The Vietnamese Catholics coming to worship at Marian Days 2013 are remembering a pair of anniversaries that will form the theme of the celebration.
Father John Tran, with the Congregation of the Mother Coredemptrix, which has hosted the Marian Days celebration for the past 36 years, said the congregation itself is celebrating a birthday.
Tran spoke to members of the Carthage Chamber of Commerce Emerging Leaders as he gave the group a tour of Marian Days on Thursday.
“This year is the 60th anniversary of the birth of our community,” Tran said. “That was our mother house in Vietnam so we've celebrated in Vietnam already.
Tran said those who come to Marian Days have made the festival a yearly ritual, traveling from all over the country, but some know far less about the group that hosts Marian Days.
“They know about Marian Days in Carthage, but they don't know who we are,” he said. “We were founded in 1953 in Vietnam and we're proud to say our founder was the original Vietnamese priest. He died in 2006. He lived to be 101 years. Most of the religious communities in Vietnam were founded by other religious people from Europe and other places bringing it in, but we were born in Vietnam by a Vietnamese priest.”
The festival is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the canonization of 117 Vietnamese martyrs who gave their lives for their religion.
Pope John Paul II canonized the martyrs, which represent hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who were tortured and killed in several different eras from the 17th century to the Communist purges of the mid-20th century.
“During the procession, Saturday, we will have a big float for the saints,” Tran said. “The Church has recognized 117 but actually there were thousands.
“Our main auditorium is called the Auditorium of the Vietnamese Martyrs because inside we have a room with the relics from the martyrs. We have bones and the torture equipment they were tortured with inside. We have the actual bones of the saints and we keep them in here. This is the wall where the torture they went through is documented. It's in English and Vietnamese so you can read it. Some were beheaded, some were strangled, some were burned alive, they were horribly tortured.”
Tran said the CMC currently operates the campus in Carthage with about 120 priests and religious brothers, and its home in Vietnam with about 500 members.
He said about 60 of the members of the Carthage campus are priests and 30 of those are stationed at parishes around the country as pastors.
He said the CMC in Carthage supports itself with a printing office that prints magazines for Vietnamese parishes around the world.
Page 2 of 2 - The donations that come in at Marian Days are used by the Congregation to improve the facilities for the people who come to Marian Days.
“You see we built more restrooms and better pavement and all that stuff and the platform out front just to accommodate Marian Days,” Tran said. “People say we make money from Marian Days, but actually not. Anything we get here we try to upgrade for the next year for the people of Marian Days.”
Tran said the CMC recently purchased an acre of land and a home near the Stations of the Cross park on the south side of Fairview Avenue and is looking to buy other pieces of property around the campus to provide more room for campers during Marian Days.
“We're trying to expand as much as possible to accommodate the crowds,” Tran said. “People say we get 60,000 or 70,000 but I don't know. I say 30,000 is big enough for this space. If you have a chance to walk over to the Stations of the Cross park, it's just packed.”