By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Remembering ancestors, visiting relatives, wishing friends the best, attending Mass and looking forward to the new year are elements of the Lunar New Year celebration for the Vietnamese Catholic community.
This year’s Mass and reception were held Feb. 15 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Concelebrants were Father Thang Hoang, SVD; Father Lam Thanh Nguyen, a diocesan priest from Vietnam; and Father Anh Nguyen, OP. All three priests are affiliated with Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa. Priests from the college take turns celebrating Mass in Vietnamese since the cathedral does not have a priest in residence who speaks the language. The Mass included various generations of Vietnamese from young children to the elders serving in different roles.
Lien Truong, the cathedral’s Vietnamese assistant, said that in Vietnam the Lunar New Year “is the only time that the working people will take at least three days to celebrate. Businesses in all of Vietnam’s cities, towns and villages close for this occasion. During these three days, most people will visit temples, churches or the altar at home to give thanks to God, to offer memorial prayers to ancestors and to pray for a more prosperous new year.
“This is also the time for families to be reunited, to visit each other, to give each other food, to wish each other well and to get acquainted with new additional family members as families do grow larger.” This year’s Lunar New Year observes the year of the goat, Truong said. Its traits are wise, clever, kind and compassionate.
Tony Nguyen, a member of the community, said the Lunar New Year is a time to gather, to share what has happened over the past year and to set goals for the new year.
Trien Ngo, a representative of the community, thanked everyone who attended the Mass and wished them a happy Lunar New Year. He invited the three priests from Divine Word College, the cathedral’s pastor, Father Rich Adam, and Bishop Martin Amos and Deacon Dan Huber to come forward. Ngo thanked them for their time in helping to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Each received a bouquet of flowers. The priests and bishop passed out “lucky money” envelopes to children.
Bishop Amos blessed the congregants and wished them a “truly blessed Lunar New Year.”
Following Mass, everyone was invited to take a Scripture reading from trees in the front of the church.
A celebration followed in the parish center where Bishop Amos blessed the food that featured homemade traditional cooking. A dragon dance was held and entertainment continued throughout the afternoon.