The Diocese of Des Moines
For 30 years these families gather weekly to pray rosary
For 30 years these families gather weekly to pray rosary
October 30, 2017
Written By: Ken Seeber

On a recent Saturday evening, people streamed toward a quiet family home in Des Moines. Some carried casserole dishes, others bottles of soda or tempting desserts.

Dozens of pairs of shoes were piled in a mountain just inside the front door. Folding chairs filled the living room and dining room, all facing an altar of flowers surrounding a statue of Mary.

Friends who have known each other for decades caught up on the latest goings-on while younger generations ran outside to play in the yard.

It was the weekly meeting of the Reparation Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Each Saturday for 30 years, 21 Des Moines-area Vietnamese families have taken turns hosting the gatherings, which include food, fellowship and devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.

“We’re all from different parishes,” said Doc Van Nguyen, host of this evening’s devotional meeting. “I’m from St. Theresa. Some of them are from Holy Trinity, some are from St. Peter, some are from the Basilica of St. John, some Christ the King.”

When Vietnamese refugees first came to Iowa in the mid-1970s, they lived in towns all over the state. Nguyen said there used to be meetings in Perry, Jefferson, Pella and Indianola. Gradually the community gravitated toward Des Moines.

“The first batch of refugees was very spread out because each family was being sponsored by a family,” said the Rev. Paul M. Tai Van Tran of the Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer, a Vietnamese religious community in Carthage, Mo., 140 miles south of Kansas City. Tran was invited by the Des Moines group to speak at its Oct. 7 meeting.

After visiting with each other for a while, the group settled in to Nguyen’s living room, everyone facing an altar with the statue of Mary, adorned with flowers.

They began to pray the rosary in unison, in Vietnamese.

Tran explained that under the communist regime, Vietnamese Catholics didn’t have catechists and the rosary was the easiest prayer they could learn. “They learned Our Father and Hail Mary from their parents and they repeated that, and that went into their hearts,” he said.

The statue of Mary used by the group was donated to the Iowa Vietnamese community by a family in 1977. It travels to the home of each week’s meeting, and the family prays before it each day until the next get-together.

Nguyen says he feels his family has been blessed by their devotion.

“My children are successful in their educFor ation,” he said. “All have been married and happy, as are my grandchildren. They go to Catholic school, and everybody has jobs and are happy.

“The main thing is, our family prays and stays together.”

Tran said the Vietnamese community is very family-oriented, and the devotion group is a key part of that.

“Our Lady said, ‘You pray the rosary every day and you will find peace,’” Tran said. “And this group has really found that.”


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