Vietnamese Catholic community established in Chattanooga

Jim Wogan Diocese of Knoxville, News

Father Manuel Perez, pastor of St. Stephen Church, Father Colin Blatchford, parochial vicar of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Father Nick Tran, moderator and chaplain for the Vietnamese Catholic community in Chattanooga, and Deacon Sean Smith, Chancellor and CEO of the Diocese of Knoxville, are joined with other members of the Vietnamese Catholic community in Chattanooga after a Mass on July 14.

Further reflecting the continued growth and diversity of the Catholic Church in East Tennessee, Bishop Richard F. Stika has formally established a Public Association of the Faithful for the Vietnamese Catholic community in the Chattanooga area.

The establishment of a Public Association of the Faithful is the first step in the canonical process that one day could lead to the creation of a new parish for the Vietnamese community there.

The announcement was made during a Mass on July 14 at St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga. The Mass was celebrated by Father Nick Tran, a native of Vietnam and a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., who arrived in Tennessee on July 6 to begin serving as chaplain and moderator for the Chattanooga association. Father Colin Blatchford, parochial vicar of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul also attended.

The Mass was attended by 180 Vietnamese Catholics who, until now, have been gathering informally at St. Stephen Church to celebrate Mass in their native language.

“This is the beginning of a wonderful journey for all of you,” Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, said during the Mass. “We hope and pray that you will soon be elevated as a Catholic mission and ultimately as a new parish.”

Father Nick Tran and Deacon Sean Smith receive the gifts during Mass on July 14 at St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga. More than 180 Vietnamese Catholics attended the Mass.

“A lot of people, they are very excited about it,” Thuc Cao, member of the Vietnamese Catholic community in Chattanooga, said. “I really want to introduce the Vietnamese Catholic community to the whole community so that they know us, and they will support us because they know that we exist.”

The new association is named after St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who inspired a devotion to the Divine Mercy.

“Through its name, the St. Faustina Public Association of the Faithful will connect our Vietnamese community in Chattanooga with our Vietnamese parish in Knoxville named Divine Mercy,” Bishop Richard F. Stika said. “God willing, someday in the near future we will one day have a St. Faustina Parish in Chattanooga,” he added.

The association will begin celebrating Mass at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga on Sunday, July 21.