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Moving Day for a Santa Ana Parish

Time Staff Writer

Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown dedicated a new Roman Catholic church in a Latino and Vietnamese neighborhood in Santa Ana on Sunday, saying it symbolized the church’s growing diversity.

“This is representative of our church in Orange County and the universal Catholic church,” Brown said, “because it brings different ethnic, racial and cultural groups together.”

Elected officials and clergy joined parishioners who arrived early to find seating inside the 16,000-square-foot Our Lady of La Vang church. Those who arrived late stood five deep or sat in an overflow area.

Father Joseph Nguyen, pastor of the parish, welcomed officials and congregants in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Next week, Masses will be in all three languages.

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The structure is Orange County’s first circular Catholic church, its first with a Vietnamese name and the first in the diocese designed with multiculturalism in mind.

With a circular interior and a square exterior, the church’s architecture mixes influences from East and West.

Most congregants praised the church, but some older people in the community were disappointed that the new parish would absorb nearby Our Lady of Lourdes, which will be closed.

“People are independent and they can make their own choices,” said Fidel Pedraza, 45, of Santa Ana, who had worshiped at Our Lady of Lourdes. “My wife and I like it here. It’s a modern world, and the reality is that there are different races living here now. Some people just don’t like change.”

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Tot Le, wife Bich Thuy and their daughter Vicki, of Maryland, were vacationing in Orange County when they read about the dedication online.

“We’re really happy to have a Vietnamese-named church to go to, and also happy to hear it’s in all three languages,” said Le, adding that their home church was also named La Vang.

Our Lady of La Vang refers to a vision of Mary, who Catholics believe first appeared in Vietnam’s La Vang forest in 1798 and protected Vietnamese Catholics from persecution. A church by that name, built in 1901, was rebuilt in 1928 and eventually destroyed in the summer of 1972 during the Vietnam War. Our Lady of La Vang church in Orange County houses a statue of its namesake.

After the ceremony, people mingled outside, listening to entertainment and snacking on food from various cultures.

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Vietnamese women in ao dais -- traditional silk tunics and pants -- watched Latino children dance folklorico, while children from both cultures sampled egg rolls and xoi gac, a colorful rice mixture.

Martin Nguyen, 38, of Fountain Valley, the pastor’s brother, ate while his girlfriend, Tracy Tran, looked on.

“It’s a tamale. Man, I love tamales,” Nguyen said.


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