By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The Vietnamese Catholic community at Sacred Heart Cathedral celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with an outdoor procession, Mass, song and dance, a balloon release and a reception.
The celebration took place Aug. 13, two days ahead of the solemnity. Father Simon Thoi Hoang, the new rector of Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, presided at the Mass. The concelebrants were Father Thom Hennen, the cathedral’s pastor, and four other priests from Divine Word.
In the courtyard, Father Hoang incensed the Our Lady of LaVang statue and then a smaller one that Vietnamese women would carry in the procession later. After a dance, song and a balloon release, the community processed to the cathedral taking a shorter route due to the weather.
Father Hoang welcomed the gathering in Vietnamese and English. “Thank God for gathering us together to celebrate this feast.” His homily referenced that Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew, when Jesus walked on the sea and Peter attempted to come to Jesus on the sea but became frightened by the strong wind. “When we are afraid,” Father Hoang said, “we lose sight and start sinking. Do not be afraid. We have our heavenly mother and celebrate her. Our eyes are turned toward her. Our eyes also turn toward God, in our heavenly home. … As we celebrate this feast, God gives us the courage to say yes to Jesus and keep our eyes on our heavenly mother.”
“The Assumption is important to many of us as the Virgin Mary’s heavenly birthday (the day that Mary was received into heaven),” said Trein Martin Ngo, the Vietnamese Catholic community’s president. “Also, Mary is considered as a patron saint of the Vietnamese Catholics. 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 begins each year on the first Thursday in August in Carthage, Missouri. Some 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.