“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few! Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest” (Mt. 9:36; Lk.10:2). Is it really God himself the “Lord of the Harvest”, who still chooses and sends his laborers? The church faces a serious crisis in the area of religious vocations both to the priesthood and religious life among both males and females. Many priests have to work for several parishes. They run from one parish to the other during weekends. Some priests have to take care of six parishes. Many young people feel scared to work in the harvest of the Lord because God’s field is too large. However, many Vietnamese young people take the courage to step forward and accept the call from God.
“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few! Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to his harvest”
Mt. 9:36; Lk.10:2
Vietnamese men currently make up 12 percent of the American seminary population with an approximate number of 450-500 Vietnamese priests in the US. There are still many new vocations in Vietnamese community because of the importance of the Catholic faith in their family life. Faith is first priority for Vietnamese people. Bishop Dominic Luong, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange and a Vietnam native says: “The families take time to pray together every night, and they go to Mass together on Sundays. Sunday Mass attendance among Vietnamese Catholics is almost 90 percent” (Our Sunday Visitor). The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops claims that in the 2009 ordination class of priests, 11 percent were foreign-born men, with the largest numbers coming from Mexico, Vietnam, Poland and the Philippines. Six percent was Vietnamese.
In the Vietnamese community, family is a big supporter of vocations both male and female. Parents are very proud of their children who become priests or sisters. They encourage their children to choose the religious vocation. They live their faith and practice it. They help their children to carry out faith and tradition. Parents play an important role in guiding, supporting and encouraging vocations among their children. Because of parents’ experiences, hard work, perseverance and sacrifice, children learn to know, love and serve others. They learn to understand that God is in their midst and find ways to share with others. In serving others, many of them find peace, joy, happiness and their own vocations.
Outside of the family unit, the parish community fosters strong support when it comes to religious vocations among the youth. The Vietnamese community realizes that a parish is very important because it represents the church. We all are in the same body and Jesus is the head. The parish community supports one another through prayer, compliments and respect. The parish community knows that the church needs laborers to work in the Lord’s field so that each member has a responsibility for fostering vocations. An example is that our parish has 4 seminarians and 2 postulants. We support them in prayer and encouragement. We want them to find joy and hope in their journey of faith.
Most of all, support from priests is very important. Many Vietnamese priests show their good examples by their prayerful and holy lives, and their priestly service, as Jesus said: “I come to serve not to be served”. There are many priests who are hardworking, self sacrificial and dedicated to the Lord. They make themselves available to the youth. They try very hard to follow Jesus’ mandate “Go and preach the good news to the entire world”. They live what they preach. They show the joy of the Lord in their everyday relationship with the parish community. Young people see their joy and want to emulate them and follow their examples to give their life to God in the religious vocations.
Priests and sisters play a very important role in fostering vocation. They need to create opportunities for vocations to grow. If they never talk, never encourage, or never mention about vocations; who would know about it and follow it? In the Northwest region, a plan for “Vocation Day” has been established. A major focus this year is to support and encourage religious vocations.
Vocations in the Vietnamese community are hopeful. We are grateful to the families, parishes, and priests who support, encourage and expand the numbers of laborers for the Lord in the vineyard. We are proud of our Vietnamese culture. We are proud of our laborers who work in the Lord’s field and we let them know we are always there to support and love them. They have served and still do much for the Church. We need to help them so they can persevere as laborers for the Lord.
Compliments of Sr. Teresa Nguyen, LHC