December 21, 2005
Written by C.N.
The York Times has an interesting article that described how many young Catholics are increasingly reluctant to enter the priesthood, but that Vietnamese Americans are the exception. Apparently, many young Vietnamese Americans are eager to become Roman Catholic priests:
At a time when fewer American Catholics are expressing interest in the priesthood, Vietnamese-American men are an anomaly. They are now the second-largest minority ethnic group in seminaries, only slightly behind Hispanics, who account for a far larger percentage of the general population.
While church experts and priests say that some Catholics frown upon their sons’ joining the priesthood and are even embarrassed by it in the wake of the sex abuse scandals among members of the clergy, Vietnamese Catholics continue to hold the priesthood in high regard. They say that the sex scandal marred individual clergymen but not the vocation itself. . . .
Asians and Pacific Islanders constitute about 1 percent of American Catholics, but they account for 12 percent of seminarians; a vast majority of them are of Vietnamese heritage, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. . . . That such a small group of American Catholics is able to deliver so many new priests reveals the grip tradition, family and faith still have on many Vietnamese-Americans.
As I and other scholars have noted, for many reasons, the Vietnamese American community seems to have the highest levels of ethnic and familial solidarity among all Asian American ethnic groups. This assertion is partly reflected in the fact that U.S.-raised Vietnamese Americans tend to have the lowest levels of intermarriage among major Asian groups, and in this case, the highest levels of Catholic seminary participation as well.
Although towards the end the article notes that as many U.S.-born Vietnamese become more assimilated and secularized, the numbers wanting to enter the priesthood is likely to decline, my impression is that the level of ethnic solidarity among Vietnamese is still likely to stay rather high. Vietnamese parents will still have a lot of influence over what career their children enter.
Therefore, my guess is that the future of this trend will largely lie with the parents — if they want their sons to enter the priesthood, many will. But if they are likely many other Asian parents who want their children to become doctors or engineers, this trend will eventually dissipate. Stay tuned . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Vietnamese Americans and Catholicism" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/12/vietnamese-americans-and-catholicism/> ().
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