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Vietnamese movement forms lifelong disciples


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SAN DIEGO — In a certain sense, fostering devotion to the Body and Blood of Christ is nothing new for the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (VEYM).

But the international Catholic organization, which has active chapters at five parishes in the Diocese of San Diego, is clearly redoubling its efforts in support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival.

The three-year revival, which started last June, is the bishops’ response to a 2019 Pew Research study showing that a whopping 70% of U.S. Catholics don’t believe in a central tenet of their faith: that the bread and wine at Mass become the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement has launched its own three-year campaign in conjunction with the Eucharistic Revival, said Khanh Duc Dao, president of the San Diego League of Chapters, which oversees the movement’s five San Diego-based chapters. It’s one of 12 leagues nationwide, which collectively represent more than 130 chapters across the country.

Dao said that, in this first year, the youth are participating in monthly Eucharistic adoration, an effort that he described as a “baby step” toward greater Eucharistic devotion. Over the next two years, the focus will be on encouraging group members to witness to their belief in the Eucharist and to evangelize others through their daily lives.

According to its website, the Vietnamese movement strives “to teach youths to be virtuous people and good Christians.” It accomplishes this through a Eucharist-centered program that empowers members to spread the Gospel and to engage in charitable service.

The organization traces its history back to the Children’s Eucharistic Crusade, which was started in France in 1915 and introduced to Vietnam in 1929.

It has been known by its current name since 1964. After the fall of Saigon in April of 1975, chapters were formed in Vietnamese refugee camps. They can be found today in the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia and France.

The Diocese of San Diego’s first chapter was established in 1992 at Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa. Since then, four more parishes have formed their own chapters: Holy Spirit, Holy Family, and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in San Diego and St. Thomas More in Oceanside. Collectively, there are more than 500 members in the diocese.

Each chapter is open to ages 7 to 17 and is subdivided into the Seedling division (ages 7 to 9), the Search division (ages 10 to 12), the Companion division (ages 13 to 15), and the Knight of the Eucharist division (ages 16 to 17). Those age 18 and older serve as youth leaders.

Group members wear uniforms, similar to those worn in Scouting programs, consisting of a white, short-sleeve, buttoned-down shirt adorned with a colored scarf. Each division’s scarf is distinguished by its color — green for Seedling, blue for Search, yellow for Companion, brown for Knight of the Eucharist, and red for youth leaders.

Dao said that the chapters meet for one hour every Sunday at their parishes. Activities include reflections on the Sunday Gospel, Bible-themed games, and leadership training. They also regularly offer Eucharistic visitation, where the youth are taken in small groups according to their division to pray before the tabernacle, and Eucharistic adoration, where the entire chapter prays before the consecrated Host exposed in a monstrance.

“The most important benefit … that we provide to the youth is the connection between themselves and the Eucharist,” said Dao, whose affiliation with the group dates back to his own youth, both in his native Vietnam and after his family emigrated to the United States.

Father Michael Pham, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish, spoke positively of his interactions with the Vietnamese movement at his current parish and during his previous assignment at Holy Family Parish.

“It is a very good organization that trains and forms leaders in the Church,” he said. “Many priests and sisters have come out of this Eucharistic movement. Young people who are committed to this movement eventually often become resourceful and successful in the society because they were trained to be creative when they were young.”

Ashley Nguyen, who joined the Vietnamese movement at age 7 and became a youth leader at age 18, is currently wrapping up her second year as president of the Holy Spirit Parish chapter.

“VEYM, to me, is the place where knowledge blooms into discipleship; it is where the tenets of our Catholic faith are lived out in community,” she said. “Though catechesis has a vital function, we can’t just know God; we must love and serve Him as well. God designed us for communion with Himself and with one another – and youth in particular feel that need to belong somewhere.”

She explained that youth leaders, like herself, are trained “to help each age group navigate growing up without losing Christian values.” She described the group as “a safe haven,” where youth encounter love for the Eucharist and “become the lamp that shares this light with others.”

Brian Nguyen is a 16-year-old member.

“Without the Youth Movement, I would find myself wandering in the dark with just a vague idea of the light,” he said. “Yet, if VEYM has given me anything, it is a clearer focus on the bright light that is the Lord in a dark world.”

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