Bursting with life and activity, the first Vietnamese parish in the United States marked its 25th anniversary last weekend with a mass, celebrated by Bishop Paul Loverde. Archbishop Stefano Nguyen Nhu The of Hue, Vietnam, flew in as a special guest for the evening mass.
It was standing-room only at the anniversary mass for Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Parish in Arlington, Aug. 14, and the crowd that watched the mass on a television screen in the church lobby spilled out onto the sidewalk, reported the Catholic Herald.
This was not unusual for a parish that has been experiencing non-stop growth for the last quarter-century. When the parish first began, there were only 25 families, and mass was being celebrated in different locations. Today, the community has a church building and 1,750 families, says Bui Huu Thu, founding parishioner and president of the parish council.
Other signs of life and community abound. For starters, there are 16 groups and seven choirs in the parish, and the senior citizen group has 100 members.
The parish produced the first Vietnamese priest for the Arlington diocese. Born in Vietnam, Fr. Augustine Minh Hai Tran, grew up in Springfield and his parents are members of Holy Martyrs Parish. Fr. Tran is the newest priest to be ordained to the diocese.
It also produces a Vietnamese Web cast of religious programming – the first such programming in the Eastern United States. Eighteen volunteers broadcast weekly local news, mass for shut-ins and people discussing their faith journey, all from the church basement. It is available at www.rc.net/arlington/cttdvn.
As well, many parishioners have followed in the spirituality of their parish priests and want to be members of the lay Dominicans. Fifty-eight were accepted in the novitiate last week, bringing the parish total to 70 members.
The recent renovations are a sign of the community spirit at the national parish. According to Thu, hundreds of volunteers worked 12-hour shifts, committed to finishing the renovations in time for the anniversary mass. Thu said one 80-year-old volunteer stayed at a room in the church and only went home on weekends.
The feeling of ownership is strong at the parish, said Thu, who adds that the community is grateful that it has been truly blessed.