Catholic Vietnamese youth at crossroads of cultures

| July 20, 2015 | 0 Comments
Phat Tran shares his faith journey at the central region convention of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement July 18 at the University of St. Paul.

Phat Tran shares his faith journey at the central region convention of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement July 18 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

Benedictine Sister Maria Nguyen led more than 100 college-age and young adults in prayer in English, then switched to Vietnamese to lead them in a hymn.

Phat Tran had the same group of youth ministry leaders giggling as he told his faith journey primarily in English, but he drew belly laughs when he imitated his mother in a dialogue in Vietnamese.

Both scenes from the annual Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement central region conference July 17-19 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul were evidence of the crossroads of cultures faced by young people of Vietnamese heritage in the United States, a challenge that the nonprofit faith formation movement strives to address as it teaches the faith, Sister Maria said.

“Even though they were born in this country, they are still Vietnamese kids,” she said. “Our target is to keep the Vietnamese culture as a foundation so they don’t lose it.”

Those Vietnamese Catholic traditions include a strong devotion to Mary the Mother of God, the rosary, pilgrimages, adoration, “always keeping Jesus in the center,” said Sister Maria, a Kansas-based volunteer who is an assistant to the group’s chaplain, Father Bang Tran.

“Ours is a eucharistic movement,” she said, pointing to a patch with a chalice and the Eucharist on her uniform blouse. “The Eucharist is the center of our lives.”

Youth leaders like those attending the conference who have survived the cultural and faith struggles of teen years with their faith intact help younger children and teens balance between the cultures, she said.

“The young ones need a Vietnamese person who understands them and understands what they are going through so they can develop their relationship with God,” Sister Maria said.

Participant now a leader

Phong Do

Phong Do

Phong Do of St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien in Minneapolis, is one of those youth ministry leaders.

Do, 20, learned most of his faith from the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, he said — Bible stories, the teachings of Jesus and catechism.

He’s been part of the program since he was 6, and has been a youth leader now for a year and a half.

“Going through high school, I almost turned my back on my faith,” he admitted. “At our confirmation retreat, things turned around. In moments of prayer and reflection, I saw I was going the wrong way. I started praying more and going to Mass.

“I think I was called back [to God] so my brokenness could be used as an example for kids who are going through the same thing.”

The weekend conference’s theme was “Spirit-Led,” and Do, who works with children ages 7-9 at
St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien, resonated with the theme.

“I hope to learn to open myself to the Spirit as a guide and to transfer that to my kids,” he said.

Helping another generation

Youth ministry leaders at the conference dressed in the white shirt or blouse, blue skirts or pants, and Boy Scout-like neck scarves of the VEYM.

Liz Pham

Liz Pham

Among them was Liz Pham, a wife and mother of five from Chanhassen who was part of the faith formation program herself as a young person.

Being with other young people her age as they learned about their faith was her connection to both the Vietnamese culture and to God, Pham said.

The different experiences of growing up that she and her peers had compared to the experiences of their parents created a unique generation gap, she explained.

“We experienced both worlds,” she said, the traditional Vietnamese culture and the American culture. “The Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement was helpful for me to balance being in two different worlds. Now I understand the pressures kids face.”

She’s a communication manager at Super Valu and, along with her husband, Long Nguyen, still active in VEYM at St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien.

“I need to keep it going for my kids,” she said. “God has called me.”

This was the first time the three Twin Cities-area VEYM chapters — St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien in Mineapolis and St. Cloumba and St. Adalbert, both in St. Paul — have hosted the organization’s regional conference.

The four fundamental elements of the movement, Sister Maria said, are prayer, Mass, sacrifice and service.

Topics for conference sessions included hunger for God; truth; goodness, beauty and trust. Along with speakers the conference included time for prayer, liturgies, adoration and other activities to inspire and support the youth ministry leaders in teaching the faith and sharing their ethnic traditions.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Local News