By FATHER TRI NGUYEN | Published March 7, 2023
As I was closing the church after the monthly eucharistic adoration, I noticed a father with his children kneeling and praying in the front row when most people had already left. This image brought a flashback of a similar moving experience. I was directing a “lock-in,” a youth ministry event where teens gather to socialize, learn a specific knowledge or skill from a presentation and worship God through a prayer service that incorporates adoration.
I still remember vividly: the adoration period was over, and all the teens had already moved to the gymnasium for recreation when I noticed three teenage boys remained behind, kneeling very close to the tabernacle, continuing to pray fervently. They did not seem to be bothered by the noise from the people who were cleaning the church. That image remains in my mind to this day after almost 15 years.
These youth were just like any other ordinary teens, fun-loving, energetic and at times could be loud and rowdy, … Just an hour before that, they were running around playing basketball with their peers, teasing others in in the youth group.
I did not remember these young men being particularly “religious” and well-versed in the Bible or theology, but they were sincere and genuinely good young men. They must have had a very profound experience praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Catching them in this short but personal moment with the Lord was so precious and powerful to me.
These teens were members of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, a youth formation program that is widely used in the Vietnamese Catholic community in the United States. Here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, it is the prominent faith formation program at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Norcross and Our Lady of Vietnam Church in Riverdale. I served as a leader in the past and as a chaplain now.
The movement’s first principle is “to live God’s Words and be united with the Eucharist through prayer, Holy Communion, self-sacrifice and apostolic work.” With this solid Catholic identity, most pastors welcome their presence and happily incorporate the movement’s activities into the life of their parishes.
Witnessing the love for the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament from these young people, I was inspired to continue my discernment for the priesthood that I had put on hold at that point in my life. But it was not only for that one moment. I have seen the transformation in the lives of both youth and leaders who are members of this movement. Some of the teens I taught were very rebellious to authority figures at the beginning, but when old enough, they decided to participate in the formal formation to become youth leaders. It might have been because of the loving environment or the stability of the program over the years, but I believe it is ultimately the fruit of a spirituality that is based on sacred Scriptures and the Eucharist.
The movement has inspired and nourished many religious and priesthood vocations for the church since its founding in the 1950s in Vietnam. Mine is one of them.
If you attend any Catholic event with the presence of the Vietnamese Catholic community, you will likely see some youth and young adults who dress in dark khakis, white shirts and a colorful scarf. Over the years serving as a lay and ordained minister, I’ve learned I just have to organize a eucharistic adoration for these young people. They feel very much at home and are happy to spend personal time with the Lord.
Learn more about the youth at www.veym.net.
Father Tri Nguyen is a member of the archdiocesan Eucharistic Revival Task Force and is pastor of Our Lady of the Mountains Church, Jasper.