On Saturday, July 1, 2017 more than 1000 people gathered to dedicate the new Our Lady of La Vang shrine on the Carmelite property in Middletown, NY. The day began with Eucharistic Adoration in the St Alberts chapel. After the adoration all gathered at the La Vang shrine under tents for two conferences given by Fr John Francis Toan Vu The, SJ who spoke on the Catholic devotion to Mary especially under the title of Our Lady of La Vang. Sr Maria Goretti Duyen Nguyen SCC at the same time gave conferences to the children who were present. She also had various activities for them.
After lunch the rosary was recited near the outdoor shrine. The day culminated with a procession from the St Alberts chapel to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lavng. After the procession, the Shrine was blessed by Bishop Joseph Phuong Nguyen, Bishop of Kamloops, British Colombia, Canada. At the mass that followed Bishop Joseph was the main celebrant and Fr Michael Kissane, O.Carm, the Prior Provincial of the Carmelites along with Fr John Francis Toan Vu The were the main concelebrants. Many other Carmelites, diocesan priests and religious were present for the occasion.
In his homily Bishop Joseph thanked the Carmelites for erecting the Shrine and for all they do to promote the devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of La Vang. He spoke of the importance of promoting the devotion to Mary and invited all to continue to visit the shrine of Our Lady of La Vang as well as the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that is on the property.
The devotion among the Vietnamese people has a long and rich history. At the end of the 18th century, the country of Vietnam was divided into two kingdoms, the North with Hanoi as its capital, ruled by the Trinh family dynasty and the South, with Hue as its capital, ruled by the Nguyen family dynasty. As the Southern rulers attempted to conquer the North, the South sought the help of France. A group in South Vietnam called the Van Than opposed the help of the French intervention and move to have South Vietnam ruled by a new empire under Quang Trung. The new emperor proceeded to conquer North Vietnam, however, he died soon after his conquest of the North and left his ten year old son, Canh Thinh, to rule. The advisors of Cahn Thinh feared the spread of Catholicism in the country and had King Thinh to issue an anti-Catholic edict in which persecution of the Catholics was the order. More than 100,000 Vietnamese Catholics died. All Catholic churches and seminaries were ordered to be destroyed.
The edict resulted in the fleeing of many families to the rain forest of La Vang in the Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam. Many suffered from the bitter cold weather, jungle sickness and starvation and fell ill. While hiding, the Catholics gathered nightly at the foot of a banyan tree to pray the Rosary to seek courage and find comfort in their distress. One night an apparition appeared. It was a woman dressed in the traditional Vietnamese áo dài dress, holding a child and surrounded by two angels. Those present interpreted the vision as the Virgin Mother and the infant Jesus. They said that the Lady comforted them and told them to boil leaves to provide medicine to cure the illness. She assured them that their prayers were being heard and promised them her protection and relief from their plight.
In the early 1800’s, the Catholics began to return to their villages, passing on the story of the apparition in the La Vang forest and its messages. As the story spread, the site became a pilgrimage site where many came to pray and offer incense. In 1820, a chapel was built, later destroyed and rebuilt. Though there is no official Vatican recognition of this event as a Marian apparition, in July 1999, Pope John Paul II publicly recognized the importance of Our Lady of La Vang in his message for the conclusion of the Marian Year in La Vang, Vietnam.
The Carmelite property in Middletown New York known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has two beautiful outdoor shrines dedicated to Mary – the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang. They express the diversity of cultures that are now represented in the St Elias province of Carmelites. As these two Shrines to Mary adorn the beautiful and peaceful property of the National Shrine our prayers that that they may bring unity among the diversity of cultures in our country.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was founded to encourage and perpetuate devotion to Mary and her scapular under the special title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The newly constructed Shrine to Our Lady of La Vang enhances the devotion to Mary.
Situated on 60 beautiful acres in the mid-Hudson region of New York State, the shrine is open 7 days a week, 8:30 am – 4:30 pm year around. Daily mass is celebrated Monday through Friday, 11:30 am and Sundays at 12 noon. A healing mass is also celebrated on the last Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm. All pilgrims are welcome to the Shrine. Here you can witness the importance of prayer in your life while deepening your commitment to God and devotion to Our Lady. For more information on visiting the shrine visit the website at: www.ourladyofmtcarmelshrine.com