A Vietnamese parish in Denver has a rising number of young adults returning to volunteer at its church, eager to pass the faith on to the next generation of youths.
For more than 30 years, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (VEYM) has led youths ages 6 to 18 in learning to live virtuous and faithful lives to the Church while also developing Vietnamese culture.
“Our focus is really to help teach the kids how to become strong Catholics, to be firm in their faith,” said Anh-Tuyet Nguyen, 30, vice president of external affairs for the movement’s Denver chapter, and also one of the volunteer youth leaders.
Last year, some 53 young adults volunteered at Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Wheat Ridge to lead the 770 youths from across the state who gather for 10 a.m. Sunday Mass and a day of faith and culture classes.
This is an increase from the 20 young adults who returned to lead the movement about five years ago, Nguyen said.
The movement’s leaders are working to prevent the loss of faith among young adults in college and the lack of interest in community, she said.
Participation in the movement across the United States has been significant since its arrival in 1975. Jesuit Father Albert Bessières established the movement in France in 1915. In the 20s, it was brought to Vietnam and renamed. The movement came to Europe and the U.S. when its leaders immigrated.
Today, the VEYM has 126 chapters in the U.S., 1,500 youth leaders, and more than 20,000 active youth members in Vietnamese churches and parishes.
The movement has borne fruit since its start in Denver in 1982.
Deacon Lawrence Tong Ngo of Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs said several young men found their vocation in the movement, including several priests that serve the Archdiocese of Denver.
He was a member as a youth living in Vietnam, and later became a leader.
“They put all their effort into helping them and raising them to be strong for the Catholic Church,” the deacon said about the leaders.
The movement has at its focal point on the Eucharist, taught as the source of spiritual life and ideal life of each member. Youths are educated to be a better person and Christian, taught how to spread the Gospel and participate in charitable services.
After youths attend Mass at the parish every Sunday, they attend three classes: one involves learning how to apply their faith, a second is a catechism lesson and a third is learning Vietnamese culture.
Nguyen said she first joined when she was 10 years old and came back after college to lead the youths.
“Now I have much appreciation for what I learned then,” she said.
The youths, who are divided into groups called “branches” by age range, also participate in a series of performances. They perform the Nativity at Christmas Mass, the Passion of the Christ on Easter, and honor Mary in May. They also put on an autumn festival and dedicate three days to celebrating the Vietnamese New Year.
The movement is also helping the youths learn the Vietnamese language and be able to participate in the all-Vietnamese Masses at the parish.
Nguyen said they want to pass their faith and culture on to the next generation, and the Mass is crucial to that.
“If we don’t have them go to the Vietnamese Mass and this is the only Vietnamese church, then later there’s no way to maintain that culture,” Nguyen said.
The movement leaders are proud of spending another year teaching the faith.
“Our goal is to help them maintain their faith and strengthen it,” she said.