Tuesday, July 23, 2024

St. Anne and Our Lady of La Vang Parish Marks Centennial Celebration

Bishop Philip McDevitt came to the northside of Lancaster on December 16, 1923, to celebrate Holy Mass and the dedication of the newly-formed St. Anne Parish. That Mass was celebrated in a small chapel denoting the humble creation of a parish that stretches along the industrially-rich environs located near the rail line that turns into Philadelphia’s main line as it stretches east.

One hundred years plus one day from that 1923 December day, Bishop Timothy Senior and Bishop Emeritus Ronald Gainer celebrated Holy Mass for the dedicated faithful of a parish that has seen much change though the past century.

In January of 2022, during the Vietnamese celebrations of Tet (Chinese New Year), Bishop Gainer celebrated the Diocesan decree that changed the name of the parish from St. Anne’s to add and include Our Lady of La Vang Parish. It provides a spiritual home to more than 80 Vietnamese families who culturally and spiritually add to the diverse vibrance of the parish’s rich faith tradition in Lancaster. Under the loving eyes of Father Tri Luong, pastor for the last eight years, the unity of the parish community is an unmistakable positive witness as the parish marks a century of celebrating the Catholic faith in the Red Rose City.

Our Lady of La Vang first appeared to a tiny group of Catholics in the jungles of southeast Vietnam in 1798. The appearance of the Blessed Mother occurred at a time when Vietnamese Catholics were being persecuted for their faith. Our Lady appeared in the branches of a tree wearing traditional Vietnamese garb carrying the baby Jesus in her folded arms. “From this day on, prayers said on this spot will be heard, and answered,” the Holy Mother told them.

“I just want to thank you, Bishop Senior, for your leadership and for being here with us today on this special day,” Father Luong said after the Centennial Mass. “Bishop Gainer, we deeply appreciate you; this day would not have happened without you, and we say thank you to you…. Today is a day and time to look back with a humble heart and reflect on our past experiences and generous hands who have built this parish over the last 100 years. Everything that has come to us has not come by chance, but through God’s love and grace. I say thank you to you, the parishioners of this parish.”

In his homily in a church where the faithful surround the central sanctuary in beautiful fashion, Bishop Senior expressed his congratulations to the parish and its rich cultures.

“I invite you during this Mass to reflect on why this parish is so very important to you,” he said. “It is the same for every parish in many ways because it is here that we encounter Jesus – His presence in the sacraments…. Here we encounter Jesus, and the Church invites you to rejoice because we know He is close to us. Be open with humility to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in and with our lives.”

For a century since Bishop McDevitt came to St. Anne’s in Advent, the faithful have been humble witnesses open to God’s love and grace in Lancaster’s culturally diverse and rich community of believers.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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