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Our Lady of La Salette and Saint Joseph Catholic Church

Parish Priest: Canon Michael Cooley
Melior Street, London SE1 3QP
020 7407 1948

e-mail:   lasalette.melior@gmail.com








During much of the 18th century, the nation of Vietnam was embattled in various struggles for power and domination. The northern regions of the kingdom fell under the authority of the lords of the Trinh family, while in the southern realm the Nguyen lords took power. As the eighteenth century drew toward its close, both of their rules were shaken and threatened by peasant uprisings and emerging rebel forces.

The strongest among the many uprisings was led by the three brothers from Tay Son. In short order, they overthrew the Nguyen lords and defeated the Trinh lords to restore national unity for the first time since the decline of the Le dynasty. A Tay Son brother was enthroned to be King Quang Trung. In 1792 he passed away and left the throne to his son who became King Canh Thinh.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Anh continued his insurgency in trying to reclaim his throne. Earlier in his run from the Tay Son rebels in 1777, he found refuge on Phu Quoc Island, where Monsignor Pierre Pigneau de Behaine of the Society of Foreign Missions directed a seminary for youths from neighbouring countries. The bishop persuaded him to seek help from King Louis XVI of France.

King Canh Thinh knew that Nguyen Anh received support from the French missionary and worried that the Vietnamese Catholics would also endorse his reign. He began to restrict the practice of Catholicism in the country. On August 17, 1798, King Canh Thinh issued an anti-Catholic edict and an order to destroy all Catholic churches and seminaries. A most grievous persecution of Vietnamese Catholics and missionaries began and lasted until 1886. Even after Nguyen Anh succeeded in reclaiming his throne as King Gia Long (1802-1820), his successors, King Minh Mang (1820-1840), King Thieu Tri (1841-1847) and King Tu Duc (1847-1884), the last Nguyen Emperor, continued the vehement campaign against Catholics, ordering punishments that ranged from branding their faces to death by various cruel methods for Vietnamese Catholics and missionary priests.

It was amidst this great suffering that the Lady of La Vang came to the people of Vietnam. The name La Vang was believed to be originated in the name of the deep forest in the central region of Vietnam (now known as Quang Tri City) where there was an abundance of a kind of trees named La Vang. It was also said that its name came from the Vietnamese meaning of the word "Crying Out" to denote the cries for help of people being persecuted.

The first apparition of the Lady of La Vang was noted in 1798, when the persecution of Vietnamese Catholics began. Many Catholics from the nearby town of Quang Tri sought refuge in the deep forest of La Vang. A great number of these people suffered from the bitter cold weather, lurking wild beasts, jungle sickness and starvation. At night, they often gathered in small groups to say the rosary and to pray. Unexpectedly, one night they were visited by an apparition of a beautiful Lady in a long cape, holding a child in her arms, with two angels at her sides. The people recognized the Lady as Our Blessed Mother.

Our Blessed Mother comforted them and told them to boil the leaves from the surrounding trees to use as medicine. She also told them that from that day on, all those who came to this place to pray would get their prayers heard and answered. This took place on the grass area near the big ancient banyan tree where the refugees were praying. All those who were present witnessed this miracle. After this first apparition, the Blessed Mother continued to appear to the people in this same place many times throughout the period of nearly one hundred years of religious persecution. Among many groups of Vietnamese Catholics that were burnt alive because of their faith was a group of 30 people who were seized after they came out of their hiding place in the forest of La Vang. At their request, they were taken back to the little chapel of La Vang and were immolated there on its ground.

From the time the Lady of La Vang first appeared, the people who took refuge there erected a small and desolate chapel in her honour. During the following years, her name was spread among the people in the region to other places. Despite its isolated location in the high mountains, groups of people continued to find ways to penetrate the deep and dangerous jungle to pray to the Lady of La Vang. Gradually, the pilgrims that came with axes, spears, canes, and drums to scare away wild animals were replaced by those holding flying flags, flowers and rosaries. The pilgrimages went on every year despite the continuous persecution campaigns.

In 1886, after the persecution had officially ended, Bishop Gaspar ordered a church to be built in honour of the Lady of La Vang. Because of its precarious location and limited funding, it took 15 years for the completion of the church of La Vang. It was inaugurated by Bishop Gaspar in a solemn ceremony that participated by over 12,000 people and lasted from August 6th to 8th, 1901. The bishop proclaimed the Lady of La Vang as the Protectorate of the Catholics. In 1928, a larger church was built to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. This church was destroyed in the summer of 1972 during the Vietnam war.

The history of the Lady of La Vang continues to gain greater significance as more claims from people whose prayers were answered were validated. In April of 1961, the Council of Vietnamese Bishops selected the holy church of La Vang as the National Sacred Marian Centre. In August of 1962, Pope John XXIII elevated the church of La Vang to The Basilica of La Vang. On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II in the canonizing ceremony of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, publicly and repeatedly recognized the importance and significance of the Lady of La Vang and expressed a desire for the rebuilding of the La Vang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady of La Vang in August of 1998.

Text provided courtesy of Kim-Oanh Nguyen-Lam


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To Archbishop Etienne Nguyen Nhu The of Hue, Viet Nam

1.  On the occasion of the closure of the Marian Year and the 25th three-yearly pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, I join through prayer the Vietnamese faithful and pilgrims who have entrusted themselves to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, asking this most holy Mother to guide the Catholic Church in Viet Nam on her journey to the Lord, and to help her in the witness she must bear on the threshold of the third millennium.

"For 2,000 years, the Church has been the cradle in which Mary places Jesus and entrusts him to the adoration and contemplation of all peoples" (Bull of Induction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Incarnationis mysterium, n. 11), who never tire of calling upon the Mother of all mercy. People always find shelter and courage under her protection. In fact, Mary "shines forth on earth ... a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God" (Lumen gentium, n. 68) in the midst of the difficulties of this world. She is the mother of the pilgrim Church to which she continues to give birth, constantly inviting people to accept God’s promise as she did and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be Gospel missionaries.

2.  By enrolling in her school, especially on the threshold of the Great Jubilee, when they will be called to an ever deeper conversion, the faithful will assert their faith, be more attentive to the Word of God and will be available for their brothers and sisters. For all Christ’s disciples, Mary is the model par excellence of Christian life. She prepares our hearts to receive Christ, instructing us, just as she did the servants at the wedding at Cana, to do whatever he tells us (cf. Jn 2:5). She invites us to reach out to those who need our help, as she herself did with her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-45). Thus from our beloved Mother we receive a "taste" of the encounter with God and the mission among our brethren, which are the two aspects of Christian love.

When we turn to Mary our hope is revived. Indeed, she is a part of our humanity, and in her we contemplate the glory God promises to those who respond to his call. I therefore invite the faithful to put their trust in our common Mother, often invoked under the title Star of the Sea, so that, amid the storms of sin and the sometimes painful events of history, they will remain firmly anchored to Christ and bear witness to his love. "Following her, you will never lose your way; imploring her, you will never know despair; thinking of her, you will avoid all errors. With her support, you will not fall; with her protection, you will have nothing to fear; under her guidance, you will never be tired; thanks to her favour, you will reach the goal" (St Bernard, Second Homily on the Gospel passage: "The Angel Gabriel was sent").

3.  In going to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, so dear to the hearts of the Vietnamese faithful, pilgrims entrust to her their joys and their sorrows, their hopes and their sufferings. In this way they turn to God and make themselves intercessors for their families and for their entire people asking the Lord to instil sentiments of peace, brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of all men and women, so that all the Vietnamese will be every day more closely united, in order to build a world in which it is pleasant to live, based on the essential spiritual and moral values and where each person can be recognized in his dignity as a child of God, and turn freely and with filial love to his Father in heaven who is "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4).

4.  I am particularly close to you in my thoughts at this time when the Church in your country is honouring the Mother of the Saviour; I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady of La Vang and cordially impart to you and all your pastors an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the pilgrims who will visit the shrine in the spirit of the Jubilee and to all the Catholic faithful in Viet Nam.

From the Vatican, 16 July 1999


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From all eternity, together with the Incarnation of the divine Word, the Blessed Virgin was predestined to be the Mother of God. By the will of divine Providence, she was the loving mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others in a unique way she was the willing partner and the humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and shared the suffering of His Son as He died on the cross. In an utterly singular way she co-operated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Saviour’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross; it will last without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Once assumed into heaven, she did not set aside this saving role, but with her numerous prayers of intercession continues to win for us the gifts of eternal salvation.

By her maternal charity, Mary cares for the brethren of her Son who still wander through this world in the midst of dangers and difficulties until they are led to the happiness of their heavenly home.

The Second Vatican Council
The Constitution on the Church

O Mary, Star of the Sea, light of every ocean, guide seafarers across all dark and stormy seas that they may reach the haven of peace and light prepared in Him who calmed the sea.

As we set forth upon the oceans of the world and cross the deserts of our time, show us, O Mary, the fruit of your womb, for without your Son we are lost.

Pray that we will never fail on life's journey, that in heart and mind, in word and deed, in days of turmoil and in days of calm, we will always look to Christ and say, "Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?" Bright Star of the Sea, guide us!

Pope John Paul II


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A Gift from Viet Nam to the World

The Virgin Mary as ‘Mother of Refugees’ is being honoured in new Knights of Columbus prayer program

By Tim S. Hickey (Knights of Columbus: COLUMBIA, May 2005)

In the Lenten meditations he prepared for Pope John Paul II and Vatican officials in 2000, the late Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan described the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Mother of unity who embraces all of her children dispersed throughout the world.”

The Mother of Jesus, he said, “reveals the Marian profile of the Church, a family Church, a fraternal Church that is welcoming and solidly united. With Mary, we feel as brothers and sisters among ourselves.”

On Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Marian profile of the Church and of the Knights of Columbus was especially evident at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Parish in Arlington, Va. More than 700 parishioners and members of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Council 9655 helped launch a new program honouring Mary under her title Our Lady of Bai Dau.

The centrepiece of the program is a 2-foot-tall statue of Our Lady of Bai Dau. It was welcomed to the parish by Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, a member of Cathedral Council 6790 in Arlington. Through the remainder of 2005 and into 2006, the statue will make a pilgrimage to several U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions where a Marian prayer service will be led by local Knights and Vietnamese Catholics. A Mass and Marian program in the spring of 2006 in Washington, D.C., will officially conclude the pilgrimage program.


Our Lady of Bai Dau has special meaning to many Vietnamese Catholics. In the coastal city of Vung Tau, near Sai Gon City, there is a shrine dedicated to her. The shrine features a 65-foot-tall statue of Mary holding aloft the Infant Jesus, as if she is presenting him to the world. After the fall of Saigon to the Communists in 1975, as tens of thousands of Vietnamese fled their homeland by boat from Vung Tau, the statue of Our Lady of Bai Dau was the last image many of them had of their homeland. She is honoured as “Mother of Refugees.”

The statue being used in the pilgrimage was given to District of Columbia Knights by the bishops of Vietnam following a November 2003 visit to Washington, where they were special guests at the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. State Deputy Charles H. Gallina, a retired U.S. Marine colonel who served four tours in Vietnam, met with the bishops and arranged for transportation and hospitality during their stay. At the end of their visit, Bishop Paul Nguyen Van Hoa, president of the Vietnamese bishops’ conference, presented the Knights with the statue as a show of gratitude.

The D.C. Knights presented the statue to Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson earlier this year for the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven. At the conclusion of the pilgrimage, the statue will again be displayed in the museum.


Prior to the Feb. 11 Mass, the statue of Our Lady of Bai Dau was placed on a flowered platform and carried aloft by Knights around the parish grounds. A 14-member Fourth Degree honour guard led the procession behind a Knight beating a small Asian hand drum. The Dominican priests who staff Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Parish led the faithful in prayers and songs to Mary. Also taking part was Supreme Treasurer Deacon Kenneth N. Ryan.

Dominican Father John Baptist Vuong Duc Nguyen, pastor, helped write the prayer book and develop the program. Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Mai Luong of the Diocese of Orange in California has also contributed to the program’s development. Bishop Luong is the first bishop of Vietnamese descent in the U.S. Church.

In a message printed in Vietnamese in the booklet, Bishop Luong thanked the Knights for spearheading this program. “The Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington is doing us a favour by inviting Our Lady of Bai Dau to the various Vietnamese Catholic communities around the country,” he wrote. “May Jesus, through the intercession of Our Lady, grant many blessings to all who participate in this pilgrimage to honour our Lord and Our Lady of Bai Dau.”

In his homily, Bishop Loverde said Our Lady of Bai Dau shows Mary as the “Mother of God, presenting Jesus to the world.” Her role “is to give us the greatest gift that God the Father could give us: his own Son to be our saviour.”

During the Year of the Eucharist now under way, Bishop Loverde said, we should listen closely to the words Mary spoke at the wedding feast of Cana when she instructed the wine stewards to follow Jesus’ lead and “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. John 2:1-12).

“We rejoice that we can listen to our mother’s advice and we pledge that we will truly listen and do what he tells us. He tells us to be united to him in the Eucharist. He tells us to believe in the Good News of the Gospel of salvation. He tells us to go forth in the real world and be his presence for a Church renewed,” Bishop Loverde said.

As the Our Lady of Bai Dau pilgrimage begins, he said, it is an opportunity for the faithful to walk with Mary on their way to heaven. “One day, at our journey’s end, we will see not a statue of Mary holding out Jesus to us. We will see Mary herself pointing out to us Jesus, our saviour.”


Le N. Nguyen, financial secretary of Council 9655, is helping coordinate the Our Lady of Bai Dau pilgrimage. He said that the inaugural Mass and prayer service was a “moving moment” for the Knights and families of the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam community.

“Our mission has just begun,” said Nguyen. “We want to glorify our beloved mother, Our Lady of Bai Dau.”

Nguyen said he believed the pilgrimage program “is a great way to introduce the Knights of Columbus to other Vietnamese Catholics in the United States, Canada and in Vietnam.” News about the pilgrimage is being featured on at least two Vietnamese Catholic Web sites.

State Deputy Gallina agreed. “From my experience the Vietnamese are a very spiritual people. The Knights of Columbus can offer these men an opportunity to express further their Catholic faith, and Our Lady of Bai Dau can help us.

“For me personally, as a Vietnam veteran, I have a very special love and respect for the Vietnamese people. It is important for me to do anything I can do through the Knights to help foster and spread the Catholic faith and the Order through the rosary and prayer.”


Thu Bui, one of the founding members of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Council, said he and his wife had recently visited Vietnam and paid their respects to Mary at the Our Lady of Bai Dau Shrine in Vung Tau. “It is an honour to welcome her over here,” he said.

“As many of us were leaving our homeland, fleeing the Communists in our leaky boats, she was on the hill looking out for us,” said Bui.

“All immigrants, all boat people, anyone escaping repression can find hope and freedom in Our Lady of Bai Dau. She is the hope for the whole world.”

Tim S. Hickey is editor of Columbia


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The 117 Martyrs of Vietnam (+1745-1862)
- Andrea Dung-Lac
- Tommaso Thien and Emanuele Phung
- Girolamo Hermosilla
- Valentino Berrio Ochoa, O.P. and 6 Bishops
- Teofano Venard and 105 companions (+1745-1862)
19 JUNE 1988, Saint Peter's Square by Pope John Paul II

Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church

The College of Cardinals meets in a conclave to elect the new pope. The cardinals,
appointed by the previous popes, serve as the pope's principal counsellors.

Pope: Elected by College of Cardinals.

Cardinal: Chosen by pope, usually from among the bishops.

Archbishop: Highest-ranking bishop, heads archdiocese or province.

Bishop: Heads diocese (territory that includes a large number of parishes).

Monsignor: An honorary title.

Pastor: Head of a community parish: administers sacraments, preaches, blesses, and guides the faithful.

Deacon: Parish cleric.


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Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Sai Gon City (Viet Nam), was born in 1934 in Hoa Thanh, Ca Mau, Vietnam. He was ordained a priest on 25 May 1965.

Following ordination, Cardinal Pham Minh Man was a teacher at the Minor Seminary of Beato Quy in Cai Rang (Can Tho). In 1975, due to the radical change of political system in South Vietnam, the Church underwent persecution and the seminaries were closed or confiscated by the State. During this period, Cardinal Pham Minh Man was made responsible for the formation of priests. In 1988, when six major seminaries in Vietnam were again opened, he was appointed as rector of the Seminary of Santo Quy in Cai Rang, and had to face numerous difficulties, including a lack of professors.

On 22 March 1993 he was nominated Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of My Tho with the right of succession, and was ordained on 11 August. On 1 March 1998 he was nominated Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the consistory of 21 October 2003, of the Title of St. Justin.

Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, Archbishop emeritus of Ha Noi (Viet Nam), was born on 15 June 1919 in Binh-Hoa, in the Diocese of Phat Diem. Ordained to the priesthood on 6 June 1949, he was named Bishop of Bac Ninh on 5 April 1963 and received his Episcopal ordination on 15 August that year.

He was called to assume the role of Apostolic Administrator of Ha Noi on 18 June 1990, after the death of Cardinal Joseph Trinh Van Can on 18 May. On 23 March 1994, he was appointed Archbishop of Ha Noi.

He formed councils of lay people in the parishes, their number varying according to the importance of the parishes, to be responsible for the continuation of religious life in the local communities and provide a three-year marriage course for the young people.

Another initiative promoted by the former Bishop Pham Dinh Tung was the foundation of a secular institute for boys and girls for the purpose of training them as catechists. The initiative has had excellent results and these young catechists, travelling all over the country guaranteeing catechetical courses everywhere, especially to children.

The results of this work of evangelization were demonstrated in a Jubilee Year proclaimed to mark the centenary of Bac Ninh Cathedral's foundation. The celebrations began on 8 December 1992 and ended exactly a year later. It was recorded that more than 30 thousand faithful visited the mother church of the Diocese.

In 1990, John Paul II promoted the Bishop to Ha Noi, first as Apostolic Administrator and subsequently on 23 March 1994 as Archbishop.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the Consistory of 26 November 1994, of the Title of St. Mary Queen of Peace in Ostia.


Weeping Virgin Mary is hailed as miracle

Red stains are seen running from the left eye of a statue of the Virgin Mary at the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church in Sacramento, California.

According to Anthony Nguyen, a deacon at the church, the stains first appeared more than a week ago, but they were wiped away. The stains reappeared a week later. Visitors have been flocking to the church to see what many are calling a miracle.

Initially, priests at the church thought that the red stain down the face of the statue was just a prank, but once they washed the 'tears' away more returned the following weekend. - The Universe newspaper, Sunday December 11, 2005.


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Ten Rules of Life

Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan received his Cardinal hat from the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II in Rome on 21st February 2001.

By the late Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
1928 - 2002

1.      I will live the present moment to the fullest.

2.      I will discern between God and God's works.

3.      I will hold firmly to one secret: prayer.

4.      I will see in the Holy Eucharist my only power.

5.      I will have only one wisdom: the science of the Cross.

6.      I will remain faithful to my mission in the Church and for the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ.

7.      I will seek the peace the world cannot give.

8.      I will carry out a revolution by renewal in the Holy Spirit.

9.      I will speak one language and wear one uniform: Charity.

10. I will have one very special love: The Blessed Virgin Mary.


Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan


A group of Australian bishops has celebrated an intimate and moving Mass in honour of Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, whose life of love and hope in the face of extreme adversity made him one of the most inspiring Church figures of the 20th Century. Cardinal Thuan, who died in 2002, spent 13 years in prison under the Vietnamese Communist regime, nine years of that in solitary confinement. His body lies in a Rome cemetery, in the Chapel of the Canons of St Peter's Basilica. While in prison he countered the terrible conditions and isolation with a gentle but powerful spirituality of hope, founded in the message of love of Jesus Christ. After his release from prison, Cardinal Thuan went on to be appointed as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice, Development and Peace. He died in Rome. The Church in Australia has a special link with Cardinal Thuan, whose 102-year-old mother Elizabeth and sister Anne Nguyen Thi Ham-Tieu and family live in Sydney. A number of the bishops, in Rome on their ad limina visit, took up the opportunity to honour Cardinal Thuan with Mass for the repose of his soul. The principal celebrant of the Mass, on the feast of the Annunciation, was Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong. Also concelebrating were Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop Francis Carroll, Archbishop Philip Wilson, Bishop Pat Dougherty and Bishop Hilton Deakin.


In his homily, Bishop Ingham said Cardinal Thuan's enduring message was one of Christian hope. "Francis bore this hope as any true priest and bishop must," he said.


"He was a gentle man who had such wonderful strength. ”As we gather today and pray for him and for the repose of his soul, we pray also for his family who are feeling close to us today, that this prophetic man will be taken into the joy of heaven and his example will continue to inspire us to be people of great hope and heart because of Jesus who has come to us through the womb of the Virgin Mary. "Also attending the Mass was an aunt of the late Cardinal as well as a small group of Vietnamese priests and religious in Rome who had known or worked with the Cardinal.


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