CARTHAGE— An annual gathering of Vietnamese Catholics in the U.S. attracted more than 60,000 people from across the country this year to southwest Missouri.
Marian Days has been held each summer for more than 30 years at the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix campus in Carthage. The Catholic order was founded in Vietnam, and its weeklong festival includes religious services, conferences, music and the annual processional. The event ends Sunday.
Ly Nguyen and her mother walked in the processional Saturday wearing a traditional Vietnamese silk dress, despite temperatures in the mid-90s.
"(This dress) doesn't breathe at all, so even when it's not this hot, it can get pretty unpleasant," she said. "But it's only once a year."
Nguyen, a 16-year-old first-generation American, said she grew up attending Marian Days, which gave her a chance to learn about her culture and her religion in a way she couldn't have otherwise.
"Here, I'm not the minority," she told The Joplin Globe. "Being Vietnamese and being Catholic, it's a big part of who I am, and that's not something a lot of high school kids get."
And for Nguyen, walking in the processional is something she looks forward to every year. "We send photos back to my grandmother and cousins (in Vietnam)," she said.
The processional wound around the Carthage streets near the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix campus. The participants sang, chanted and carried banners and flags showing group affiliations or where they're from. Detroit, Sarasota, Fla., and Tulsa, Okla., were just a few of the cities represented.
Mo Bui didn't march in this year's parade because of the heat, but watched from the sidelines and said she's been visiting Marian Days for more than 30 years. For Bui, the religious event is like a family reunion and she always "makes the time" to come.
"Some people, we haven't seen since we left Vietnam in 1975," she said, referring to the mass exodus from the country following the fall of Saigon.
"We're really all like family here," she said.