By Mary Marshall
ROCK HILL — More than 500 Vietnamese Catholics gathered at St. Anne Church in Rock Hill on Sunday, Nov. 10, for the annual feast of the Vietnamese martyrs celebration.
Franciscan Father Dac T. Tran, parochial vicar at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, celebrated the Mass. Concelebrating were homilist Father Bui Phong, chaplain at the Bureau of Prisons in Estill, and Oratorian Father William Pentis, pastor of St. Anne Parish.
The celebration began with a procession, followed by the re-enactment of the death of St. Andre Dung Luc, who was one of 130,000 Vietnamese martyrs killed within three centuries. On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II canonized 117 of these martyrs, many of whom were tortured and persecuted under the reign of King Canh Thinh from 1792 to 1801.
“Today, Vietnamese communities come together to support one another and to share their traditions as Vietnamese Catholics,” said Father Phong. “We recognize the generosity and sacrifice of the martyrs as well as their courageous lives. They have set examples for us; they are our role models. We must live our lives faithful to God, just as they were.”
Khoa Nguyen, a member of St. Anne Parish, played the part of St. Andre in the re-enactment.
“This celebration makes us aware of what the martyrs went through,” said Nguyen. “We come together to renew our faith and share our traditions.”
Mary Vu has been a member of St. Anne Parish for 27 years.
“We’re celebrating our strong beliefs,” she said. “We offer praise and prayer to the martyrs that they will give us a stronger faith and good health.”
“Since the Vietnamese Catholics in South Carolina are scattered throughout the state,” Father Tran said, “this celebration brings us all together to give thanks and praise to God for the gifts of faith that first began with the missionaries from Spain, Portugal and France who first came to Vietnam in the 1500s. They sacrificed everything to give the Vietnamese people faith. Today, we show our gratitude and pray for the gift of perseverance to remain faithful to the gift of faith received from the missionaries.”
Son Tran is a student at Wade Hampton High School in Greenville. Following the Mass, Tran, along with other members of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society in the USA, participated in a skit honoring all the Vietnamese saints. He sees the celebration as a coming together as family.
“We are all brothers,” Tran said. “We gather to come closer to God through celebration and enactment.”