Monday, March 26, 2012

Letter written by one of our photographers on our wedding day, Ronni Petersen....
(Thank you Ronni.)

November 13, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
I attended a Vietnamese wedding at the St. Callistus Church located in Garden Grove on Friday,
November 11, 2011. Our very good friends were being married at 2pm in a traditional Vietnamese
ceremony for the groom’s family and friends. Not only were we guests, we were the photographers as
The reason I am writing to you is to report the undignified, rude, arrogant and completely
unprofessional attitude and demeanor of the priest at this location. I have never been so appalled,
shocked, and completely speechless as I was when I heard him dressing down the groom, the groom’s
mother, the groom’s brothers, and finally the bride and groom together.
He did it in full view and earshot of all of the wedding guests in the chapel while perched in the very
front, beside the choir that would be singing for the ceremony. He was loud, vocal, and verbally abusive
as they begged and pleaded for help in their situation. He never apologized, he never took them to a
private room or office to discuss it, he made sure that everyone in that chapel knew exactly what was
happening and that it was in no way HIS fault.
The couple was to be married in the Catholic Church at 2pm and then again at Disneyland at 5pm. The
original paperwork was in the hands of the Pastor at Disneyland and they were given a copy to give to
the Priest at St. Callistus. He refused to marry them, he said they were not allowed to be married twice
in one day, that he had done this for 35 years and because “they had dropped the ball”, there was
nothing he could do. He kept saying, “This is not Vietnamese, this is not Vietnamese!!” He raised his
voice as he dressed them down. Everyone in the room wanted to crawl under the carpet. This is
completely unacceptable behavior and something needs to be done about it. He had the bride and
groom in tears, the groom’s mother, who attends this church devoutly, was devastated, and those in
attendance were absolutely mortified at his behavior.
They begged to go to Disneyland and bring the original paper back to him after the second ceremony.
He said, “How do I know you are going to go and get married there? You could go anywhere and “claim”
to have gotten married. There’s nothing I can do!! It is your fault, not mine. There’s nothing I can do.”
They called and called the other Pastor for the Disneyland ceremony and he never answered their calls
or text messages. The Priest in Garden Grove was completely unrelenting, and never once did he offer
to HELP them. There was no calming influence, no words of comfort, nothing. In his anger he started
closing down the chapel with everyone still inside. He strode to the candles and instead of blowing them
out, he angrily waved the paperwork in his hands and snuffed them out. He turned out all the lights and
basically shoved everyone out by 2:30. They paid for the chapel until 3pm.
I understand there are legalities and laws. I understand that there are certain procedures that MUST be
followed and adhered to. I know the proper, official paperwork must be taken care of. I am a Notary. I
am not negating this. What I am saying is this Priest did not follow the protocol of a church leader, a
genuine, humble church leader. You simply DO NOT behave like this. You do not behave like a spoiled,
angry child, put out and acting like they had completely wasted his precious time. Could he not think of
this couple, totally devastated on their wedding day? Especially by something they had no way of
knowing that was wrong or missing? Shouldn’t this Priest have explained in the many counseling
sessions they had had with him what was required? He had counseled them for months, shouldn’t he
know them by now? Where was the checklist? Why couldn’t he help by sending someone or allowing
someone to go to Disneyland to get the proper paperwork? His total rebuff and angry attitude toward
everyone involved was extremely offensive. This man needs to be taken down a peg or two. I have
always had a respect for Catholic Priests, for their dedication, their seeming kindnesses toward their
flocks, but I have never seen anything like this demonstration. I wanted to go up there and level him,
and I am not that kind of a person.
There is no way he can reverse the damage he has caused everyone involved. For the rest of their lives,
they will relive those excruciating moments and harbor bitterness and sadness. Even with a formal
apology he cannot fully erase these horrible memories. This couple had people from Japan fly in, people
from Vietnam. My heart breaks for them just remembering the groom in tears, having to go in front of
all the guests and tell them there wouldn’t be a wedding.
My church leaders are kind and gentle, and they would move mountains to do anything to rectify a
situation like that. The couple would have felt comforted and calmed, not stupid and worthless. Like I
said before, I am not negating his official capacity as a priest, or the legalities he must follow. I am
questioning his ability to teach and lead and bring comfort and peace, instead of throwing a selfrighteous
tantrum and feeling justified in doing so.
All of the people in attendance that are not Catholic, left that cold chapel unimpressed and disliking any
semblance of a Catholic experience. The Spirit of our Heavenly Father certainly had fled – there was no
warmth or welcoming spirit there. It felt cold and alien. That breaks my heart. No church should leave
you feeling that way, member or not.
This beautiful young couple, after all the heartache they had just experienced, asked to be let back in
and they took flowers and gave them to the Virgin Mary and prayed. They followed their own protocol
and even though heavy hearted and saddened, they did what was right.
Even as I sit and write this, knowing that nothing will probably ever be done or said, I feel that I have
stood up for what I believe in, and for all the wrong things I feel were perpetrated on a young, innocent
couple ecstatically in love. No one should ever be made to feel so horrible, in such a condescending,
rude, arrogant manner. Especially on their wedding day.
I would ask you to please consider my plea and to please acknowledge that things like this are
happening in your congregations. It is not right. People ask, “What would Jesus do?” We are
commanded to love one another, to treat each other with kindness, to reach and uplift, to give service
and unconditional love. Shouldn’t a Priest be the best example of a disciple of Christ to everyone he
comes in contact with? He is Christ’s example; he is His hands, His eyes, His witness. I think that is what
hurts me the most, his mockery of our Heavenly Father and our Savior.
Thank you for your time ~
Veronica Petersen