By Kathy Fanger
Throughout the month of November and on All Souls Day, we remember and give thanks to God for our departed loved ones, for “Life is changed, not ended.” Catholic Cemeteries ministers, especially during this month of remembrance, through the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, emphasized in this Jubilee Year of Mercy: to comfort the sorrowful, pray for the living and the dead, and bury the dead.
In this issue we highlight the special rituals and practices of the Vietnamese Catholic Community around All Souls Day and the month of November. Father Justin Le, pastor of Saint Elizabeth Parish, states, “The Vietnamese community places a great priority on praying for our deceased ancestors. Our traditions are very rich. It is common in Vietnamese homes to have a prominent wall of statues and photographs before which the family prays. A crucifix hangs in the uppermost spot. Directly below is a statue or image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph. Below are photographs of deceased great-grandparents, then grandparents, then parents.”
At Saint Elizabeth’s, Parochial Vicar Father Joseph Page, sends the parishioners a letter inviting them to a Novena of Masses from October 24 to November 1. He writes, “The greatest offering for our dead is not flowers, incense or candle light, but prayers for them within the Eucharist, the highest form of prayer in our Church.” He includes a Novena Prayer for All Souls in Vietnamese, Spanish and English which is prayed after daily Mass, in homes and at the gravesites.
Saint Elizabeth’s creates a side altar in the church in November where parishioners display photos of their deceased family members. Father Justin says, “The many faces of deceased loved ones of all cultures truly represents the diversity in our parish community.”
Sister Bernadette Nguyen of Saint Maria Goretti Parish, adds, “The Vietnamese have great respect, honor and gratitude for their dearly departed. It is very important to me to instruct the Vietnamese children that November is a sacred month.” She sends home prayers to pray with their family – for deceased relatives, friends, neighbors, benefactors, “and for ALL souls, even people we don’t know.” The children are encouraged to accompany their families to clean, decorate and pray at the gravesites. “It is a way we do charity.”
Many Vietnamese families attend Mass on All Souls Day in their parish or at one of the Vietnamese Masses hosted at Gate of Heaven or Calvary Cemetery. Father Peter-Loi Huynh and Father Andrew C. Nguyen of Our Lady of La Vang Parish accompany the community to the gravesites of their loved ones. They sprinkle each site with holy water and offer prayers. An indulgence is granted and passed onto their deceased for the forgiveness of sins. Father Loi emphasizes, “We focus on God’s generous mercy.”
November reminds the Vietnamese community and all of us that one day Jesus will call us home to be with him; there we will be reunited with our loved ones forever.
Consolation of Grief during the Holidays
Holidays often accentuate our sadness and grief. Father Christopher Bennett shares scripture, personal stories and peaceful slides and music. This interactive workshop offers hope and support to better navigate the holidays.
For additional information, contact (650) 428-3730 x508, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ccdsj.org.