Families in the Catholic faith have reached their destination of Carthage.
For the rest of this week, the block surrounding the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix will be overwhelmed with people and bustling with activity. For Joseph and Tuyen Vu, of Keller, Texas, this makes the 13th year they have set up a temporary home on the campus off of Grand Avenue.
“We do this every year,” Joseph said. “Some come a couple of weeks before it all starts just to reserve tents and space. We arrived yesterday (July 31) morning – my family of 15.”
Yes, 15 children, 10 of which are adopted, but all speak fluent Vietnamese. Joseph said speaking the language helps preserve their heritage for the children that range in ages from three months to 18 years old.
How are they all handling their visit?
“They love it,” Joseph said as some of his sons chased grasshoppers across the lawn. “They have a blast. The first two days is just us camping, cooking and playing. Thursday is the grand opening ceremony and we have mass. But you should be here Saturday afternoon.”
For Joseph, the annual balloon release is the most spiritual experience of the trip.
“We believe through this we feel closer to God,” he said. “It's a chance to thank God for the great years.”
Joseph, originally from Vietnam, has lived in the United States for 20 years. Even though every year brings a new experience, one thing he can always count on.
“The heat is always the same,” he said with a smile. “I consider it a pilgrimage, it's a journey to teach children to overcome their hardships – detach from the conveniences of life … This isn't just for Catholics, but for everybody to come see why these people travel from all over the world.”
Joseph said he was on the campus in 2007 when there was a gang-related stabbing, and in 2008 when there was a tragic bus accident involving many people on their way to Marion Days.
“Everything happens for the glory of God,” Joseph said. “These things are not going to scare people away. It's not like entire gangs are here, but if someone from that type of background is here, we can pray for them and let them see goodness.”