By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published April 3, 2014
RIVERDALE—The Vietnamese community in Riverdale celebrated the recent expansion of its facilities with the blessing of its new parish hall, called the Holy Martyrs of Viet Nam Parish Hall.
About 850 families worship at Our Lady of Vietnam Church, located 13 miles south of downtown Atlanta.
The event took place on Sunday, Feb. 2, which was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The day also fell on the Lunar New Year, which began the Year of the Horse. Members of the Eucharistic Youth Ministry at the parish performed as a dancing dragon, a custom to welcome the Year of the Horse, said Father Peter Duc Vu, parochial vicar. The pastor is Msgr. Francis Pham Van Phuong.
The celebration included many traditions, such as lucky money given to the children by the church elders, firecrackers, sticky rice cakes and a lot of Vietnamese traditional food, said Father Vu.
The parish, established in 1998, is approaching its 20th anniversary in 2018. Clayton County has seen a boost in the Catholic population since its founding. Nearly a third of the parish lives in Morrow and the area has seen a 24 percent increase in Catholics in 10 years. It is one of two churches that serve Vietnamese Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
With Vietnamese traditions, the community celebrated the completion of $2.3 million in renovations to its parish. A new 9,000-square-foot pavilion was built on the campus, in addition to improvements to the existing parish hall and classrooms.
Father Vu said the parish, due to its growth, has dreamed of having enough buildings to host any activities it needs, whether for worship or social gatherings, and even for sports at the outdoor pavilion. With financial sacrifices and a lot of volunteer work to cut down on the construction cost, the project is now completed, he said.
“Now our dream comes true,” he said.
The existing gymnasium was converted into a hall for Masses on Sunday with a capacity of 1,000 seats for services and other activities. The kitchen and its commercial equipment can be used for cooking or catering any event. The pavilion can be used for other outdoor activities or gatherings year round because there are doors that can be rolled up or down to keep it comfortable in any type of weather, the priest said.