BulletinInterviewsServeThe 23rd Times

Serve: Stepping into the Future

By September 25, 2014 February 18th, 2018 No Comments

Stepping into the Future

We all strive to live a life of meaning and purpose. Whether it may be in our careers, volunteering in our free time, or raising our children better than our parents raised us. Some way, somehow, before we leave this world, we hope we made a little difference and left a footprint behind.

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We all strive to live a life of meaning and purpose. Whether it may be in our careers, volunteering in our free time, or raising our children better than our parents raised us. Some way, somehow, before we leave this world, we hope we made a little difference and left a footprint behind.

A priest’s life is committed to making a difference; In praying for the sick in his or her most desperate hour, in loving people, and sharing the Word of God to those who are lost.

Here, at St. John XXIII, our priests are our family (we might even like them a little bit more).
For the past three years, Father Bernie has been everything his mission stands for.

He has grown the Vietnamese community in our parish, counseled families, and traveled on mission trips building homes in rural communities.
Now, God and his community have called him to a new journey… to a much colder climate…where there are definitely no palm trees- Missouri.

Selfishly, we don’t want to see him go, but what’s next is big. Father Bernie will be taking a leadership role in the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix (CMC) for Annual Marion Days Celebrations. The CMC is a religious community of priests and brothers based out of Carthage, Missouri. In August each year, 50,000 to 60,000 Vietnamese American Catholics gather in Carthage for the celebration. He’ll also be working with families, praying for the sick and reaching out to the lonely.

As we dedicate our Masses, celebrate him and send him off with big hugs, one thing is certain— From the bottom of our hearts, Father Bernie, we thank you- for leaving one big footprint behind at St. John XXIII.

Damian Hanley: What has it been like to be the spiritual leader for the Vietnamese community here and why is it important to have this?
Father Bernie: I’m so grateful to God, to my Superior, to Father Bob, and to this parish for the last three years. I think God has a plan for all of us. For the last three years, I saw and experienced a lot of blessings that God has granted to me personally and within the Parish and the Vietnamese community. I came here September 1, 2011. Time flies by quicky. As you may know, another Vietnamese Priest, Father John Cao, will be replacing me.

I remember the first New Year’s celebration we had here. This older man- He’s 70-something…had been in Florida for quite some time. For years he tried to gather the Vietnamese community, but it never happened. Until that day, three years ago, when we first celebrated the Vietnamese New Year. He was shedding tears and thanking God for finally giving everyone a home where we can gather together to worship God and to celebrate with one another.

For us, that’s special in this country. For the last three years, I gave my best with the wide open arms of Father Bob and such a welcoming Parish.

I had a chance to work with some of the Vietnamese people here and establish a Vietnamese community here. They’re such loving people. For some time they felt like lost sheep. Now they have a place to go. Some of our people travel 30-40 minutes to worship and thank God on Saturday evenings. More and more, people still continue to come.

DH: What are some of the things you see within this specific community?
FB: The biggest problem I saw was that they had been living in this ‘neighborhood’ too long without a shepherd. They had (and continue to have) the language barrier, so it was hard for them to come to Mass because they didn’t understand anything. For a long time they wouldn’t go to church. They didn’t have spiritual guidance, so their lives were spent away from the Church. A lot of them struggled with their family lives.

Damian: What was something you quickly embraced when you first came to the Parish?
FB: When Father Bob and the staff took me in the Church I saw the credo hanging on the wall. That moment is still in my heart.

Danielle Koleniak: What did the credo mean to you?
FB: It spoke to me that no matter who I am, I am accepted , respected and loved at this Parish. It made me feel at home.

DH: What is the next chapter for you?
FB: My religious community called me back to Missouri to help out with the community. I’ll be in charge of the evangelization program. This means for the next four years, I’ll be in charge of the Annual Marion Days Celebration. About 80 thousand people come to the United States from all over the world for four days.
I’ll also be in charge of the CMC families—reaching out to the poor, the sick and the lonely.

DK: What excites you about this next journey?
FB: It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m excited to bring Christ to different people.

DK: Looking back on the past three years, What difference do you hope you made in the lives of others?
FB: I love the community. I love the people. Especially, Saturday night Mass— people just hang out after. It shows me that they feel at home here and have peace here. I saw it really come together when we built the Vietnamese Memorial. I’m going to miss the children, the choir, the women who help prepare the food, all the fun: Christmas Midnight Mass, picnics and New Year celebration.

DK: We are going to miss you, too!

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