Year of reconciliation intention for May: Gifts of our brethren and sisters of Asian heritage

We join together as a diocese this month in celebrating the rich cultural and faith heritage brought to our Catholic community by our brothers and sisters who come from the countries of Asia.

On the weekend of May 5 and 6, Catholics of Vietnamese heritage gathered for discussions and celebrations relating to evangelization among our Vietnamese Catholics of South Carolina.

We see that the need is great for a Vietnamese priest to serve the Diocese of Charleston, and our vicar for clergy, Msgr. Chris Lathem, is presently making contact with prospective candidates.

Father Thanh Nguyen, who served with me as parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Jacksonville, Fla., has been a great help in giving direction for ministry to our Vietnamese Catholics.

He assisted me in the beautiful celebration that was held on May 6 honoring Our Lady of Lavang, with the Sunday liturgy following at Prince of Peace Parish in Taylors.

That event brought together Catholics of Vietnamese heritage throughout South Carolina. The celebration involved the great artistic craftsmanship and wonderful talents of our Vietnamese-Americans. How beautifully the rosary was prayed in procession! How masterfully our dancers gave tribute to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lavang! How deep was the faith and devotion evidenced by all who participated.

How much our church in South Carolina was blessed by the celebration that took place at Prince of Peace Church. Our special thanks go to Father Steve Brovey, who hosted us, and Benedictine Father Samuel Weber, who concelebrated the Mass with us.

I had the good fortune to meet the newest among the Vietnamese cardinals, then Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, currently head of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice and formerly archbishop of Saigon, who spoke last summer at the Encuentro 2000 in Los Angeles. His books Testimony of Hope and Five Loaves and Two Fish are spiritual classics and good introductions to the faith life of the people whose home was once Vietnam. Cardinal Van Thuan’s experience of imprisonment and suffering reflects the hardship faced by most Catholics from Vietnam.

To all our Vietnamese brothers and sisters and all from the countries of Asia, the Diocese of Charleston extends a warm and friendly greeting. With the help of Kathleen Merritt, director of the diocesan Office of Ethnic Ministries, and Msgr. Lathem, our vicar for clergy, we hope to embrace the people who have left behind their beautiful homelands, at great risk, and help them discover a new and promising homeland where they can enjoy the freedom to practice and to grow in their great Catholic faith.