The Catholic Vietnamese community in the small city of Biloxi, Mississippi, celebrated the first 20 years of establishing its own church in its own parish.
The Church of the Holy Martyrs in Vietnam is the only Catholic parish in Vietnam in the state.
Last Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in the church to fill a building that was more than a place of worship.
“Our culture, language, family, food and faith all revolve around the Martyrs’ Church in Vietnam,” said Andrew Buoy, president of the parish council, at the celebration.
The congregation also honored 96 Vietnamese Catholics and 21 European missionaries. They collectively serve as patron saints of the church as “Vietnamese Martyrs”.
Despite Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party opposition to the beatification of martyrs, Pope John Paul II canonized all 117 martyrs in 1988.
Their collective feast day is November 24th.
Martyrs represent at least 130,000 Vietnamese who have been killed for centuries of trans-dynasty beliefs.
Although Vietnamese law technically enshrines religious freedom, Catholics say they are still facing government persecution.
During the service, members of the congregation rode a flower-covered palette to the altar with boxes containing the relics of about 30 Vietnamese martyrs. Buoy says the church currently has the relics of about 50 saints.
“We have documents and seals from the Vatican proving that these are genuine relics, not chicken bones.”
Bishop of Biloxi, Luis F. Kinemann III, paid tribute to the Vietnamese Catholic Community celebration last Sunday.
He spoke in English and paused every few sentences so that another priest could provide a Vietnamese translation.
All participants wore face masks, including those adorned with the word “Vietnamese Martyrs’ Church”. Others were wearing masks in the color of the South Vietnamese flag.
A festive lunch after worship was served outdoors.
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A small Vietnamese Catholic community celebrates 20 years together
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