In what was a momentous occasion in its 40-year history in South Australia, the Church of Our Lady of The Boat People was dedicated by Apostolic Administrator Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, with an evening of Vietnamese celebrations to follow.
“It has been a long journey and there has been a lot of expectation. Our community is very excited,” chaplain for the Vietnamese Catholic Community, Monsignor Minh-Tam Nguyen told The Southern Cross prior to the opening.
“The church is named in honour of the Virgin Mary whom we trust to have protected us all on our perilous boat journeys in search of freedom.”
The opening is the culmination of a five-year $6 million project that included the construction of a new multi-purpose hall and the conversion of the original hall into the new church.
Built in the 1990s, the first hall served as a place where the Vietnamese Catholic Community could gather to celebrate their faith, often with sections partitioned off for other cultural activities. However, with 39 active groups – including 15 prayer groups – spanning various spiritual and social activities occurring on a weekly or monthly basis, it became clear over time that a larger space was needed.
In 2014 an advisory group, under the guidance of the chaplain and the Executive Pastoral Committee, was formed to oversee the development project. The first stage saw the construction of a new multi-purpose hall so that the congregation could move in there while the original hall was renovated.
“The wish and dreams of the community to have a proper church has been burning for a long time,” said Binh Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Catholic Community.