IF you told Augustinian Father Francis Belcina two years ago that his hair would be worth more than $4000 in 2020, he would have fallen off his chair.
But that’s how much his congregation’s Vietnamese mission has pocketed following a successful fundraiser held over the past month.
Fr Belcina, who is parish priest of St James Church, Coorparoo, has been growing his hair for the past two years but decided to “give it up” for his fellow Augustinians who are establishing the congregation’s first ever community in Vietnam.
He announced last month that he would cut his hair to raise money for the new community, setting a goal to raise $3500 by September 7.
In the end he raised $4335 – and the donations are still pouring in.
“Yesterday (September 6) we received three more envelopes with donations which I haven’t opened yet,” Fr Belcina said.
Fr Belcina said his parishioners, who had only ever seen his hair in a bun, had a lot of fun watching his hair become shorter and shorter on August 30, two days after the feast day of St Augustine.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Francis, your hair is not probably worth that much’,” he laughed.
“It’s good to hear parishioners having fun and committing to our mission.”
The money raised by Fr Belcina will go towards living expenses for the three Augustinian priests currently living in Vietnam.
It will also help fund students who initially discern a vocation with the order through ‘Come and see’ days and the pre-novitiate stage.
Fr Dang Nguyen and Deacon Tuan Anh Lê, who are serving with Fr Belcina at St James, are two Augustinians originally from Vietnam who are tipped to return home to the Vietnamese mission.
Both received their priestly training in Sydney before being sent to Brisbane for pastoral placement.
In the future, Vietnamese candidates like Fr Nguyen and Deacon Le would be trained for the priesthood in their home country.
“What we’re wanting to do is begin a new community there, so as much as possible, studies perhaps included would be done there so they have their own independent community,” Fr Belcina said.
Fr Belcina said the fundraiser for the Vietnamese mission ended on September 7 but the congregation was still accepting ongoing donations.
Visit the Augustinian’s Australian province website https://www.osa.org.au/support-us/ to donate.