If Vue Yang of Sheboygan could convey one message, it would be to let the Hmong residents know that they are not alone.
While helping refugees adjust to life in Wisconsin takes the work of many groups, Yang has devoted much of his life to keeping the Hmong connected through their cultural background and through his love of the Catholic faith.
In November, Yang, a member of St. Peter Claver Parish in Sheboygan, received the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Vatican II Service in Communication Award for his work in helping to bridge the cultural gap through his work in the parish, the community and through the Hmong radio program on 91.1 FM, that he has run since 1983.
“I was very surprised to receive it,” he said. “I did not expect to receive any award because I just do the normal things I am supposed to do – helping people through running the radio show.”
The 59-year-old husband and father to four children appreciates the opportunity to do something other than run the Hmong Union Market with Paj, his wife of 31 years.
“We work eight hours a day and this weekly radio show gives us a chance to help others by giving them information about schools, adoptions, climate, rules, regulations, laws, parenting and how to be a good citizen,” he said. “It helps them to know the new lifestyles that the Hmong will go through.”
A radio program like Yang’s might have been helpful when he immigrated to the United States.
“I was born in Laos and left there before the fall,” he said. “I graduated in Laos and went to France where I attended the French engineering school called, “Institut National Des Sciences Appliqués de Lyon, France.”
|Name: Vue Yang
Occupation: Owner of Hmong Union Market, www.hmongunionmarket.com
Parish: St. Peter Claver, Sheboygan
Favorite movie: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”
Book recently read: “The Asian Jesus,” by Michael Amaladoss
Favorite quotation: “Give the man a hook, teach him how to catch fishes; he will be proud of himself.”
(Submitted photo courtesy of Vue Yang)
After earning his master’s degree in chemical engineering, he worked for four years in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates from 1977 to 1981 for Schlumberger Overseas Company on the oil drilling platforms.
In 1981, Yang and his family moved to Sheboygan and he worked for Ametek as a chemical engineer where he acquired five U.S. patents for the design of water filtration systems for residential and commercial applications.
During that time, he and Paj, a lifelong Catholic, joined St. Peter Claver and Yang attended Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes. He was baptized and confirmed at St. Peter and in 1986, the couple became naturalized citizens.
Recognizing the need for continuity and communication within the Hmong culture, Yang developed the radio program to help the thousands of refugees who fled Laos due to the war against communism in the late 1970s.
“The radio program is not specifically Catholic, but is for everybody who wants to listen,” he said. “I want to give them the best information and the best tools to make their daily life easier. Sometimes I am able to give an answer that can’t be found in a newspaper.”
In addition, Yang and Paj have been involved in Radio Veritas Asia since 1994 to evangelize the Catholic faith to Asians living in the Philippines, Thailand, Burma and Vietnam. Because traditionally there was no written language, the Hmong relied on radio for information.
“The programs are important because the biggest problem among the Hmong here is the language,” he said. “I am talking about people that came here as adults and while many do not become Catholic, those that do have trouble going to church. The Hmong go to church faithfully, but when it comes time for the homily and the readings, they don’t understand what is going on.”
To help foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the Mass, Yang was instrumental in beginning a monthly Hmong Mass and Hmong Bible studies at St. Peter Claver.
Culturally, Yang admitted that the Hmong and most Americans born in the United States have vast differences, but those differences dissolve when it comes to sharing the Catholic faith. Hmong Catholics try to live a faith-filled life by a quiet, humble and reverent example, he said.
“Just because we have a different lifestyle when we go home, it doesn’t mean we are not Catholic. We are just Catholic the Hmong way,” said Yang. “We live the best we can with Christ and apply that to our daily life. A lot of the Hmong who have become Catholic have extended families and make friends – they are taking the love of Christ and spreading it to others who are not Catholic. They are part of them and are a part of us. By doing so, people may see the goodness in our hearts and might decide to join the faith.”
While Yang’s days are filled with operating the store, producing the radio program and organizing the Hmong Masses, he also finds time to serve as chairman of the Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial and as a member of the St. Peter Claver parish council. He also teaches English at the parish and promotes a variety of Hmong publications.
His involvement stems from a Christ-driven desire to educate others not only in faith, but in all aspects of life.
“I feel that I do these things because that is what my faith is,” he said. “That is the bottom line. I try to treat others nice because that is the same as treating Christ nice – that’s what we believe in. Everybody is Christ and if they don’t believe in the Catholic faith, we try to be nice and help them out. To me, faith is what you are born to live and die with; we have a long life and I want it to be a whole life. It isn’t some little test that we pass and then do something else – faith is life.”