Marian Days 2010 had its official kick-off declared by Springfield – Cape Girardeau Bishop James V. Johnston at a 7:00 p.m. outdoor Mass last night attended by tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics from throughout the U.S. and Canada. But the Vietnamese who travel to Carthage, Missouri each year in thanks to and in honor of Our Lady had clearly already been there for a while.
In fact, the 130 mile drive down south on 71 highway from Kansas City was not what I’d expected. I’d driven through another mass gathering in an isolated location before – the annual Harley rally in Sturgis, South Dakota – and you could see it coming for three states. But here, I approached Carthage on a virtually empty highway, and even along route 571 into town, there was no traffic and no Vietnamese to be seen walking along the streets.
I was beginning to worry this year’s event would be a flop. It wasn’t until I turned a corner onto the campus of the Dòng Đồng Công religious order (Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix) that I saw the massive camp city of Vietnamese Catholics. Every single inch of the massive grass areas around the main buildings of the campus that wasn’t being used for an official function had a tent on it. While Marian Days doubles or triples (and more) the 13,000 population of Carthage each year, the impact is very compact, in and around the home of this religious order.
Of course, many prefer not to rough it and stay in hotels. I booked late, so I’m staying in Joplin, 15 miles away, and even here the guests are mostly Vietnamese.
So on to some pics:
At the entrance
Inside Assumption Hall, people stop to pray at the statues of various saints, each with their own neon halo.
The real reason I’m here – food. Making fresh rice wrappers here.
Thang Tran served me up my first and very excellent bowl of phở đặc biệt. He’s raising money to build a bigger church for his growing parish on Oklahoma City. The children pictured are helping out, but aren’t his. Thang just got married three weeks ago.
Sister M. Julianna of the Holy Family of Nazareth is selling foor to raise money to build a new church for her 1,200 family parish in Arlington, Texas. They currently worship in a converted Food Lion. Sister Julianna is the DRE.
Entrance Procession for Opening Day Mass.
A similar number of priests and sisters flanked the other side of the altar at the opening Mass. I counted about 160 concelebrants.
Bishop James V. Johnston
Bringing up the gifts.
More pics and posts to follow.