By JOEY REISTROFFER
ROCK HILL — The Holy Spirit descended upon St. Anne’s last Saturday and flew into the souls of 71 Vietnamese youths during a special Lunar New Year confirmation service.
It was a poignant moment for the youngsters and their families, who had come to Rock Hill from every corner of the state. Bishop David B. Thompson bestowed the sacrament of confirmation on them during the Mass.
He was joined in the ceremony by Father William Pentis, CO, pastor at St. Anne’s; Father Vincent Quang Nguyen, who ministers to the Vietnamese Catholic community; and Father Joseph Wahl, CO.
They were ushered into the ceremony by the Knights of Columbus, who were dressed in their colorful best, complete with plumed hats and swords. As the Knights stood at attention, the confirmation candidates marched in and took their seats for the service.
Each youth was clothed in white with a red stole. And each stole had the gold etchings of a dove — the sign of the Holy Spirit — and a cross on it.
Then the choir members added their own splash of beauty to the service with their traditional Vietnamese dress. The outfits were a brilliant yellow.
Father Vincent said the reds and yellows are the festive colors of the Lunar New Year, and the Vietnamese wanted to incorporate them into the confirmation service.
They also wanted to include their language in the ceremony, so the Mass was said in both English and Vietnamese.
With Bishop Thompson leading in English, and Father Vincent at his side saying parts of the Mass in Vietnamese, the service flowed.
“Today I will extend my hands over you and pray that you receive the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Thompson said. “You’ll know that you are a confirmed Catholic … and a complete Catholic.” He urged the youths to rededicate their lives to God, to the church, to their families and to their communities. “Keep the Ten Commandments,” he said, “and be good citizens.”
Father Vincent then invited the Vietnamese youths to step forward for the blessing. “Receive and be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Thompson said, placing the sign of the cross on their foreheads. “Peace be with you.”
Then the 71 Vietnamese youths went back to their pews and kneeled in prayer. “They are a reverent people,” Bishop Thompson said. “They are very devout.”
The bishop said he first became acquainted with the Vietnamese people 23 years ago in Allentown, Pa. They had fled their homeland after the war, and many settled in Pennsylvania.
“Our diocese welcomed them with open arms,” he said, adding that two of them joined his staff in Pennsylvania and are still there two decades later.
Father Vincent said many other Vietnamese refugees settled in South Carolina. Today, he said, there are 800 Vietnamese Catholics in the state.
“They are very active in their parish,” Father Wahl stated. “They are very generous. They are model Catholics.”