On the 25th of this month we celebrated the “American Thanksgiving.” We gathered together with our families and friends to celebrate the memory of how God saved the Puritan forefathers of our country from a devastating winter and starvation when they left their homes so that they could freely celebrate their faith. Through this celebration we come to realize how much we are blessed, and our faith in God is thereby renewed. As a Vietnamese American, I feel doubly blessed. I, too, am an immigrant with much to be thankful for. On the 24th, the day before Thanksgiving, we celebrate the feast of the 117 Vietnamese Martyrs. We give thanks that their great gift of faith was deeply planted in Vietnamese soil and has grown to enrich our lives and the lives of those we touch. These two thanksgivings are made one by the fact that both celebrate our faith and trust in God who is our Savior and Provider, and that this faith and trust is a blessed inheritance from those who have gone before us.
As part of this inheritance, I have learned not only to turn to God in times of need—but even before I am aware of that need. This is because from the beginnings of my life until now I have grown into at least a partial awareness of the deluge of graces and blessings that have carried my life along. God knows our needs before we are aware of them, so I’ve learned always to maintain a true spirit of gratitude for not only what He has given, but for everything that He is about to give and will ever give. This is there long before I become aware of any particular need and think of placing my petition before Him. So, when I was appointed the new Director of the Retreat Center and had suddenly become aware of its extensive needs which included the maintenance of the Residence, and the care for our sick and retired, the repair and refitting of the Stone House, and the ongoing renovations of the Retreat Center, I knew that God would come to our aid and make it a great success.
Fr John Duy Tran, who was the Director before me, had already done most of the Retreat Center renovations with Fr Anthony Nguyen. But a few things still needed attending to like fixing the office and reception area, putting in a new tile floor for dormitory, getting new beds and lockers, and getting the new tables and chairs for the dining room. Luckily, I had also inherited from John and Anthony a heavy list of benefactors to help us with this, and to this I added my own list.
With these in hand, I set out to organize the fundraiser. It was to be a joyful “Thanksgiving” dinner for the newly renovated Retreat Center and for all the work that our benefactors put into it. Fr Long Nguyen helped to organized and sent out the invitations. Fr Hieu Nguyen was the MC. Groups were organized to do the music, the food, decorations, and other preparations. After a month’s preparation, the big day arrived. It was on November 21st, the last Sunday of the liturgical year and the feast of Christ the King. Invitees included Catholics from all the different Vietnamese communities in Southern California. They included personal friends and acquaintances, and those we had gotten to know through our various ministries. There were also many non-Catholics who have valued our work because they have seen the good it has done. They all came to celebrate together and to give generously to what they believe in.
The celebration went beyond all our expectations. There were well over 200 in attendance and when we finished counting the contributions, we were absolutely overwhelmed. One man wrote out a check that alone would cover all the expenses. All totaled, the results will help enable us to meet this year’s House budget. We are grateful to all of those who put themselves into this wonderful project and ask for God’s continued blessings on all our benefactors. Above all, we give thanks everywhere and always to God for the manifold gifts He gives us every day of our lives and for life itself. We continue to praise and thank Him in advance for just being who He is. And we hope that our fundraiser will get bigger and better every year.
– Fr Vinh The Trinh SVD