GREER—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone marked the start of the Diocese of Charleston’s Marian Year on May 14, leading a celebration commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions in Fatima, Portugal.
Bishop Guglielmone and the diocesan offices of Ethnic Ministries and Family Life chose Our Lady of La Vang parish to celebrate not only the Fatima apparitions of 1917, but also to mark the Marian vision in La Vang in 1798 and celebrate her feast day.
Vietnamese Catholics from several diocesan deaneries packed the small chapel, spilling over into a large banquet tent set up on the parish grounds that would later host the worshipers and guests for a mid-afternoon meal.
The bishop served as celebrant and homilist for the event, with Franciscan Father David Phan as con-celebrant.
“Why did God choose this particular young woman for this absolutely magnificent response to God, a response that would change the whole face of the Earth? Why her? Why Mary?” the bishop asked in his homily.
“This young woman had to be strong, she had to have a strong trust and faith in God and a personal confidence in herself,” he continued.
Because of Mary’s faithfulness, confidence and trust, “God assumed her into Heaven, where God gave her the exalted position of Queen of Heaven and mother of all humanity,” he said.
The bishop spoke of the many Marian apparitions worldwide, including Vietnam, Mexico, Brazil and others, then focused on Fatima.
“Almost one hundred years to this day, Mary appeared in Fatima to three children,” he said, “but, the message has basically been the same in every appearance: Trust in the Lord Jesus. Listen to my son Jesus.
“If you listen to Him, your life will be fulfilled and the world will be a better place.”
The four-hour feast to honor Mary and La Vang began in the late spring sunshine with people singing hymns while processing through the parish grounds. Men carried a statue of Mary high overhead, while young girls dressed in white tossed flower petals along the route.
Once inside, Mary’s statue was placed near the altar, where children set small, potted flowers at it’s base.
Kathleen Merritt, director of the Office of Ethnic Ministries, praised the local Vietnamese community for its ongoing efforts in the diocese.
“The youth of Our Lady of La Vang are becoming very involved in their community,” Merritt said. “They almost filled the church today, which tells you something. They are the future.”
After years of meeting at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, last year the community purchased their own property, renovated the former Baptist church there, and celebrated a Mass of Dedication with the bishop last December.
“There’s been so much progress in what they’ve done here,” Merritt said. “It’s amazing what people can do when God is in the center.”
Top photo: A group of around 20 young ladies from Our Lady of La Vang prepare to place potted flowers around the statue of Mary.