Bishop Ricken issues a challenge to Hmong faithful

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | December 11, 2013

At New Year Mass, he urges Hmong to send two men to seminary in next 5-6 years

GREEN BAY — During the annual Hmong New Year Mass, held Dec. 7 at St. Jude Church, Bishop David Ricken presented a challenge to the diocesan Hmong community. He also hinted that a six-year initiative on the new evangelization is in the offing for the diocese.

Maikue Vang, wearing a traditional Hmong headdress, holds Kensie Moua, six months, during the Hmong New Year Mass Dec. 7 at St. Jude Church in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Maikue Vang, wearing a traditional Hmong headdress, holds Kensie Moua, six months, during the Hmong New Year Mass Dec. 7 at St. Jude Church in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Each year, area Hmong Catholics gather in December to celebrate the Hmong New Year with Mass and a reception that features music, dance and traditional Hmong food. St. Jude and St. Bernard Parish in Appleton alternate hosting the annual gathering. About 150 people turned out for this year’s event, including many dressed in traditional Hmong attire. Also in attendance was Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.

During his homily, Bishop Ricken, reflecting on the Gospel reading from Matthew, said that “each one of us is responsible to be workers in the harvest.”

“At least two of you in the church today are being called to go to the seminary. I know it,” said Bishop Ricken. “I am calling forth, beginning today, for this community to send two young men to the seminary within the next five or six years. The only way that is going to happen is if you pray a vocation up, and I know you can do it.”

The challenge, he said, will be easier “if you become laborers in the harvest yourself. Because then the Lord will tell you what young men are being called. I know there’s at least two. I don’t know who they are. That’s your job.”

Bishop Ricken also called the community to pray that one or two young women will be called to religious life.

“We have to pray (that they find) the right religious community that will welcome them and understand and appreciate the Hmong culture and language,” he said.

“So next year I’m going to be asking you how you are doing on vocations promotions and I’m going to be asking how many more people are coming to Mass,” added Bishop Ricken.

He also challenged Hmong youth not to “get too Americanized.”

Bishop David Ricken, left, poses for a photo with Hlee Chee Lee, 17, left, and Shine Gia Lee, 15, before the Hmong New Year Mass Dec. 7 at St. Jude Church in Green Bay. The Lee sisters were altar servers for the Mass. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Bishop David Ricken, left, poses for a photo with Hlee Chee Lee, 17, left, and Shine Gia Lee, 15, before the Hmong New Year Mass Dec. 7 at St. Jude Church in Green Bay. The Lee sisters were altar servers for the Mass. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“America is a great country. But you are not going to enrich the American culture by throwing away your own traditions and language,” he said. “Yes, you need to inculturate, but don’t lose your language and identity. Make a blend between your cultural identity and your Catholic faith.”

His homily was translated into the Hmong language by Deacon Joe Vang of St. Bernard Parish in Appleton.

Bishop Ricken spoke about the new evangelization and how Catholics are called to promote it.

He said it was their role to reach out to those “who are lost today, to help them to come to know Jesus.”

Bishop Ricken explained that the new evangelization “simply means to know and love Jesus, to introduce others to Jesus and to go out to the whole world and make a difference by bringing others to the church.”

He said there are three phases to the new evangelization: come, learn and go.

The first phase means to come to meet and love Jesus Christ, said Bishop Ricken.

“You might say, ‘I already know and love Jesus.’ But the call of the new evangelization is to not be satisfied with where you are with your friendship with Christ,” he said. “It’s a call to grow in deeper love and prayer and holiness every day.”

The word “disciple” means “learner,” said the bishop. “A disciple is someone who sits at the feet of the master (and who) wants to learn from the master how to be a good disciple,” he said. “So we come, learn and then go.”

Referring again to the day’s Gospel, he said Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles to “go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He is saying to us today, go to the lost sheep of the house of the church.”

The lost sheep today are family members, friends and neighbors, said Bishop Ricken.

“They are the people we work with. They are the people we bump into at the grocery store. Those are people who might have been Catholic and for whatever reason have drifted away. Those are the lost sheep of the house of the church. Jesus is saying to us today, the harvest is rich. He’s depending upon each one of you to be a laborer for the harvest.

“So my brothers and sisters, over the next six years in the Diocese of Green Bay, we are going to be taking a journey. That journey is the path of the new evangelization and our goal is to reach out to those who have fallen away, first of all, from the house of the church,” he said. “And we do that, first of all, by growing in prayer and holiness ourselves.”

Following Mass, Bishop Ricken said no concrete plans have been set for the new evangelization initiative.

“We’re just planting seeds,” he said. “We’re thinking and praying about a few things with regard to the way of implementation of the new evangelization, especially going from 2014 to 2020.” The overall goal would be to “take the next six years and use it opportunely for the engagement of the diocese and missionary discipleship.”

MORE PHOTOS: To view more photos from the Hmong New Year Mass, go to this link.

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