Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Vietnamese Community Celebrates New ‘Home’

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published August 17, 2006

A community that met for over 10 years at Holy Cross Church in Atlanta finally has a place to call its own.

The dedication of Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Mission was a collision of colors, culture and faith, as Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory inaugurated their new worship space.

The dedication began outside of the church under a massive tent June 10. A large stage held a statue of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lavang, patroness of the mission.

As a gong echoed in the air, the members of the Sacred Heart Guild, dressed in striking blue gowns, came forward offering incense to Mary, in typical Vietnamese tradition. They were followed by the young people of the church, who brought forth bouquets, dancing as they, one by one, laid the flowers at the feet of the statue.

To officially begin the dedication, the priests, including Father Peter Duc Vu, administrator of the mission, and Archbishop Gregory walked to the doors of the church. There, Archbishop Gregory was given the key to the church and the plans for construction.

“Father Peter, will you please open the doors of the church,” Archbishop Gregory asked the administrator.

Immediately, a loud roar of applause sounded through the crowd as balloons were released into the sky.

The Mass was a true bilingual event, with most of the music and readings given in Vietnamese and Archbishop Gregory offering his own words in English.

In his homily he spoke of the joy the members of the mission were experiencing.

“Every Catholic community looks forward to the day when they can have their own place in which to worship God,” he said. “That day has dawned for the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs community, and I welcome it and applaud all of your hard and generous efforts to make it possible.”

“Your proud Vietnamese culture and deep Faith are clearly evident in this new venture and in the name of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, I congratulate this most recent accomplishment.”

Archbishop Gregory spoke of the importance of churches, which are the places in which some of the most important events in a person’s life take place. But he reminded the people that it is not the building that makes its occupants holy.

“The people make the building sacred—you the people of the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs are the source of the sacredness of this new church building,” he said. “It is your Catholic Faith, your dignity as God’s sons and daughters, your dedication to the Church’s teaching and moral vision that really consecrates this new space.”

A church dedication is a time to recall the importance of one’s own role in God’s kingdom, he said.

“When a new church building is dedicated like we are [doing] this evening, it is a great and proud moment for all those whose generosity made it possible for this happy day to take place,” the archbishop said. “Such a dedication is also an important opportunity for the people of a community to remind themselves and rededicate themselves to being the holy Temple of God’s Presence each day of their lives.”

The archbishop’s homily was then translated and read in Vietnamese.

The church, which sits on Timmers Way in Norcross, is the site of a former Chevrolet dealership. A large worship space seats as many as 675 people, while 10 classrooms are available to serve the over 500 children enrolled in religious education in the parish. Two social halls and office space are also part of the new church. The approximately $1.4 million project was designed by architect Khiet Nguyen and built by Arcon Construction.

Father Vu was clearly overwhelmed at the Mass by his new church and the many contributions that his parishioners made. Over 800 families attend the mission.

“Whatever you have done to help build this church is an example of sharing and of praising God,” he said to them at the dedication. “My deepest thanks to my people here. All of you make me very proud of this day. All of you are the key to this church and have made this project come true. I share with all of you the joy I see on your faces, and I’m so thankful to God for all he has given to this community.”

In addition to the members of the mission that attended the dedication, many parishioners from Holy Cross Church were there, including the pastor, Father Patrick Kingery.

Gerry Burns and Jim Petrie are parishioners at Holy Cross and said they wanted to come to the dedication to support Father Vu, their former parochial vicar.

“Father Peter has been a friend to us for a long time. He was present at the hospital when my wife died. I really just wanted to come and support him,” Petrie said.

Burns said he was captivated by the Vietnamese traditions that were infused into the Mass.

“The pageantry was just unbelievable,” he said.

Father Vu said he felt very supported by the people of Holy Cross, where he and the Vietnamese community had been gathering since 1996.

“They always supported me when I served them, and I wanted to invite all of them to come to the dedication. I was so happy that so many of them came,” he said.

Kim Huong Vu wears many hats at the mission. She is a member of the pastoral council, director of religious education and the bookkeeper. After the dedication Mass, she was busy handing out boxed dinners to guests and making sure the rest of the evening, which included live music and dancing, went smoothly.

“We’re so excited. It seems like it’s been forever,” she said. “This is a milestone for us.”

Father Vu said that they now hold four weekend Masses—one Saturday vigil Mass and three on Sunday. He said the flexibility of having their own space to meet is especially nice for the community.

“We’re just so excited and happy to have our own church,” he said. “We have good people and a good location. We hope to be here at least 50 more years.”