June 30, 2024

Mass of Thanksgiving in Saigon by new priest Fr. Joseph Le, my spiritual son from Raleigh, NC

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we enter the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, our hearts are drawn to reflect on the profound gifts of life and healing that God has bestowed upon us. The Scripture readings this Sunday remind us of God’s intention for us to live in health, both in body and soul, and to share in His eternal life through Christ’s victory over death.

The Book of Wisdom teaches us that God is the source of life and health, contrasting with the forces of evil that bring illness and death. Through Jesus Christ, as celebrated in Psalm 30, we are rescued and forgiven, called to live fully in His grace. St. Paul’s call to the Corinthians echoes this generosity, urging us to show compassion to those in need, as Christ showed compassion through his healing miracles recounted in the Gospel.

In my current travels through Vietnam, I have witnessed the extraordinary growth of the Church here through numerous conversions and an increase in priestly and religious vocations. This wonderful development is a testament to the transformative power of faith and the impact of the Church’s ministries in bringing hope and healing to the marginalized and poor. Even in a developing country facing many challenges, including the care for the elderly, disabled, orphans, and the sick with limited means, the Church shines brightly. Numerous services and compassionate Catholic individuals inspire the whole society by their selfless dedication and love. The Church’s works of mercy in Vietnam are praiseworthy, invoking deep respect even among those who do not share our faith.

However, closer to home, our parish has faced a troubling incident. A deeply troubled woman, exhibiting signs of severe mental distress, has repeatedly come to disrupt our Sunday Masses and insulted our priests and parishioners with loud and profane outbursts. Her sacrilegious actions, particularly desecrating the Eucharist and insulting the Blessed Mother, have deeply saddened and disturbed many of us. We have notified the police each time, but unfortunately, she has left by the time they arrived. We are advised to remain vigilant and report any sightings of her immediately to 911. It is crucial that if she disrupts our services, we document these incidents with photos or videos as evidence under New York Penal Law Section 240.21, which treats a disruption to any religious service as a Class A misdemeanor.

In light of these challenges, it is crucial to maintain compassion for those facing mental distress while also safeguarding our sacred beliefs. Despite our efforts to extend courtesy to the woman, she has physically assaulted me twice within the sanctuary, in full view of parishioners. In addition to these assaults, she has directed verbal insults and violent threats, and has even desecrated the hosts prepared for Mass, causing great distress to our ministers. These actions seem to be motivated by malevolent intent, perhaps even influenced by forces beyond mere human behavior.

Given these troubling events in our neighborhood, it is imperative for all of us to remain vigilant and united in protecting our community and sacred spaces. We must uphold an environment where everyone can worship in peace and safety. Your cooperation and watchfulness are greatly appreciated as we navigate through this challenging situation together.

In the midst of this, I urge everyone to please keep this mentally troubled woman in your prayers. Surely, the Lord desires her to experience good health and wholeness, liberated from whatever troubles her from within. Let us pray for her deliverance and healing. At the same time, let us uphold one another in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and strength to respond with compassion and resolve.

May God bless each of you abundantly, protect our parish community, and guide us in extending Christ’s healing presence to all in need.

Looking forward to seeing you again soon next weekend, I am

Yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham