Vietnamese Catholics celebrate Our Lady of La Vang

Vietnamese Catholics celebrate Our Lady of Lavang at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville May 30. (Miscellany/Terry Cregar)

Vietnamese Catholics celebrate Our Lady of Lavang at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville May 30. (Miscellany/Terry Cregar)GREENVILLE—More than 300 people gathered at Our Lady of the Rosary Church May 30 for the 10th annual Vietnamese Marian celebration.

Rain fell as people from North and South Carolina sheltered under umbrellas while singing hymns to Mary and reciting the rosary.

The throng processed on the grounds of the church and school, with some carrying colorful banners saluting Our Lady of La Vang, the vision of Mary who appeared in 1798 to Vietnamese Catholics suffering from persecution for their faith.

The shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, located near Hue, is considered the most important holy place in Vietnam.

Father Nguyen Thanh Liem, president of the Federation of Vietnamese Priests and Religious in America, celebrated Mass with Franciscan Father Dac T. Tran, administrator of Our Lady of the Rosary.

In his homily, Father Liem linked the church’s celebration of the Holy Trinity to Our Lady of La Vang.

“We need to imitate the love of God in three persons, something we try to do in our families,” he said.

Father Liem said that message is reflected in the story of Our Lady of La Vang, where Jesus sent his mother to help the Vietnamese.

“She promised to help people then and she continues to do that,” Father Liem said.

He said the remembrance is central to the lives of Vietnamese Catholics.

“It is our tradition. We try to honor her and show our love for her,” he said. “We believe that when we ask for help, she will help us and God will listen.”

Before Mass, a dozen young ladies dressed in bright yellow dresses performed traditional dances and put bouquets of red flowers before a statue of Mary. The statue was part of the procession and was placed near the altar.

Vietnamese Catholics walk in a procession at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville May 30. (Miscellany/Terry Cregar)Following the liturgy, a meal of traditional Vietnamese cuisine was served in the church gymnasium, accompanied by live music and song.

Father Tran told The Miscellany that Vietnamese Catholics have a deep devotion to Mary.

The priest, who has also served as vicar for Vietnamese ministry, said he is going on an eight-month sabbatical this summer. His absence means the Diocese of Charleston will be without a Vietnamese priest.

“That is a big challenge for the diocese,” Father Liem said. “After what I saw here today, we need another Vietnamese priest to serve the people.”

He said it is important for their faith from a nurturing standpoint and for the cultural and spiritual growth of the children.

Father Liem said he knows it won’t be easy to bring another Vietnamese priest to South Carolina, “but I do believe that God will provide if we ask him.”

Kathleen Merritt, director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, attended the event. She said the number of Catholic Vietnamese is growing.

“Culturally, what the Vietnamese bring to the community is so important,” Merritt said in an interview.