Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Vietnamese Catholic community dedicates statue to Our Lady of LaVang
by Joanne Bovey, for the Inland Register
(From the December 19, 2013 edition of the Inland Register)
Dance was part of the celebration Nov. 24 at St. Anthony Church, Spokane. (IR photo courtesy of Michael Nguyen)
The Catholic Vietnamese Community hosted a luncheon for the parish at St. Anthony Church, corner of Cedar and Montgomery in Spokane, on Sunday, Nov. 24, after the 11 a.m. Mass. St. Anthony is home to the Catholic Vietnamese Community.
In addition to being the feast day of the Vietnam Martyrs, it was the occasion for the blessing of a statue to Our Lady of LaVang. Father José Luis Millan, St. Anthony’s pastor, had suggested that the community purchase a statue of Our Lady of LaVang to be permanently displayed in the church.
Father Joachim Hiên, former pastor of St. Anthony, came to the Spokane Diocese from Vietnam. He spoke to the people before Mass talking about the arrival of many Vietnamese people in America, bringing with them, “a great devotion to Our Lady of La Vang as ‘Protector of the faithful.’”
In 1798 in the jungle of La Vang near Quang Tri City in Central Vietnam, people were hiding and praying to avoid persecution from the death penalty ordered by King Canh Thinh.
As Father Hiên told the story, “One night, as usual, they gathered under a large banyan tree, reciting the rosary. A beautiful young lady appeared in traditional clothing, carrying Baby Jesus, with two angels holding candles on her sides. The people in hiding immediately recognized her as the Blessed Virgin Mary. She consoled them, encouraged them and asked them to pick some yellow leaves to boil and drink to cure their illnesses. She also made a promise: ‘Be trusting and be brave in your suffering. I have heard your prayers. From now on, anyone who comes to ask for my help in this place, I will grant what they wish.’ That event occurred on the grassy area near the tree where they prayed. Later, she also appeared several times in a similar manner to support and console them in their fear and distress.”
In 1961, Blessed John XXIII raised the shrine church of La Vang into a minor basilica, dedicated to Our Lady of La Vang. Blessed John Paul II invoked the name of Our Lady of La Vang and entrusted the Vietnamese people and their families to her intercession. The basilica was destroyed in 1972 in the war and is now in the process of being rebuilt.
“It is so fitting that she is now standing here with us, alongside our patron, St. Anthony of Padua,” said Father Hiên. “They have so much in common. Two come to my mind: first, they both help us find what is lost. And second, they both hold out Baby Jesus for us (you know I like that); for he is truly Lord, Savior, and King of us all.
“So, thank you, St. Anthony Parish! Thank you especially Father José and the Councils, for allowing her to be with us here in our beloved church. And thank you all for coming!”
After the blessing of the statue of Our Lady of LaVang, the bi-lingual Mass was celebrated by Father Vincent Van Dao Nguyen and concelebrated by Fathers Millan and Hiên. Hymns were in Vietnamese and English.
In l995, Mr. Chau Long became a member of the community and is now its advisor. He recalls that in l994, shortly before he came, Father Thomas Le Trung Khuê, a priest of the Spokane Diocese, became the pastor of the group. Prior to that, Father Hiên was pastor of the group from 1977-94. Their home was in St. Francis Xavier Parish, followed by St. Patrick Parish, both in Spokane. Father Hiên returned as pastor of the Vietnamese Catholic community in March 2003, as pastor of St. Anthony Parish.
Long recalled that St. Anthony became the official place where the Vietnamese had their Masses. On Sept. 5, 2012, with the blessing of Fathers José and Vincent, the Vietnamese Catholic Community Council began attending the regular monthly meeting of St. Anthony Parish’s Pastoral Council and became an active part of the parish.
Mass is celebrated in Vietnamese at St. Anthony every second and fourth Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
This is the first statue of Our Lady of LaVang in the Spokane Diocese.
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