Reaching a new generation with the Good News

New Jersey ( The Catholic Star Herald): When she was a sophomore in high school, Yen Nguyen’s mom, Tuyen Nguyen, had an idea. She told her daughter about the Summer in the City Program for youth, sponsored by the Diocese of Camden, offering high schoolers a chance to serve others in various cities in the diocese. As Yen puts it, “I did not want to go the first year!”

But as moms often do, hers insisted, and by the end of the one-week program in Absecon, she was completely hooked. “I absolutely loved it,” she says. “It was eye-opening to see what you could do to help.”

Now a sophomore at Rutgers University-Camden, Yen is grateful for her mom’s influence and continues to serve as a mentor for Summer in the City, to be coordinated this year by José Rodriguez, who works with Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the Diocese of Camden.

Father Joseph An Nguyen (no relation), pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish, Collingswood, knows the Nguyen family well, and sees Yen’s parents as the key inspiration for her willingness to serve others.

“In the Vietnamese way,” Father Nguyen says, “church is a second home … a second family,” he says.

He has known the Nguyen family since he served at the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Woodlynne, which merged several years ago with the Church of the Transfiguration in Collingswood, to form Most Precious Blood Parish.

Over several years, as Tuyen has been in charge of the parish’s religious education program, the rest of the family has joined in serving in the parish as well.

Yen, along with her two younger sisters, became an altar server in her younger years, and still steps in when needed. She has also taught in the religious education program alongside her mom. She’s currently part of the team teaching a confirmation class, and also plays piano for Saturday night vigil Masses.

Whether it’s helping to plan for Vietnamese Lunar New Year, or filling in as secretary in the rectory office, Yen is always ready to lend a hand. As Yen describes her schedule, she is “always booked.” When she’s not at school, she can most often be found helping out at church. As Father Nguyen says, “She never says, ‘No.’”