GREER—A group of around 450, including Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, gathered to see a dream years in the making become a reality for the Upstate Vietnamese community on Nov. 26.
Bishop Guglielmone was the principal celebrant of the Mass of Dedication at Our Lady of La Vang Church, a project that has been underway throughout much of 2016, though its roots go back decades.
“Why is it important for us to have this building?” the bishop asked during his homily. “Is this the center of the Catholic faith for this Vietnamese community? No. It is a symbol of this community’s willingness to accept the challenges Jesus Christ chose for us: to proclaim the Gospels of Jesus Christ to all peoples. Yes, you come here to be strengthened, you come here to be nourished, you come here to be a friend to the faith, but not only for your own salvation— have you come here to receive all these wonderful gifts from God.”
The property and building that are now Our Lady of La Vang previously belonged to a Baptist church, which sold the tract earlier this year, according to Vince Vo, a parish member who was actively involved in the procurement process. The existing structure was then renovated to fit the needs of the parish.
Bishop Guglielmone applauded the parishioners’ efforts.
“This is a place where praise has been offered to God for many, many years, in another Christian community,” he said. “But it became an opportunity for the Vietnamese peoples in this part of the diocese to find a home. And what a beautiful home you have created — a home for Catholic worship; a home that certainly reflects the needs of this Vietnamese community to come week after week, day after day, to praise God.”
Bishop Guglielmone urged members of the parish to make a contribution to this community, this area, this diocese, and noted the impact they have already had in the Upstate.
“First and foremost you [contribute to the community] by the way you live your own life and the witness you give to other people,” he said. “And believe me, you have done that, even with coming to this place. People have looked at this community and said very, very clearly that these people are dedicated to our Catholic faith and dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The second part of that is to be able to give of yourselves in many, many different ways to the building up of the kingdom of God.”
It was a busy day for Bishop Guglielmone, who also joined worshipers later that day at Our Lady of the Rosary in nearby Greenville to dedicate a new church there, as well.
“It’s also a very special day, I think, not only for this community, but also for your mother community, the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary. Isn’t that a wonderful occasion to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for her continued presence in this part of the diocese?”
Both dedications held special significance for parishioners because Our Lady of the Rosary served as a temporary home to the Vietnamese community, Bishop Guglielmone said.
During the ceremony, Franciscan Father David Phan, who coordinates Vietnamese ministry, emphasized the role of Our Lady of La Vang within the community.
“This is a place where the Vietnamese people can feel at home — a home far away from home,” he said. “I hope this place will nurture our faith, and strengthen our gifts and our talents and our value … so that we might give that to the larger Church. I believe the Vietnamese, who have come from far away, now feel a great freedom to practice and nourish their faith and continue to hand it down to the next generation.”
Father Phan said it’s important that the young people are involved so “we can participate and serve the Church in the future.”
After the dedication ceremony, Vo talked about what Our Lady of La Vang meant to him.
“It means that for so many years, our community has been yearning for a place to call home, a place to worship in our native tongue, and now it’s become a reality,” he said.
Tin Ngnyen grew up in Greenville and now lives and works in Tennessee, but he returned for the dedication. He said he still has memories of serving as an altar boy at different churches.
“When I grew up, we never really had a place to call our own,” he explained. “I think it’s pretty cool that they’ve worked really hard for this. It really warms your heart when you see a whole bunch of people come out and help build, paint, and organize all this stuff — it builds camaraderie within the community.”