. Anthony tried to ward off the attacks. He used his right arm to repel the knife, but his fingers, too, were cut in the process. The boy lunged the knife straight at his abdomen as a final blow where it finally could have been Fr. Anthony’s last. He lay almost dead on the floor. Somehow, during the commotion, some of the boys got the courage to stop their fellow boarder from the ruthless attack.
Fr. Anthony underwent several operations and blood transfusions when he was brought to the Philippines for medical treatment. He continually thanks God for his near-death experience. It was a moment of blessing for him when others might think of it otherwise. Through it, he sees what is truly essential in life. Fr. Anthony has no bitterness for the boy. He was asked by the diocesan bishop what his last words were as he was given up for dead after the attack. Fr. Anthony with all conviction said, “Do not punish the boy. I forgive him before he even asks forgiveness. I, love him more now.”