GREER — Nearly 700 Catholics came together to celebrate their faith with prayer at Our Lady of Vietnam Park Oct. 9. The occasion was the third annual Rosary Celebration, sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston. The park is located beyond the city limits and is the only shrine to Mary in South Carolina. That will soon change, however.
“Two years ago, we dedicated our diocese to Our Lady of Joyful Hope,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker. “We will now dedicate a shrine to Our Lady of Joyful Hope in the former church of St. Ann in Kingstree. We will hold next year’s Rosary Celebration there in that new shrine.”
St. Ann Parish recently purchased and renovated a new church building when the previous building became too small for its needs.
This year’s celebration was marked by unity in diversity. The crowd prayed the luminous mysteries of the rosary in five languages: English, Nigerian, Vietnamese, Latin and Arabic. Many in the crowd were Vietnamese-Americans, including six nuns who were evacuated from New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina flooded their provincial buildings.
“We are sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, in South Vietnam,” said Sister Agatha Do. “Sixteen of us are guests now of The Oratory in Rock Hill. We have made many new friends and people are treating us very well.”
Also journeying from Rock Hill was a team of liturgical dancers, aged five through 12. The girls were directed by Thanh Mai, chair of Vietnamese Catholics in that area.
“They come from different parishes and they are here to honor the Virgin Mary on this special day,” Mai said.
The girls were dressed in formal Vietnamese garb, according to Thuy Ha of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville. Her pastor, Franciscan Father Dac Tran, gave the keynote address at the gathering. He said that every Catholic should carry a rosary wherever he or she goes and should recite it often.
“Only through prayer can we be saved,” he said. “Our Blessed Mother wants us to come together as one family.”
Father Tran and Bishop Baker celebrated the 50th anniversary of Our Lady of the Rosary School before the 3 p.m. Rosary Celebration and dedicated the school’s new media center.
Despite overcast skies, Our Lady of Vietnam Park was awash in colors for the day dedicated to Mary. Besides the dancers in their bright yellow dresses and hats, many Vietnamese-American women wore traditional silk ao dai dresses, and some African-Americans wore traditional African dress.
A tent, guarded by fourth degree Knights of Columbus in full regalia, held a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament exposed for adoration before and during the festival.
A combined choir from Upstate parishes sang hymns under the direction of Mia McDowell. Father Christopher Smith of St. Mary in Greenville led a procession and benediction to end the event.
Rosaries were given to participants at the celebration. Best of all, the rain held off until the hour-long ceremony was finished.