Parish for local Vietnamese Catholics marks 40 years

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church, which was created to provide spiritual and other support to Vietnamese refugees arriving in the local area beginning in the late 1970s.

Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church was established in 1979, located in Annandale before moving to Arlington.

At the Sept. 15 celebration, Bishop Michael Burbidge installed Father Joseph An Quoc Dang as new pastor at the church, which counts about 6,000 parishioners.

The new pastor is a Dominican priest who was born in Vietnam and moved to the U.S. in the 1980s, according to the Arlington Catholic Herald newspaper. He was ordained a priest in 1999 and has spent much of his service in parishes in Canada.

While Vietnam traditionally has been country dominated by folk religion and Buddhism, Roman Catholicism gained a foothold first through missionary work and then during the era of French rule. Today, about 7 percent of those living in Vietnam identify as Catholic, representing about 6.3 million people.

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