30 years in the making
Vietnamese celebrate three decades of Catholic presence
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
GARDEN CITY – It was a celebration 30 years in the making for Vietnamese Catholics, who gathered Oct. 27 at St. Dominic Church to recognize three decades since the founding of the Vietnamese Catholic community in Garden City.
At a Mass preceding a dinner reception, women in colorful native garb, their husbands, children or grandchildren beside them, listened as Bishop John Brungardt bid them congratulations on their anniversary and thanked them for their contributions and faith-filled service to the Church of Southwest Kansas.
“I’m so happy to be here to help celebrate this community of faith,” the bishop said. Next to the bishop stood Father Terrance Klein, who had one week left to serve St. Dominic’s before taking his assignment as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Father Louis Trung Dinh, and Father Trong Tran (who now uses his baptismal name of Father “Peter” Tran).
Following the fall of the U.S.-backed Saigon government in 1975, the first wave of refugees from Vietnam began arriving in Kansas, settling mostly in larger cities. In the early 1980s, as thousands more refugees arrived, they moved into the smaller towns of Liberal, Dodge City, and Garden City. It was in 1982 when the first Vietnamese Catholic community was formed in Garden City, Sacred Heart of Blessed Virgin Mary. The first priest to serve the community was Father Vu Dai Luong, CMC.
Much of the anniversary Mass was celebrated in Vietnamese. Bishop Brungardt offered a brief homily in English highlighting the service of the Vietnamese people to the Church (service is one of the four Pillars of Stewardship), which allowed Father Trung to follow with a homily in Vietnamese, during which he filtered through the aisles, asking people where they were and what they were doing in 1982. Some in attendance had still been years away from finding refuge in the United States in 1982, while others were working hard to create a home in a land so far from that which they knew and loved.
For those who don’t speak Vietnamese, the language can seem impossibly complex. Yet, the combination of words and pronunciations created a sort of chanting effect during prayer. If one closed their eyes and recognized Christ emanating through each phrase, it wasn’t difficult to become taken in by the hypnotic effect of the prayers and song. After Mass, the bishop commented on the beauty of the language and its effect on him during Mass. It was the first time Bishop Brungardt had officiated at a Vietnamese Mass.
After a dinner reception that included a table brimming with Vietnamese food -- including quail egg soup – Bishop Brungardt was honored with the gift of a statue of Our Lady. The priests were also presented gifts, as were the organizers of the event.
The women in Vietnamese dress were invited to receive a rose from Bishop Brungardt. They then lined up for a makeshift pageant, in which the judges were several young children. Controversy arose (much to the delight of all those gathered) when the winner turned out to be the mother of several of the children.
Before a band began playing, all of the children were invited to take part in a potato sack race. Despite a few roll-overs, the event brought laughter and applause.