The Rev. Toua Vang become the first Hmong priest in the Anglican Communion when he was ordained by Bishop Brian N. Prior in Breck School Chapel, Golden Valley, in the Diocese of Minnesota.
Vang, a member of the Hmong-majority Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, is not only the first Hmong Episcopal priest — but also the first Hmong priest in the entire Anglican Communion.
The Rev. Winfred Vergara, Episcopal Church missioner for Asiamerican Ministries, believes the significance of this ordination goes beyond simple demographics. “It demonstrates that the Episcopal Church welcomes all people,” says Vergara. “The Hmong, Nepalese, Cambodians, and the Laos in the United States are probably some of the most marginalized, underprivileged communities here. So it demonstrates our passion and our commitment to empower people. We do not simply speak about it.”
The Hmong culture is very communal; Vang himself is extremely humble. It can be easy to see this as the story of a community rather than an individual. Certainly, the Hmong community in St. Paul is a huge part of this story, and the elders of the community early on identified Vang as a potential spiritual leader, encouraging and supporting him. However, Toua himself took enormous risks and leaps of faith.
“Toua was identified and affirmed by the community because of his particular gifts,” says Prior, “and his strong desire to serve both his people and the larger world. Toua has a particular missional zeal that really is very compelling — that you hear from hardly anyone else. He really feels this sense of calling. It’s part of the story of his people because they’ve been people in movement. He feels the call to be with other people who have been dislocated and have had to take a similar journey. I think he feels called to serve people who find themselves dislocated and have to move to a new world. He’s really passionate about that.”