Reprint of Bishop Vann’s correspondence with Diocese staff:
Dear co-workers in the Lord,
I was mentioning to Fr. Francis Vu that at a certain time in my life (and this is certainly dating myself!) the word “Vietnam” brought with it connotations of the draft, political unrest, the war and the entire sense that there was a world out there that I knew little about. For better or worse that is the result of growing up in the 1960s. The early part of the decade certainly has better memories than the latter for me. It was only when I was in the seminary and met the community of “The Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix” that I began to have a glimmer of insight into the people of Vietnam and the cost they had to pay for their faith and fidelity. (Providentially, we visited their general headquarters yesterday and the current Superior General – Fr. Pius- and I were in the seminary together in St. Louis!) I have friends in the CMC community to this day.
My knowledge and understanding of the Vietnamese people and their faith and challenges certainly took a giant step forward when I was assigned to Fort Worth with their big Vietnamese population and our four parishes. The parishes were all staffed by the Co-Redemptrix community and we built what I believe is the largest Vietnamese Catholic Church in the US… seating about 2500 folks. It was there I learned about Tết, family customs, the challenge of living their faith and customs in a secular culture, and to try to understand and pray and live through an “Eastern lens” and that memories of suffering and struggle do not easily fade. It also helped me to be grateful to the Lord for what I have and take less for granted.
Then the Lord in His Providence brought us all together and with that an added dimension to my understanding of the Faith and Life and history of the people of Vietnam, and being here now in Vietnam itself gives me an even wider and human context for those experiences. That is what I recounted to the the folks at Tan Phu Church yesterday morning (about 7,000 people present) and last night at Tan Dinh Church with the Archbishop. (He and I spoke principally in Italian, as he also studied in Rome.) Fr. Francis and Fr. Binh have helped me with more liturgical Vietnamese, so I have been able to use that and can read along from the Vietnamese Roman Missal.