By Fr. Hai Dinh
This article is written in gratitude to God for his blessings and to his people for their help and kindness. First of all, I would like to thank God for his calling and choosing me to serve him and his church. “How can I repay unto the Lord all his bountiful dealings toward me? I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116: 12-13). This is my favorite verse in Psalms, and I had it printed on my ordination prayer card. God is good all the time. All the time God is good. I also would like to say many thanks to those who have prayed, helped and supported me in my vocation.
Secondly, I want to express my thanks to Father Troy Richmond, pastor of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine for his help and support with my Spanish. He has allowed me to concelebrate and celebrate Mass in Spanish in the parish. Sometimes he shares with me about his experience in learning Spanish. From him I learned some things about Hispanic traditions and customs. According to Mexican custom, people make cakes to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. In the cakes they hide some small statues of baby Jesus. If your piece of cake has a baby Jesus inside, then you have to make some tamales for the community a couple of weeks later. Fr. Troy is very good and friendly to me. It is my blessing to work with Fr. Troy to serve Ss. Mary & Mathias’ parishioners.
Thirdly, I would like to thank Gloria Casas who has spent time on Saturday mornings helping me in reading Spanish and correcting my pronunciation. From her, I learned that each day in the Spanish calendar features a saint’s name. On the date you were born, your parents will take that saint’s name for yours. However, if the date you were born celebrates a female saint such as Maria and you are a boy, then your parents will name you Mario. Gloria is a good parishioner and a friend of mine. Sometimes she cooks Mexican food such as menudo (beef stomach in broth with a red chili pepper base), tortillas, rice and beans for Fr. Troy and me.
Finally, I would like to say many thanks to the Hispanic community at Ss. Mary & Mathias for their kindness and support, especially for their help with my Spanish. They are very friendly and supportive. I remember one time after Mass some of them came to me in the sacristy and told me that they could follow what I said during Mass. They also corrected the pronunciation of those words. I remember that on my birthday they made a big cake, sang a birthday song in Spanish and wished me the best. They have treated me very well. I love them very much and always keep them in my prayers and daily thoughts. I thank God for letting me know them and go with them in faith and life. May God continually bless and reward them, their works and their loved ones!
Every year, there is a Mass at Ss. Mary & Mathias School to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is the Patroness of Mexico and the continental Americas. After Mass, a big celebration takes place with a lot of traditional and authentic food and drink, especially with a lot of songs and dance. People invited Fr. Troy and me to dance with them. A lot of fun and joy happens in the community. I would like to learn more about Hispanic tradition and culture.
(Fr. Hai Dinh is the parochial vicar at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine.)