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Generational Gap, Vietnamese American Catholics, Pastoral Circle, Social Analysis, Theology of Inculturation, Incarnation of the Word, Pastoral Plan


Encountering different languages, cultures, living conditions, and so on, many immigrants face challenges when arriving to a new country. They often live in-between their native culture and the new culture they are forced to adapt to. They experience both belonging and not belonging, and they are sometimes considered strangers or aliens in a new land. In particular, the generational tension between Vietnamese immigrants and their U.S.-born children produces difficulties within their families, faith communities, and daily life. This leads to specific pastoral concerns in the Church, forcing us to ask how pastoral ministry can cater to different generations effectively especially in light of assimilation into U.S culture. Thus, the aim of this paper will be to demonstrate that the Vietnamese American Church can use a theology of inculturation as a pastoral method to understand and ease the generational tension between Vietnamese immigrants and their U.S.-born children. This paper will illuminate a theological methodology of the pastoral circle, which includes reflexivity, as an insertion recounting concrete stories within the Vietnamese American community. In order to understand why there is a pastoral challenge at all, this paper will provide a social analysis in terms of history, society, and language differences between Confucian and American culture. From analyzing these contexts, I will offer a theological reflection by using the Scriptures and a theology of inculturation as a pastoral foundation. It is important for Christians to use inculturation to nurture the relationship between culture and faith in their own communities and families. Inculturation is a process of incarnation that enables Christians to live their faith in their cultural context. Inculturation is used in a theological context to discuss people of faith in their respective cultural contexts. In particular, it is true that the Catholic Church is the “universal” Church, but it is also diverse in terms of cultures and languages. This reality urges the faithful to create and adapt dialogue within the Vietnamese American Church around the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus), who became a human being in a particular context. Therefore, inculturation can help the Vietnamese American Church understand the process of adaptation for a community of immigrants and their U.S.-born children in terms of pastoral ministry. Finally, this paper will create an effective pastoral plan for different generations of Vietnamese Americans. By following Jesus’ example of incarnation into particular cultures and engaging in dialogue with them, the Vietnamese American Church may do ministry more fruitfully.