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Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church celebrates 40 years

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Tuan Ngo was 17 years old when he fled Vietnam in 1984. He left his mother and father in his homeland and joined his siblings in the United States. When he arrived, he spoke almost no English. But he was able to worship in his own language at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church. 

“I never expected that I would settle in an area with a Vietnamese-speaking church,” said Ngo. “I consider (myself) very blessed to be here and able to go to church and able to speak my language. That’s how I feel close to God, when I speak in my mother tongue.”

Ngo and hundreds of other parishioners gathered at the Arlington church to celebrate the community’s 40th anniversary as a parish Sept. 15. During the Mass, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge installed Dominican Father Joseph An Quoc Dang as pastor. In his homily, Bishop Burbidge encouraged the community to rejoice, remember and renew. 

“We rejoice today in the many blessings God has showered upon the community for 40 years and how the Lord has sustained us through the blessings and the challenges we have experienced,” he said. “We remember the priests, consecrated religious and lay faithful who have served here. It is also an occasion to renew our commitment to offer dedicated and generous service to the Lord, his church and one another.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge uses incense to bless the altar at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington during the Mass to celebrate the parish’s 40th anniversary Sept. 15. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

LR VIETNAM 33Like many of the people he is shepherding, Father Dang was born in Vietnam and moved to the United States in the 1980s. He was ordained a priest July 9, 1999, in Vancouver, Canada, and spent most of his priesthood serving parishes in Canada. As Father Dang has come to know his new parish, he’s been pleased to see the number of youths involved in religious education and the number of volunteers at the parish of more than 6,000 members. “I'm looking forward to working with all these people,” he said.

Holy Martyrs was founded after the fall of Saigon brought waves of refugees to the United States. In 1976, the Diocese of Arlington had more Vietnamese refugees than any other diocese in the country except Los Angeles. The director of the diocesan Migration and Refugee Services at the time, Deacon Daniel F. Resendes, estimated that during his time, 15,000 refugees were served. The many Catholic Vietnamese men and women soon wanted a place to worship.

To get the fledgling parish off the ground, Deacon Resendes and Msgr. Richard J. Burke traveled to a refugee camp in Pennsylvania to recruit Vietnamese priests and met founding pastor Father Nhat Duy Tran. The community, which officially become a parish in 1979, first worshipped in Annandale before moving to its current location in Arlington. 

After the Mass, parishioners enjoyed Vietnamese food and traditional singing and dancing. Ngo, now a father of three, is grateful for the diocese’s support of the parish and its people over the past 40 years. “This church allows my children to come and worship God and be part of the community where they can practice their faith and their culture,” he said. 

 

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

@ZoeyMaraistACH