TAYLORS—Earlier this year, Our Lady of La Vang quietly became the only quasi-parish in the Diocese of Charleston.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone issued a decree in February stating that the Vietnamese Catholic community of Greenville and Spartanburg Counties has increased significantly and in order to meet their spiritual needs the quasi-parish was formed. The intent is that it will evolve into a “personal parish”, the definition of which is a stable community of faithful that is established by the bishop and entrusted to a pastor.
“To establish a parish you have to show that you have the population mass and the financial ability to sustain yourself as your own worship community,” said Lydia Doyle, director of the Office of Planning and Research for the Diocese of Charleston.
After that, the people involved in the effort, in this case Franciscan Father David Phan, who is vicar for Vietnamese Catholics, and the families who comprise the Our Lady of La Vang community, have to make a request of the bishop. He then seeks advice from the Presbyteral Council and local pastors and makes a decision on whether to form the parish or not.
One of Doyle’s tasks as the diocesan planner is drawing parish boundaries for all churches in the state. She said approximately 60 percent have boundaries and about 40 percent do not. It may seem to be a straightforward task, but those missions that are attached to parishes do not need an official decree or geographical boundaries. Since a quasi-parish is deemed as a personal parish it has to have boundaries.
The families involved in the Our Lady of La Vang Catholic community are currently meeting at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville. Father Phan said the Upstate has the largest concentration of Vietnamese Catholics in the diocese. Though they have not had an official registration, Father Phan estimated they have over 125 families attending Mass and participating in events.
The community has begun the fundraising process so they can buy or build a church.
“Right now, we are interested in a church between Greer and Taylors,” Father Phan said.
Our Lady of La Vang parish hopes to find a space by the end of the year that will allow for growth. In the meantime, their pastor said they must show they are a sustainable and financially independent parish.
Currently, a noon Mass is celebrated in Vietnamese at Our Lady of the Rosary Church. Father Phan said they may move to St. Joseph’s Catholic School in mid-summer.
He noted that the Vietnamese population in Greenville has grown through established families and their relatives who immigrate to the U.S. The community brings with it a strong Catholic identity.
“We hope to strengthen our gifts to give to the larger Church,” he said. “We have a unique way of worshipping and we want to continue to hand down our faith to our children so they can be strong in it. We hope that our mission can increase vocations to support and serve the Church and strengthen family life.”
Miscellany file photo: Participants at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville celebrate Our Lady of La Vang in 2013.