By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published July 7, 2011
With voices strong, the Vietnamese Catholic community sang a traditional hymn in praise of the Eucharist.
Urged on by Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Tot, the tight-knit community from across the Atlanta region joined together in prayer and celebration.
“It’s an opportunity to reconnect,” said Susan Duong, a member of the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, Norcross. She came with several family members to enjoy the day together, taking in opportunities to buy religious items, pray with many people and hear speakers.
The Vietnamese community heard from two out-of-town religious leaders during the Eucharistic Congress.
Archbishop Van Tot is the Vatican ambassador to Costa Rica. He earned a doctorate in theology and was ordained in 1974 in Vietnam. He has been in diplomatic service since 2002, representing the Vatican in several African nations before he was assigned to the Central American country in 2008.
The archbishop told the large crowd filling the conference room at the Marriott Atlanta Airport Gateway hotel how vital the Eucharist to the faith. It is a foundation for the faithful and is a source of vocations among the Vietnamese and all Catholic communities, he said to the filled room.
The other speaker was Father Joseph Dao Vu, of the Society of the Divine Word order, who is the spiritual leader of Sacred Heart Church in Memphis, Tenn. Before this assignment, he spent a dozen years ministering to Catholics living in refugee camps in the Philippines.
Father Vu said the Eucharist is vitally linked to human aspirations.
“Vietnamese remember many, many sufferings. Now with the power of God, we come to the freedom land. Nothing is impossible with God,” he said.
But it isn’t enough just to rest with the better life, he said. The Eucharist is a reminder to share the good things in life, he said. It requires people to be aware of themselves and what God is calling for them to do, he said. People need to be ready to change “to make our life better and better.”
“We must be perfect like our Father in heaven,” he said. And that requires that people are ready to trust in God’s love. The Eucharist both is a reminder of God’s love and helps Catholics grow from that experience of love, he said.
The congress with its theme “The Harvest Is Abundant” stressed the variety of vocations in the church. Father Vu said the Vietnamese community is very happy to see its many young people over the years make commitments to religious life and to serving as priests.
He said the community trains young people to have a devotion to the Eucharist and that inspires religious vocations.
At the same time, “family life and married life is still strong,” he said.
Focus and time must be reserved to help families adjust from native traditions to an American lifestyle, he said. In Vietnamese culture, one of the most respected professions is a medical doctor and if parents require a child to become a doctor, that creates tension and stress in families, he said. Vietnamese parents make decisions based on love, but they have to be coached to respect young people and become like advisors, he said.
For Duong, participating in the annual Eucharistic Congress connects her not only to the wider Vietnamese community, but also to the whole Catholic community.
“Each different culture celebrates in a different way. The bottom line is there is one God, no matter how many ways” God is celebrated, said Duong, who lives in Tucker.
Duong said she’s going to tell her friends who didn’t make it to the event this year to put it on their calendar for 2012 so they can explore the diversity of the Catholic Church in Georgia.
Parishioners at Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Riverdale, hired buses to make the trip. And the two large buses had to make two round trips to the parish in the morning to deliver the parishioners.
Sammy Nguyen, who worships at the parish south of Atlanta, attended along with his family and daughter, Emily. She walked in the procession since she received her first Communion this year.
The variety of the church he sees at the event is rewarding, he said. Every community brings its own richness, he said.
“We have to experience the church. To me, it’s very creative,” he said.