Vietnamese Catholics celebrate Our Lady of La Vang

GREENVILLE — Hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics from around the Diocese of Charleston joined in the seventh annual Vietnamese Marian Celebration held May 6 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church.

The celebration concluded a three-day retreat held at the church May 4-6, which focused on “The Challenge of Being A Healthy, Happy and Holy Vietnamese Catholic family in the USA.”

Men, women and children, many in traditional dress, walked in procession from the church’s gymnasium to the sanctuary, reciting the rosary in Vietnamese, singing hymns to Mary, and carrying banners and a statue of Our Lady of La Vang. She is a vision of Mary said to have appeared to persecuted Vietnamese Catholics in 1798. Her shrine near the city of Hue is the central national holy place of Vietnam, and there is another one dedicated to Our Lady of La Vang in the Upstate.

Bishop Robert J. Baker celebrated a Mass honoring Mary, which included hymns by a Vietnamese choir and liturgical dances offered by girls from Our Lady of the Rosary.

Dressed in ornate scarlet robes and traditional headdresses, the dances included beautiful, graceful movements while the dancers held bouquets of flowers, lighted votive candles and then wooden rosaries. They laid the candles and flowers before the statue of Our Lady of La Vang, which had been placed on the altar at the beginning of Mass.

Redemptorist Father Tuan Bui offered the homily. Father Bui is chief editor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help magazine in Vietnamese, and is director of the Redemptorist House in Long Beach, Calif. He talked about the love of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and encouraged the congregation to remember the eternal presence of that love.

“Often we get discouraged and don’t think much of ourselves, we forget about the love they have for us and the fact we are important just because we are children of God,” he said. “Our Blessed Mother gives to us the same kind of love she offered in fulfilling her role as the loving mother of Jesus.”

He also discussed the importance of prayer and the eternal possibilities present through God, and stressed the importance of honoring human life in all its forms.

Bishop Baker encouraged everyone present to continue their devotion to Mary, to maintain their shrine in the Upstate,  and to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Joyful Hope in Kingstree for the diocesan rosary celebration in October.

He also encouraged the Vietnamese community to continue its devotion to family values, and urged the men to consider joining the Knights of Columbus.

After the Mass, a reception was held in the parish gymnasium, featuring traditional Vietnamese cuisine plus  songs, dances and skits performed by community members from around the Diocese of Charleston.

Father Dac Tran, pastor at Our Lady of the Rosary, said the celebration attracted Vietnamese Catholics from around South Carolina and Charlotte, N.C. The two cities with the largest concentrations of Vietnamese Catholics in the diocese are Greenville and Rock Hill.

Father Tran was pleased with the turnout and said the event offered a chance for their community to gather together for fun and prayer, and to reflect on the importance of faith and family in their culture.

“This is such a great chance for the community to show its devotion to the Blessed Mother,” he said. “She is so important to the Vietnamese.”