In the footsteps of St. Faustina

by Jerry Circelli

North Texas Catholic

Christina Hoang
Christina Hoang has the Divine Mercy image prominently displayed in her prayer room. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

What started as one local Catholic woman’s personal encounter with Jesus Christ has grown to become a spiritually enriching devotion involving about 200 faithful among the Vietnamese Catholic community at four parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Known as the Divine Mercy devotion, the movement among local Catholics is rapidly gaining momentum at the following parishes: Our Lady of Fatima and Christ the King in Fort Worth; Vietnamese Martyrs in Arlington; and Immaculate Conception of Mary in Wichita Falls.

The faithful at these parishes are uniting to spread Christ’s Divine Mercy message that was relayed to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s when she was a young nun with the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, serving in Lithuania and Poland. Christ revealed extraordinary messages to St. Faustina, which she recorded in a collection known as The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Contained in the work is God’s loving message of Divine Mercy.

That message focuses on the fact that God loves all of humanity. He wants people to recognize that His mercy is greater than their sins, and asks the faithful to call upon His trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through them and on to others.

The formation of the devotional group of local Vietnamese Catholics began with Christina MyKhanh Hoang, a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Fort Worth.

Hoang cannot explain why, but she said that one October morning in 2012, at around 3 a.m., she awoke with a burning desire to enter the designated prayer room in her home.

“Something happened there that night as I prayed. I consecrated myself to Divine Mercy,” Hoang said.

“I have always loved the Divine Mercy message so much,” Hoang said, “and I discovered that night that God wanted me to become involved in a concrete way.

“I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and remember so clearly that I was crying hard. I was thinking about souls in purgatory. I promised God that I would trust in His mercy and I would pray for those souls.”

Hoang further explained that she made other promises to God in those early morning hours. “I prayed and said I would dedicate myself to the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day, attend Mass every day to receive Christ, and I would start doing all these things right now,” she said.

Divine Mercy image
NTC/Michael Sherman

For the next several months, Hoang said she did not reveal her intense devotion to Divine Mercy to anyone, not even her husband — Deacon Michael Hoang of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. She began attending daily Mass, received daily Communion, attended weekly Stations of the Cross, confessed her sins weekly, prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet regularly, and sought God’s guidance on how to proceed.

Once she completed this period that she called a time of discernment and sanctification, Hoang began to approach her fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Fatima Church. She asked if they would like to join in her Divine Mercy devotion. Nine friends at the parish were immediately receptive to her invitation to pray and learn more about Christ’s message of Divine Mercy.

Hoang next discussed the idea of forming a devotional group in the parish with Father Jim Khoi, CRM, who was then pastor of Our Lady of Fatima. The Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer religious order priest immediately embraced Hoang’s suggestion.

Fr. Khoi had long been devoted to Divine Mercy and was moved spiritually by the words of Pope John Paul II at the turn of the new millennium. The pope, who is now one of our most beloved saints, canonized St. Faustina on April 30, 2000. The date was the second Sunday of Easter that year and was established as Divine Mercy Sunday. The pope said at the time of the canonization and feast day announcement, “This is the happiest day of my life.”

Five years later, Pope John Paul II died on the vigil of the feast day of Divine Mercy Sunday. During the Mass for the repose of St. John Paul II’s soul the next day, on Divine Mercy Sunday 2005, the Vatican delivered a message previously written by the pope. In it, the pontiff reiterated his devotion to the Divine Mercy message.

“It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!” the pope’s prophetic message read.

The words resonated with Fr. Khoi.

“For me, personally, I am very devoted to Divine Mercy because Christ’s love is redeeming and His mercy is helping all the world,” Fr. Khoi said. “We are sinners, but Jesus loves us, and He has pity on us. Through our devotion, we show our love to Him.”

Fr. Khoi said he and 170 CRM priests and brothers experienced Christ’s love and mercy firsthand when they escaped from South Vietnam during the communist takeover in 1975.

The priest previously shared that experience with the North Texas Catholic this way: “We sailed out into the ocean … but we did not know where we were going. We did not even have a destination. We all asked each other where we were headed, and no one had an answer. We just entrusted everything to God and set out into the ocean.”

The priest said recently, “Our whole community was touched by Christ’s divine mercy over us. He took care of us and we are very thankful.”  

The priests and brothers endured harrowing experiences at sea and now minister to Vietnamese Catholic communities throughout the United States.

Fr. Khoi’s involvement has been another gift from God, Hoang said, citing his passion for the Divine Mercy devotion. He consented to become the group’s spiritual advisor and chaplain.

In 2016, Fr. Khoi and Hoang took about 40 Catholics, including several members of the local members of the Divine Mercy devotional group, on a memorable and spiritually enriching pilgrimage to Poland. There they visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy and many other sites with historic significance to our Church. At the Shrine of Divine Mercy, in Faustina’s Chapel, Fr. Khoi celebrated Mass for the group.

Fr. Khoi, now pastor of Immaculate Conception of Mary Parish in Wichita Falls, and Hoang advanced the Divine Mercy group a step further in 2019 when they received permission from Bishop Michael Olson to expand the movement to include members of other parishes. For now, that has included all four Vietnamese Catholic community parishes and possibly other churches in the coming years.

Although activities have been interrupted by restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group members plan to return to regularly practicing their devotion to Divine Mercy at their individual parishes and together with members from all four parishes. Fr. Khoi explained this includes the sacrament of Reconciliation, Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, reciting the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, exploring readings from the diary of St. Faustina, Stations of the Cross, spiritual sharing, and praying the Holy Rosary. 

Going forward, Hoang defined the group’s mission this way:

“God asked St. Faustina to spread His divine message to the whole world. It is up to us now to continue her mission. It is very important that everybody knows about God’s mercy and love for the world.”

Christina Hoang with Divine Mercy image

What started as one local Catholic woman’s personal encounter with Jesus Christ has grown to become a spiritually enriching devotion involving about 200 faithful among the Vietnamese Catholic community at four parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

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