Most people think of summer as a time for vacation, traveling with family, spending days at the beach with friends, playing golf, or just time to slow down and relax. My seminarian brothers and I, all of us studying for the priesthood at Saint John’s Seminary, have spent our summers in pastoral formation, living and serving in various parishes. This is a great opportunity for us, and in many ways. This summer, I was assigned to Saint Ambrose and Saint Mark parishes, a Catholic Collaborative in Dorchester. These two parishes include a large and vibrant Vietnamese community, a smaller Spanish community, and many other members with various backgrounds, including Hattian and Irish. When immigrants arrive in the United States, they bring their particular languages and cultures. Through the practice of their faith, they are not only building up the local church here in Dorchester, but the universal Church as well.
The City of Boston has a long and honorable tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world. The Vietnamese community in St. Ambrose church continues to bring the richness of their cultural tradition to the city. In fact, a part of the Fields Corner section of Dorchester has been designated, “Little Saigon”, in recognition of all the Vietnamese community has done to make this particular part of the city a better place to live.
When I came to the collaborative of the parishes of St. Mark and St. Ambrose, the COVID19 pandemic restrictions had lessened significantly. The Vietnamese parishioners immediately returned to the church with faith and enthusiasm. They were happy to attend church without face masks. As is the custom in Vietnam, they gathered together about thirty munities before the evening Mass for the Holy Rosary and other traditional prayers. Their prayers do not include the Liturgy of the Hours, but the simple and powerful prayers that sustained them during extremely difficult times in Vietnam. This activity really touches my heart because my grandparents and my parents prayed these very same prayers during the government’s persecution of Catholics in North Vietnam. Thus, even though I pray my Liturgy of the Hours each day, I do not forget the simple Vietnamese prayers that have guided in my vocation to the priesthood.
Similar to Vietnamese community in St. Ambrose Church, the Spanish community in St. Mark Church has special ways in which they practice their strong faith. They gather together each Sunday for Holy Mass celebrated in their own language. There are groups that study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible. In weddings and baptismal ceremonies, they bring particular Spanish customs, including beautiful music. In addition, there is a group of volunteers who are responsible for the cleaning of the church and floral decorations. They enjoy their work very much, demonstrating their love for the church and their parish. They teach me about discipleship and humble service.
The collaborative of St. Mark and St. Ambrose Churches has members of other nationalities, including those with Irish roots. They attend Sunday and weekday Masses, along with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Fridays.
Although the faith-filled people in two these parishes are from different cultures and countries of origin, they form a single community. For example, when Father Linh Nguyen, the pastor calls people to engage and attend the in Summer Program for children at St. Mark church, many teenagers volunteer their time to help this program and the parents of the kids are involved in support of the kids. Although there are differences in race and culture, all share the same faith and are children of God in Christ. On another occasion, I accompanied a group of young people from the two parishes to Canobie Lake Park. We all traveled on one bus, with one leader - the pastor, enjoying our activities together. Overall, each person in the Catholic collaborative plays a role in strengthening the local church in Dorchester and up building the universal Church.
Summer Assignment reflection by Reflection by Mr. Khanh Le
Diocese of Hanoi