ABBEVILLE — For the first time in 40 years, the Diocese of Lafayette will establish a new Catholic church parish.
According to a spokesperson for the diocese, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions Parish will be established Tuesday as a personal, nonterritorial parish, which means its purpose is to meet the spiritual and cultural needs of the Vietnamese Catholic community.
On Sunday, the soon-to-be parishioners gathered for Mass at Abbeville's Vietnamese Community Center on N Lafitte Road.
Among the church-goers is Derek Nguyen, who immigrated to Vermilion Parish with his family in 1975 when he was 10-years-old.
Nguyen says his family was among five Vietnamese families who lived in Abbeville at the time.
His parents didn't have a car, but they walked to Mass daily.
"So, every morning, right around 6 o'clock, Mom would wake us up, and I still remember that we'd walk across the bridge because we were walking from Mount Carmel Elementary School to St. Mary Magdalen [Catholic Church] and walked back," recalled Nguyen.
Nguyen now attends Mass at the Vietnamese community center, which was made possible by his late father Nghiem Van Nguyen.
"My dad was among one of the elders that raised the money for this building, and his ultimate dream was to have a church where he can worship [and] understand the homily in his own language," said Nguyen.
That dream is now becoming a reality.
Along with the establishment of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions Parish, the 122nd parish will also get its very own church, which has been a desire for about 30 years.
"We approached the officials in the diocese to have our own chapel, " explained Nguyen. "This is astounding that we get our own parish and our own church."
Groundbreaking for construction of the new church is expected to begin in the near future. Its location will be right next to the community center.
"It's named after our saint, so it's just an incredible feeling," said Nguyen.
Hearing the news, Nguyen couldn't help but to think of his father.
"I know that he's still smiling upon us," said Nguyen. "His dream finally came true, especially in the foreign land, to have our own Vietnamese church. It's a blessing."