By Charles Keith
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Additional resources for Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation
If we accept that the origins of postcolonial Vietnamese regimes and identities have their roots in the colonial era, we need a language to describe them before 1945, but, precisely because they were contingent and deeply contested, there is no single term that will work in all circumstances. I therefore use the word “Vietnam” simply as shorthand to describe the three Vietnamese regions of French Indochina, and the phrase “Vietnamese Catholics” to indicate the study’s focus on those Catholics who identified as or were categorized as ethnic Vietnamese (kinh, itself admittedly a problematic category).
Catholic missions did not have legal ownership of lands belonging to individual Catholics or common lands belonging to a parish or a congregation.
In 1898 the head of the seminary in Kẻ Sở in Tonkin remembered that a water buffalo stable served as the seminary during the 1860s. 51 Such conditions placed a heavy physical burden on seminarians already expected to devote many years to their studies, and many did not last. 52 As violence receded, rebuilding and improving seminaries became a top priority. By the early years of the twentieth century, all missions had at least a minor seminary, and there were major seminaries in most. Most of them were now built out of stone or brick.