Bishop Kevin Vann dedicated and consecrated the largest Catholic Vietnamese church in the U.S. in the city of Arlington, Texas on Dec. 10.
The $6.8 million church’s distinctive architecture includes a 75-foot bell tower and over 750,000 pounds of Vietnamese marble and granite on both the exterior and interior of the church. The main altar and chapel altar are made of marble from Vietnam.
The 29,000 sq. ft. church will hold 2,000 people, and nearby facilities include a small chapel and offices.
Ten statues of various saints, including the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and Sts. Peter and Paul, are also made of Vietnamese marble. The interior walls have stained glass depicting the capture or execution of the 117 Catholic martyrs who died in Vietnamese persecutions in the 19th century.
The American oak pews are from material shipped to Vietnam for carving before their return to Arlington, according to the Diocese of Ft. Worth.
“A church's size and quality is basically the best of everything the people can offer to God,” Khiet Nguyen, a member of the architectural firm which designed the church, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Pat Svacina, a spokesman for the diocese, also commented on the church.
“This is impressive because these folks came to this country several decades ago with nothing on their backs,” he said. “Now they're honoring God for what he's given them by building this church in thanksgiving for him.”
The new church replaces the parish’s previous gathering space, an old Food Lion supermarket building. Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Parish was established in the year 2000.
On average, over 3,500 people attend the four weekend Masses at the church. All are in Vietnamese, with a portion of the 12:30 p.m. Sunday Mass in English.
Parish pastor Fr. Polycarp Duc Thuan, C.M.C., said that more than 500,000 Vietnamese fled the communist regime after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Catholic relief agencies helped refugees resettle into the Arlington area where the Vietnamese helped each other overcome difficulties with language and the new culture while maintaining their strong Catholic faith.
The Arlington Vietnamese Catholic community initially consisted of only a dozen families who attended St. Matthew Catholic Church in southeast Arlington.