By Father Hao Dinh
Vicar for Vietnamese Ministry
Saint Martin Parish, Sunnyvale
More than 160 priests of Vietnamese descent across the U.S. gathered in San Jose from October 23-26. This is their 7th Convocation, called Emmaus, referring to the two disciples’ journey to Emmaus where they encountered the Risen Lord. The 3rd Emmaus assembly in 2009 also took place in the Bay Area.
They represent about 1,000 Vietnamese priests in various dioceses and religious orders in the U.S. They serve in urban areas, rural communities, Indian reservations, and also in overseas missions and military bases, etc. Joining them at the convocation were some priests stationed in Canada, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
During the opening Mass at Saint Joseph Cathedral on October 23, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath reflected on the ancient journeys in the Scripture and the modern journeys experienced by the Vietnamese diaspora, and on their presence that enriches the local churches. Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, was a main concelebrant at the liturgy.
The biennial gathering is first and foremost an opportunity for priests of Vietnamese heritage to meet and support one another. They also gather to listen to speakers and share experiences on issues relevant to their ministry. Father Nghi Dinh, a Dominican teaching at the Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand, brought down the house in speaking of priests as ministers of joy. On a more serious topic, Sulpician Father Hy Nguyen from San Antonio Assumption Seminary and the Oblate School of Theology reviewed the priestly identity and roles, and how they impact the priest’s ministry.
Ministry to youth also caught the attention of the priests at the convocation. A panel helped the participants to be more conscious of the changing circumstances and needs of young people in this day and age. A common form of youth ministry in Vietnamese Catholic communities in the U.S. and other countries is the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM), an international organization founded in 1915 for the Christian formation of young people. It originated in the Apostleship of Prayer in France, whose membership included Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in her youth.
During the convocation, Bishop Solis as well as Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange celebrated liturgies with messages of encouragement and appreciation for Vietnamese priests, religious and faithful. The concluding Mass was presided by Bishop Khoi Nguyen of Qui Nhon, a diocese in central Vietnam.
Sharing experiences, praying together and having a good time at Emmaus VII helped the participants appreciate one another and the calling they share in common. They returned to their ministries and communities with a renewed dedication, remembering that they’re not alone in their mission.