Vietnamese parish celebrates Tet, gets Ash Wednesday dispensation
By Albert de Zutter
Catholic Key Editor
KANSAS CITY - There was polite applause when Bishop Raymond J. Boland made a surprise announcement at the annual Tet Mass at the Church of the Holy Martyrs Feb. 5. But when his announcement was repeated in Vietnamese the congregation filling the church issued a collective "Ah" of surprise and appreciation, and burst into loud clapping.
Albert de Zutter/Key photo
A dragon menaces Bishop Raymond Boland and parishioners outside the Church of the Holy Martyrs Feb. 5, after the Tet Mass. The dragon dance is done to the beat of a drum, and ends with the beast lying down in submission.
The announcement? That the congregation would be dispensed from fast and abstinence on Feb. 9, the actual day of Tet, the lunar year marking the start of the year of the rooster, "so you can celebrate appropriately," Bishop Boland said. Feb. 9 also happens to be Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.
As has been his custom, Bishop Boland was the principal celebrant at the annual Mass marking one of the two main celebrations of parishioners of the ethnic Vietnamese parish - the other being Christmas. Father Joseph Phan Trong Hanh, pastor, and Father Raymond Tu, associate pastor, concelebrated.
Thuy Nguyen read a statement on behalf of the congregation expressing the parish's appreciation for the bishop's presence which, they said, "solidifies your love and care for every one of us."
Their gift to him was a "token of the deep love each one of us has for you."
Bishop Boland in turn said, "You are a very important part of the diocese, and I love to be with you here. I pray that the martyrs will continue to bless you." He also commended them on the purchase of a building across the street from the church for use as a parish hall for the growing congregation.
As part of the annual tradition the bishop, before the final blessing, distributed the parish's gift of a dollar bill in an envelope to every child present. After the final blessing, the congregation gathered outside the church for the traditional dragon dance done to the cadence of a beating drum. The bishop retained one of the small gifts to ward off the power of the beast, who lay down in an act of submission at the end of the dance.
Parishioners then celebrated with a traditional Vietnamese dinner.