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First Vietnamese Roman Catholic bishop joins Diocese of Orange|
Little Saigon cheers
First Vietnamese Roman Catholic bishop joins Diocese of Orange
Sunday, April 27, 2003 - ORANGE -- Orange County, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of that nation, is getting the nation's first Vietnamese Roman Catholic bishop.
The appointment Friday of Dominic Dinh Mai Luong as auxiliary bishop of Orange marks a significant milestone for the county's Vietnamese-American population, which has burgeoned to more than135,000 since the end of the Vietnam War.
"We have someone who can relate to us, our experiences as refugees, our language, culture, history and religious beliefs," said Sister Francesca, a nun at the Vietnamese Catholic Center in Santa Ana.
Large Vietnamese communities have grown in several areas, including San Jose, Washington, D.C., and parts of Texas and Louisiana. But the Diocese of Orange, encompassing an area known as Little Saigon, comprises the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam.
Vietnamese Americans make up 11 percent of people attending Catholic services in Orange County, according to church figures. The Diocese of Orange, which split off from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1976, has about 1.1 million Roman Catholics, including32,500 of Vietnamese descent.
Luong said his appointment recognizes "the many contributions which 400,000 Vietnamese Catholics, over 600 priests and more than 500 religious have enriched the church of the United States."
"It signals that the Vietnamese Catholic community has come of age, especially in Southern California," said Michael Horan, an associate professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University.
Luong, 62, was born in a rice-farming village in Vietnam and speaks French, English, Spanish and Vietnamese. He was ordained in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1966 and currently is pastor of a New Orleans parish and director of the National Center for the Vietnamese Apostolate.
He recalled preaching from tents and outdoors when he took over the New Orleans parish. Today, it is a multiethnic enclave that includes blacks, Hispanics and Vietnamese immigrants.
Luong is to formally assume his new role on June 11 and, with Jaime Soto, will be one of two lieutenants to Bishop Tod Brown.
"He wanted to educate people to get involved in their own community," said Luong's personal secretary, Nga Nguyen. "He's so down to earth, so intelligent and so generous."