By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Singing, dancing, incense, prayer, a balloon release and outdoor procession kicked off the Vietnamese Catholic Community’s celebration marking the Feast of the Assumption at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Aug. 14, one day before the official feast day.
In the cathedral’s courtyard, Bishop Thomas Zinkula, 14 priests and two deacons gathered with the Vietnamese community to begin the celebration. Bishop Zinkula incensed the outdoor Our Lady of LaVang statue and then a smaller one that four Vietnamese women would carry in the procession later. Father Thang Hoang, rector of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, led the outdoor celebration and presided at Mass. Women with roles in the celebration wore traditional Vietnamese clothing, as did many others in the crowd.
A rosary-shaped grouping of balloons and bunches of colorful balloons were released before various parish groups processed into the cathedral and took their seats. The four Vietnamese women carried a platform holding the smaller statue of Our Lady of LaVang, surrounded with flowers, into the cathedral and placed it just outside the sanctuary. Young girls placed flowers in a vase in front of the statue.
Concelebrants were Bishop Zinkula, Father Thom Hennen, the cathedral’s pastor; Father Joseph Phung, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison; Father Hai Dinh, pastor of St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols and St. Joseph Parish in Hills; Father Khoa Le, parochial vicar at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine; and nine priests of Divine Word College.
Father Khoi Nguyen gave the homily in Vietnamese and Father Hoang translated the main points in English. Father Hoang said the celebration of the Assumption of Mary reminds the faithful that life is temporary and the final destination is heaven. Mary, as the faithful’s companion and mother, “never forgets her children.”
The Vietnamese community served homemade food during a reception after Mass that included singing and a celebration. Trien Martin Ngo, a representative with the Vietnamese community, said the community formed 42 years ago and Sacred Heart Cathedral has been its home since 2001.
“The Assumption is important to many of us as the Virgin Mary’s heavenly birthday (the day that Mary was received into heaven). Also, Mary is considered as a patron saint of the Vietnamese Catholic. Our Lady of LaVang (Vietnamese: Đức Mẹ La Vang) refers to a reported Marian apparition at a time when Catholics were persecuted and killed in Vietnam. Vietnamese Catholic communities celebrate around the world and many in the U.S.”
While many parishes in the U.S. celebrate the feast day, the biggest “Marian Days” celebration is in Carthage, Missouri. Each year about 50,000 to 100,000 Vietnamese Catholics travel to Carthage to celebrate for nearly a week. Marian Days also offers opportunities for individuals, family and friends to come together for a celebration, enhancing their relationship with God through reconciliation and prayers.