After the fall of the Second Republic of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese people from both the North and the South fled from the country by land and by sea, seeking asylums in neighbouring countries. From there, the Vietnamese were accepted into third free world countries as political refugees, recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. In May 1975, Vietnamese refugees began to arrive in Vancouver, and the Vietnamese Catholic Community formed gradually as follows:
During this time, the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Vancouver were few, and about twice a year, Father Dominic Pham Van Bao, O.P would come from Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver, BC, to celebrate Masses and take part in activities with the Vietnamese congregation.
Confronted with a new life in a foreign country and struggling with language barriers, Vietnamese Catholics could not participate in Masses and liturgical activities in English, so they petitioned Archbishop James Carney to sponsor a priest from Vietnam to serve in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
In 1978, through the recommendation of Father Dominic Pham Van Bao, OP, the Archdiocese of Vancouver invited Father Dominic Nguyen Huu Luong, from the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, to care for the Vietnamese Catholic community in Vancouver.
The Blessed Sacrament Parish, located at Heather Street, was borrowed from the French congregation to celebrate Masses in Vietnamese on the weekends. A few years later, the Vietnamese Catholic community in Vancouver was growing by the day. Father Dominic Nguyen Huu Long, a parochial administrator, borrowed St. Casimir’s Parish at 1187 East 27th Avenue from the Polish community. However, the liturgical activities could not be scheduled at convenient times, so again, the Vietnamese Congregation needed to borrow Sacred Heart Parish at Campbell and Keefer for their activities.
Due to the obligations of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, Father Dominic Nguyen Huu Luong was unable to continue caring for the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Vancouver. Hence, he introduced the Vietnamese Dominican Vicarate to the Archdiocese of Vancouver, asking them to request a priest from Vietnam to care for the Vietnamese Congregation in Vancouver. In 1988, Father Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Phi, O.P was appointed as a pastor of the Vietnamese Congregation.
In 1994, Father Joseph Dinh Van Nghi, O.P was sent to Vancouver to assist the Congregation while continuing to hold retreats in North America. To preserve the Vietnamese culture for following generations, Father Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Phi, along with the Parish Pastoral Council, asked the Archbishop for permission to build a separate church for the Vietnamese Congregation, but the project was postponed because the time was not opportune.
Because of the obligations of the Dominican Vicariate, Father Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Phi, O.P was transferred to care for the Vietnamese Catholic Community in the city of Calgary, Alberta. Aiming to assign a new priest, Archbishop Exner decided to elevate the Vietnamese Catholic Community to the status of a parish, appointing Father Joseph Dinh Van Nghi, O.P as pastor, and Father Dominic Ngo Hung Nghia, O.P as assistant pastor.
In 1997, the Archdiocese decided to integrate the Vietnamese Catholic Community into St. Joseph’s Parish, located at 1612 East 18th Avenue, Vancouver. The liturgical rites and activities of the parish were bilingual, in Vietnamese and English. Father Nghi was appointed as pastor of the congregation at St. Joseph’s.
In 1998, Father Peter Tran Cong Hung, O.P was sent to the parish to serve as assistant pastor. From then, all parish activities continued to thrive and catechism and courses in Vietnamese carried on.
In 2003, Father Joseph Dang Quoc An, O.P was appointed as assistant pastor, replacing Father Peter Tran Cong Hung. During this time, the Dominican Fraternity was formally established, adding a spiritual achievement to the parish.
In 2004, Father Joseph Dinh Van Nghi, after five years of serving St. Joseph’s Parish, received permission from the Vietnamese Dominican Vicariate to continue studies in Rome. Thereafter, Father Pham Huong, O.P was appointed as superior of the Vietnamese Dominicans in British Columbia, and concurrently the pastor of St. Joseph’s, continuing the pastoral activities of the Vietnamese Dominican Vicariate in Western Canada.
The work of building the parish and the continued parish activities helped preserve the Vietnamese culture for future generations. The Vietnamese Catholic Community in Vancouver was one of the active places under the supervision of Archbishop Raymond Roussin and the Vietnamese Dominican Vicariate.
Under the supervision of Archbishiop Michael J. Miller, the Vietnamese Catholic Community continues to grow and flourish over time in our mission as witnesses to the Gospel in honouring the names of our ancestors who lived exemplary lives as martyrs to adorn the history of the Church in Vietnam.
Rev. Paul Dzung Trung Tran, O.P, Pastor
Rev. Vincent Thao Ngoc Dinh, O.P, pastor
Rev. Martin Tuyen Thanh Nguyen, O.P, Parochial Administrator
Rev. Martin Tuyen Thanh Nguyen, O.P, Pastor
(Author: Rev. Peter Huong Pham, O.P)