Vietnamese celebrate Mary for Mother’s Day

GREENVILLE—Hundreds of Vietnamese spent Mother’s Day at the annual Our Lady of La Vang celebration, held May 8 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church.

The event commemorates a vision of Mary that appeared in 1798 to Vietnamese Catholics who were being persecuted for their faith.

Teenagers, adults and the elderly walked together in a procession around the church grounds, reciting prayers in Vietnamese. Young girls in white, wearing tinsel headdresses, scattered flower petals in front of adults who carried a statue of Our Lady of La Vang. Mothers held tight to the hands of toddlers who participated.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated the Mass, wearing vestments presented to him by the community at his 2009 installation. His homily focused on the theme of leadership and guidance, reflected in the readings.

The bishop described how Jesus guided his disciples, how Mary became a mother figure to them after Jesus’ ascension and is now a mother figure to all the faithful.

“Today we honor our mothers on earth and our mother in heaven,” he said. “Mary encouraged and affirmed the disciples, and she still does this for us. She gives instruction and encouragement to us, and gives us her message, which is ‘Follow my son.’”

The bishop praised the beauty of the celebration and talked about the symbolic nature of the traditional flower dance a dozen young girls in bright yellow costumes performed during the Mass. They held up pots of flowers, moved in circles and then placed the blossoms at the foot of the La Vang statue.

“It’s a beautiful liturgical gesture that’s symbolic of our willingness to be gathered to Mary,” he said. “Mary said yes to God during her life … and from heaven, she continues to follow through on that as she helps us say ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

After Mass, members of the community presented a portrait of Our Lady of La Vang to the bishop and thanked him for his support. They honored Franciscan Father Khoa Nguyen, who has worked with Vietnamese Catholics in the diocese for several months and will return to Vietnam in July. Also honored were Father Dwight Longenecker, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary; Kathleen Merritt, director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, which sponsored the event; and Sister Agnes Hanh Nguyen of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, who leads a volunteer Vietnamese choir, which sang during Mass.

Many people then stood and prayed in front of the La Vang statue, including mothers who held their young children and led them in prayer.

A reception in the nearby gymnasium featured traditional cuisine, a live band, skits, and dances performed by children.

Lee Beu of Columbia attended with several members of her family, including her mother-in-law and two daughters who graduated from college over the weekend.

She said watching her daughters graduate gave her a chance to reflect on her faith and the guidance of Christ and Mary.

“The celebration was special for me because we were able to spend time together as a family, and it was a chance to reflect on tradition, on a mother’s love that never ends, and what we as mothers can do for our kids,” she said. “The bishop’s homily was beautiful because it talked about letting somebody lead you when you don’t know your way. I think maybe Mary helped me to lead my kids to this point in their lives.”