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Vietnamese ministry moves to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish

February 13, 2015
Rick DelVecchio

The archdiocesan ministry for Vietnamese Catholics has moved from Holy Name of Jesus Parish in the Sunset District of San Francisco to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in the Richmond District, nearer to the center of the population it serves.

Ministry director Father Te Van Nguyen said the Vietnamese Catholic population, mostly made up of immigrants who arrived as refugees during the Vietnam War and as “boat people” who fled from the war’s end in 1975 to 1995, also has congregations at St. Boniface Parish under the direction of parochial vicar Franciscan Father John Luat Nguyen and at Church of the Visitacion with pastor Father Thuan V. Hoang as shepherd.

The ministry’s services include preparation for marriage and other sacraments, religious education and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Father Te, who formerly resided at St. Brendan Church and still serves as a part-time chaplain at Laguna Honda Hospital, said he has 200 in his ministry at his parish, including elderly and young children.

St. Thomas the Apostle pastor Father John Sakowski described the parish’s Vietnamese congregants as “extremely vibrant” in worship and service – “very willing to pitch in and help the parish.”

Lately they have been finishing the church’s hardwood steps, repairing the stained-glass windows “and have taken a responsible ownership of the church for the benefit of all,” he said

“They’re poor people, work hard, and whatever money they get, they contribute to the church,” he said. “They realize their one hope in life is to do God’s will, contribute to the church (and) serve God and others to achieve their eternal reward.”

Father Sakowski said Father Te has brought in two Vietnamese sisters from their residence to teach religious education in their native language.

The Vietnamese New Year, like the Chinese New Year, will be celebrated the day after Ash Wednesday.

The feast of Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions, known as the Vietnamese martyrs, is celebrated Nov. 24. Pope John Paul II canonized 117 Vietnamese martyrs June 19, 1988.

The Vatican considers the torture endured by the martyrs among the worst in the history of Christianity.

St. Matthew Nguyen Van Phuong was born in Vietnam in 1801. After his parents died, he was raised by the local priest in Quang-Binh, in the central part of the Southeast Asian nation. Matthew married and became a devoted layman. One of his tasks was finding homes where a priest could say Mass out of sight from government officials. In a country already marked by two centuries of bloody persecution of Catholics, this took pluck. Before Mass one day during Advent, 1860, rumors emerged that authorities were coming for Matthew. He and the priest went into hiding for five months, but guards hunted them down. Captors etched a cross on the ground and demanded that the priest and layman tread on it as a sign of renouncing Christ. Where many gave in, they refused. They were beheaded on the spot, joining tens of thousands of martyred Vietnamese Christians.

Catholic News Service contributed.

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