By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Rain didn’t dampen the spirit of the Vietnamese Catholic Community’s Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebration Aug. 16. But the weather did move up scheduled outdoor activities at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“The Blessed Virgin Mary plays a very important role in the life of Vietnamese Catholics both in America and Vietnam,” said Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Paul the Apostle Parishes in Davenport.
“Most of Vietnamese Catholics have at least a statue of Mary in their houses. When they gather together for family prayers or remembrance of their family’s dead, they usually stand in front of the statue of Mary to say the rosary,” he said.
Each year, Vietnamese Catholics in Vietnam make their pilgrimage to LaVang in central Vietnam to honor and thank Mary in June or July. This year, the pilgrimage took place July 26 and 27. In America, Vietnamese Catholics also make a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to honor Mary at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This year it took place June 18-20. From Aug. 6-9 about 60,000 Vietnamese Catholics gathered in Carthage, Mo., to give honor and thanks to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he noted.
The traditions stem from a desire to thank Our Lady for her constant intercessions, blessings and miracles. The Vietnamese thank Mary for helping their ancestors in their homeland in the 18th century.
“It was a time of persecution of Catholics,” said Father Joseph Phung, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant who previously served the Vietnamese communities in Iowa City and the Quad-Cities. The people fled into the jungles where in 1798 an apparition of Mary is said to have appeared and offered the people hope. Since then, Vietnamese Catholics continue to honor Mary for helping them through tough times.
At celebrations in honor of Our Lady of LaVang people offer flowers, songs and dance as ways to give her honor and thanks. Fr. Dinh said many times at the various sites there are speakers — usually bishops, monsignors and priests — who talk about the history, theology and stories of Mary.
Because of intermittent rain Sunday, the blessing and procession activities were moved ahead of schedule.
Bishop Martin Amos used incense at the Shrine of Our Lady of LaVang, young girls in traditional Vietnamese clothing danced and offered flowers to Mary. That was followed by the release of balloons and firecrackers.
All of those in attendance then processed from the courtyard of the cathedral to the front entrance. Girls threw flowers, there was singing and young women carried a smaller statue of Mary into the cathedral.
Bishop Amos presided at the Mass. Concelebrating were Frs. Dinh and Phung and Father Robert Busher, rector/pastor of the cathedral. The outdoor reception following Mass was moved inside Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Parish Center.
The monthly bilingual Vietnamese-English Mass, traditionally celebrated the third Sunday of the month, has been moved to Aug. 23 at 11 a.m. Mass in Vietnamese is held three Sundays of the month at 11 a.m.