Vietnamese Catholics celebrate Our Lady of La Vang

GREER — The eighth annual Vietnamese Marian celebration drew hundreds of people to Our Lady of La Vang Park on May 18.
In the bright sunshine, men, women and children recited the rosary, sang hymns to Mary and processed around the park’s hilly grounds with colorful banners and a statue of Our Lady of La Vang.  
Mass was celebrated by  Bishop Dominic M. Luong, auxiliary for the Diocese of Orange, Calif. During Mass, young girls from Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville performed traditional dances and placed bouquets of flowers in front of the statue of Mary.  
The annual event honors Our Lady of La Vang, a Marian vision that appeared in 1798 to Vietnamese Catholics suffering from persecution. A shrine to Our Lady of La Vang near the city of Hue is considered the most important holy place in Vietnam.  
The shrine in Greer, located off S.C. Highway 14, north of the city, is a central focus of Marian devotion for the large communities of Vietnamese Catholics in Rock Hill and Greenville. The festivities drew Catholics from around the diocese and North Carolina.  
Banners and rainbow umbrellas set up around the park snapped in a high wind as Bishop Luong, who spoke in Vietnamese and English, stressed the importance of Marian devotion to the Vietnamese community in the United States.  
His homily also focused on the mystery of the Holy Trinity because May 18 was the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. He said each aspect of the Trinity offers all Catholics a chance to come closer to Christ.
“The special grace God gives us makes us more like Christ, especially through the sacraments,” he said. “Jesus Christ, only begotten son of the father, was sacrificed for our redemption and saved us from sin and death, and the Holy Spirit is the sustainer of the life of God in every community of believers.”  
After Mass, people of all ages gathered at tables and on blankets around the park’s grounds to enjoy traditional food while performers offered songs and dances.  
Franciscan Father Dac Tran, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, concelebrated the Mass. In an interview with The Miscellany, Father Tran said an event like this, which takes months of planning, is evidence of the strong devotion and faith of Vietnamese Catholics in the diocese. He sees that devotion daily, he said, through his work as diocesan administrator for Vietnamese ministry.
Father Tran said the main focus of the ministry is nurturing family life and stressing the importance of strong faith in keeping families together.  
To that end, dozens of married couples participated in a Vietnamese marriage enrichment weekend in November 2007. They are now meeting monthly at Our Lady of the Rosary, and a second workshop is planned for Thanksgiving weekend.  
“I really see there are positive changes in the families because of that program,” Father Tran said.  
Also, he is involved in planning a third Life in the Spirit seminar for Vietnamese Catholics to be held in November. The seminar is part of the charismatic renewal movement, which is popular with many members of the Vietnamese community in the Upstate.  
The number of Vietnamese children attending religious education is growing, Father Tran said, and more parents in the community are teaching CCD classes and helping at the parish school. On May 11, more than 50 Vietnamese Catholic children at Our Lady of the Rosary completed a series of language lessons prior to beginning religious education classes.
“We’re doing all this to help our children to live their faith, to grow in their love for God, for the church and for one another,” the priest said. “There is a lot of faith, dedication and devotion in the Vietnamese community.”