The celebration of Holy Mass, wishes for prosperity in the new year, festive dance and music, and traditional food ushered in the festivity of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, at St. Anne Parish in Lancaster Jan. 29, as the Vietnamese Catholic community there gathered for what is considered to be the most important celebration of their culture.
“Tet is a very important occasion because it combines everything culturally into one celebration,” said Father Tri Luong, pastor of St. Anne’s, which, in addition to Sunday Masses in English, is also home to a Sunday afternoon Mass in Vietnamese that draws upwards of 250 worshipers each week.
Ministry to the parish’s Vietnamese members includes the celebration of the sacraments, marriage preparation and an RCIA program in their native language, as well as a youth group of nearly 30 members that meets weekly. Sacramental preparation for young people preparing to receive first Holy Communion, make first Penance and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation is offered in English so that the young people interact with their peers in the parish, Father Luong pointed out.
“Ministry to Vietnamese Catholics is very important, and I am glad that it can be offered here,” Father Luong said. “We offer the sacraments in Vietnamese because the first generation does not speak the English language, and we want them to live their faith.”
“I have seen situations of people who do not come to Mass when it is not celebrated in their own language, and as a result, their spiritual life is diminished,” he added. “When a person’s spiritual life is diminished – especially in a Vietnamese family – it impacts the entire family, not just the individual.”
During the celebration of Tet on Jan. 29, Bishop Ronald Gainer celebrated the 1 p.m. Mass (after celebrating the regular 10:30 a.m. Mass there in English). The readings and songs were given in Vietnamese. Bishop Gainer offered his homily in English, and Father Luong translated it to the congregation in their native language.
In his homily, the bishop encouraged the congregation to live the Beatitudes that Jesus announced in the day’s Gospel reading (Mt. 5:-12A).
“Jesus is the very truth that he teaches. He is the Lesson, the Word made flesh,” the bishop said. “People often say, ‘What a wonderful teaching the Sermon on the Mount is. If only people would obey it, the world would be a better place.’ But, if we simply think of Jesus sitting there, telling people how to behave properly, we will miss what is really going on.
“These blessings, these Beatitudes that he is announcing, are not saying ‘Try hard to live like this.’ They are saying that people who surrender to the power of God’s grace can live like this already; they should be happy and celebrate,” he said.
The Beatitudes, Bishop Gainer said, “are a summons to live in the present in a way that will make sense in God’s promised future.”
“In this Eucharist, we are in communion with Christ, our master teacher. In Christ, we have communion with one another,” he told the congregation. “Let us ask Jesus, who is our sanctification and redemption, to give us the grace we need to understand what he teaches us, and to live what he shows us in the Beatitudes.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness