By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — With flowers, balloons, firecrackers, dance, procession and Mass, the Vietnamese Catholic community honored Mary during the Feast of the Assumption on Aug. 14 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The community celebrates the feast of Mary’s assumption into heaven in grand fashion on the Sunday before the actual Aug. 15 feast day.
Lein Truong of the Vietnamese Council and a planner for the annual celebration said, “We celebrate Our Lady of LaVang who appeared to the Vietnamese to comfort and help the people through crisis, disease, poverty, hunger and oppression of the local government at the time,” she said. The people of Vietnam and those who have moved from that country carry on the tradition of honoring Mary and showing gratitude for her comfort through troubled times.
The feast day’s significance for the Vietnamese dates back to the persecution of Catholics in Vietnam from 1798-1886, said Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Ky Lai of the Sacred Heart Vietnamese community said the Vietnamese Catholics see Mary as their mother, too. “If you are a kid and do something wrong — you go to your mom. If we do something wrong, we may go to our other mother — Mary — and pray to her. She is the connection to God.”
He believes this tradition of honoring Mary will continue from generation to generation as it has since the persecution of the Vietnamese. Truong said the celebration of Mary has not waned in the U.S.
Each year the Vietnamese people are invited to Missouri in early August for a week-long retreat honoring Mary. More than 20,000 attend the event — including some parishioners from the Davenport Diocese. “We celebrate the generations and pray to our mother Mary. We are very close to her and she comforts us,” she said.
At home, because the Sacred Heart Vietnamese congregation is well organized, preparation for the feast begins about a month before the celebration, Truong said. Everyone knows their function in the celebration, she noted. Invitations are sent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike to share in the celebration.
During Sunday’s event, the community gathered in the courtyard by the cathedral in front of the shrine of Our Lady of LaVang which is surrounded by bright colored flowers. Bishop Martin Amos opened the celebration with prayer. Hymns were sung, young children danced, firecrackers were set off, balloons were released and a procession traveled from the courtyard to the cathedral and into the church for Mass.
“It’s a ritual everywhere, not just Davenport,” Truong said.