ORLANDO | Bishop John Noonan greeted the Vietnamese community of St. Philip Phan Van Minh by saying, “Chúc mừng năm mới,” or Happy New Year, which provoked loud cheers from the crowd. The evening marked the first day of tết. Pastor, Father Chau Nguyen explained, the three days of tết focus on “praying for peace, praying for our ancestors, and praying for good crops and works in life.”
Because of COVID, the traditional large festival drawing more than 10,000 people from the region who normally come to buy food and other items for the new year was unable to take place. Instead, a small festival with traditional dishes took place on campus with a fireworks display to ring in the new year.
Father Nguyen said he hopes the “Year of the Ox” will bring an end to the pandemic so everyone can “return to the normalcy of life and peace. “
The bishop spoke of Pope Francis’ comments during the most severe time of pandemic in Italy last year. The Pope recalled Mark’s Gospel of the Calming of the Storm when the disciples, in the middle of the storm at sea said to Jesus, “Don’t you care.” And Jesus responded, “Don’t you have faith?” Bishop Noonan acknowledged we all have moments of fear. The bishop said Isaiah told the Israelites the same when they were prisoners in Babylon, in exile. Just like Isaiah, Bishop Noonan asked the Vietnamese community gathered “to focus on and pray for the future, that life will be better.” Recalling how many Vietnamese had to leave their homeland and families behind, he turned to Scripture and reminded parishioners, “Isaiah tells the people of Israel that God is good. Turn to God in faith. Peace, hope, and calm will come.”
Recalling the evening reading, Bishop Noonan said, “The Lord shines on each and every one of us. That rain is His grace, that sunshine is His love… If we let His water refresh us and His sunshine warm us… He can give us hearts of love alone.” He asked the community to not let their hearts “be filled with fear, anguish, and anger,” but “to be filled with hope” for they are God’s people and in His care.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, February 17, 2021