National Catholic Reporter tells the story of Toua Vang, an Episcopal priest serving the Hmong community in Minneapolis.
In June 2013, Toua Vang became the first Hmong man in the world to be ordained an Episcopal priest, and is now pastor of the only Hmong-majority Episcopal church anywhere.
His roots are in Catholicism, but the Episcopal church offered an option for non-celibate priesthood. “I come from the Hmong culture, and men are expected to have a family,” he said.
Vang, 47, is one of hundreds of Hmong who began attending Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in St. Paul in 2005. The church was about to close, with only about 60 members remaining. Then 700-plus Hmong, making up 78 families who were searching for a new place to worship after leaving the nearby St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, found a home at Holy Apostles. They were welcomed and quickly became a part of church leadership.
“There was a power struggle and division [at St. Vincent de Paul], and many people had decided to move on,” Vang said, adding that the struggle affected the whole congregation, dividing it into a few groups, with the larger group moving to Holy Apostles.
“The Hmong, even in this country, still function as communal people with elders or community leaders giving guidance and assist with disputes among the Hmong people,” Vang said. “The small group remains at St. Vincent de Paul. Some merged into other denominations and some returned to practice animism, the Hmong traditional religion.”