April 15, 2007


Among Catholic priests, Vietnamese are the new Irish: The refugee influx and a culture that exalts the vocation boost dwindling clerical ranks -- with a certain fervor (David Haldane and Mai Tran, April 15, 2007, LA Times)

"Vietnamese priests are filling the gap," said Ryan Lilyengren, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange. "People are calling them the new Irish."

Though Asians are only 1% of the estimated 77 million U.S. Catholics, they account for 12% of Catholic seminary students, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. In places such as Orange County, home to the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam, that has translated into major change: Of 181 diocesan priests, Lilyengren said, almost 28% are Asian, predominantly Vietnamese.

The influx of Vietnamese clergy comes as the number of priests nationwide has dropped nearly 30% in three decades, from 58,900 in 1975 to about 41,700 last year.

Vietnamese immigrants are stepping in, experts say, for a number of reasons. They come from a culture steeped in religious values that bestows high status on the clergy. They also grew up in a poor country where entering the priesthood was an economic step up. And many lived through political and religious repression when they weren't allowed to practice their faith, let alone become priests.

"Under the Communists we couldn't go to seminary," Vu said, "[so] we have a desire to become priests."

People talk about us being a debtor nation? How would we ever repay our debt to such peoples?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2007 6:50 AM

The Vietnam War was a spasm of Boxerism. Like King Phillip's War, it was a lashing-out of a surpassed system against Christianity.

Remember that it was when the religious compoment of Vietnam was exposed by the barbecued bonzes that Vietnam was lost.

What we now see is analogous to an alternative history in which the Boxerist side had won and the praying Wampanoags fled to England.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 15, 2007 11:57 AM

Lemmee throw out a wild guess here.

The Vietnamese entered the US legally.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at April 15, 2007 12:10 PM

Vietnamese came here legally as political refugees as was right and proper, but why can't we welcome others who are no less needy in that they're economic refugees.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 16, 2007 7:21 AM

The nation of Mexico needs some prodding so that its citizens are not perpetually "economic refugees" in the United States.

The US is not the safety valve for pressures occurring in every third-world paradise on the planet.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at April 16, 2007 10:58 AM

John, I'm proud that we're able to act as a safety valve for those who share our values and want to be Americans be they from any and every part of the globe.

Bienvenido a todos.

Posted by: erp at April 16, 2007 3:36 PM