Vietnamese Culture Conference

by Michael Khong

On November 28, 2011, all seminarians, religious, and some faculty gathered in St. Joseph Chapel for a cultural conference - the first conference about Vietnamese culture on the hilltop.  There are twelve Vietnamese seminarians at Mount Angel Seminary.

At the beginning of the conference, Monsignor Richard Paperini introduced Fr. Bao Thai, a diocesan priest of the Diocese of Orange and alumnus of Mount Angel Seminary.  He was the guest speaker for the conference.  Fr. Bao Thai graduated with a B.A. of Philosophy from Mount Angel Seminary in 1998.  He attended St. John Seminary for theology in California from 1998 to 2003.  He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Orange in 2003.  Currently, he is serving as an associate pastor at the Holy Family Cathedral in Orange County.

According to Fr. Bao Thai, the population of Vietnam is 87 million people with 54 ethnic groups and seven major languages.  The main ethnic group in Vietnam is the Kinh group, and the main language used in Vietnam is called Tieng Viet.

Fr. Bao Thai also pointed out that over 4 million Vietnamese live around the globe, and 1.7 million Vietnamese people live in the United States.  Fr. Bao Thai continued, "According to the 2010 census, 1.5 million Vietnamese people live in California and 600,000 people live in Orange County where the largest Vietnamese community has been established since 1975."  Fr. Bao Thai added, "300,000 Vietnamese people are Catholics in Orange County."

Anh Tran, a Vietnamese seminarian from the Archdiocese of Seattle said that he liked the Vietnamese culture conference.  He was also surprised at the number of Vietnamese people who live in California.  He said, "I know that a lot of Vietnamese people live in Orange County, but I never thought that Orange County had 600,000 Vietnamese people."

According to Fr. Bao Thai, the persecution of the Catholic Church took place from 1745 to 1863 because Taoism and Buddhism became the national religions.  He said, "We have Vietnamese martyrs, one blessed, and one servant of God."  The stages of canonization in the Roman Catholic Church are servant of God, venerable, blessed, and saint.

At the end of the conference, Fr. Bao Thai concluded that the Vietnamese people have a tremendous respect for authority, especially clergy and religious.  However, when they have a conflict with a pastor or an associate pastor, they do not go directly to a person with whom they have a conflict and address that issue, but they tend to write emails or letters to a bishop.

Many seminarians enjoyed the cultural conference and learned more about Vietnamese culture.  EJ Resinto, a seminarian from the Diocese of Honolulu, commented, "I liked it.  I was totally surprised at how many Vietnamese people live in Orange County."  Another thought about the Vietnamese culture conference is from Clyd Jesalva, a Filipino seminarian from the Archdiocese of Portland: "Aside from the faithfulness of Vietnamese Catholics, there is one thing Fr. Bao Thai did not mention about Vietnamese people: that they are generally warm, optimistic, simple, humble, happy people."