It is always tricky writing about “the best” or “the most XYZ” song. But this year marks the centenary of the Marian apparitions in Fátima, and more Vietnamese Americans travelled to Portugal than any previous year. It made me think of the song Lời Mẹ Nhắn Nhủ [Words of Our Lady], better known by its informal title Năm Xưa Trên Cây Sồi [Years Ago on an Oak Tree]. I’m not very keen on awards, especially awards of recent productions. But I’m more open for retrospective awards. Were there an award for the category “the most devotional Marian song or hymn written in Vietnamese in the twentieth century,” I’d vote for this song.
The short answer: There were about 900 Catholic priests of Vietnamese origin in the U.S. by 2012. There are approximately 950 at this time (2017), and probably more.
“Do anything three times if possible,” goes my motto as a forty-something. Publish three books or articles on different topics but a common theme. Or, dance to three different songs but the same genre from the same period. Or, write three blog posts about the same subject matter in a row. Three books and articles I haven’t achieved. But I’ve done the dancing bit and now I am doing the third thing. My last two blog posts are about Vietnamese Catholic refugees in the U.S. during the 1970s and the 1980s, and this post rounds up the miniseries.
My last post is about Ngô Đình Diệm’s older brother Archbishop Thục, who got mixed up with several reactionary groups during the 1970s and 1980s before reconciling with the Vatican and living out his last year among a religious order of Vietnamese men in Missouri. Since then, I’ve read some more materials and learned about something I didn’t know before: a group of Catholic refugees led by a traditionalist and anti-Vatican II priest by the name of Trần Văn Khoát.
Continue reading “Fr. Trần Văn Khoát and Catholic refugees in Beaumont and Port Arthur”
The only time that I’ve seen anyone related by blood to Ngô Đình Diệm – Ngo Dinh Diem for readers that are used to the English spelling – occurred exactly thirty-three years ago this month. The town was Carthage, Missouri, best known as the American headquarters of a large Catholic order of Vietnamese American priests and brothers. The person was Ngô Đình Thục, Diệm’s older brother and the former archbishop of Huế. Along with tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics, I was attending the annual Marian Days weekend with my family and people from southern Minnesota. Unfortunately I don’t remember much about the Archbishop except that he presided over one of the masses with a visiting bishop from Vietnam.
Most historical research articles published in academic journals come between 8000 and 12,000 words each, notes included. They translate to approximately 16-30 pages long, depending on formatting. Occasionally, however, a journal may choose to publish a considerably longer article. In the last three months, I’ve read three such long articles: 49, 70, and 75 pages, respectively, and wrote up on one of them.
On the second day of his visit to the U.S., Pope Francis stopped his motorcade and picked up a five-year-old Mexican American girl who tried to give him a letter and T-shirt. Seeing it in evening news reminded me of another pontiff that visited a refugee camp and picked up a little girl from the ground. It was John Paul II at the Phanat Nikhom Refugee Camp during his papal visit to Thailand in May 1984.
At the time, Phanat Nikhom held thousands of refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Among the Vietnamese were “boat people” as well as “land refugees,” that is, they left over land rather than sea. International and media focus on post-1975 Vietnamese refugees was typically on the “boat people.” But there were many that left by other means, including crossing through the land mass of southern Vietnam and Cambodia to reach the borders of Thailand.