State's First All-Vietnamese Parish Starts In Biloxi

The Vietnamese Catholics on the Mississippi Gulf Coast finally have a place where they can worship using their own language and culture.

On Saturday parishioners and visitors attended the first mass to be held at Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church in Biloxi, the state's first all Vietnamese Parish. For members of the newly built church attending mass in their own church and in their native language is like a dream come true.

"We have had a dream to have a personal church for the Vietnamese people here to keep their faith with the traditions," Father Domonic Phan Dong said.

When Vietnamese began arriving on the Gulf Coast, the Catholic Diocese wanted them to join the parishes in the neighborhoods where they lived instead of having a separate church, but the bishop had a change of heart, and $1.4 million later, the Vietnamese have a new church.

The church stands in the heart of the Biloxi Vietnamese Community. Some people say the services are especially meaningful to its older members.

"When they came over here they wanted to have something so that they can work with their own children, their own generation in terms of giving and handing down the treasure that they have," Father Joseph Troung Trinh of St. James Parish in Gulfport said. "So this church makes possible all of those things."

Parishioners stress that although the services are geared towards Vietnamese, everyone is invited to come and worship.

by Danielle Thomas