Part of what I love about Catholicism is that it’s a world church.

In a recent post at Pray Tell, guest blogger Frank Klose noted the number and kind of choirs that will sing at the papal Mass for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. One of the choirs is Vietnamese.

It occurred to me to wonder aloud whether Philadelphia has a significant Vietnamese population or were they likely to be coming from other parts of the country; I think of Vietnamese communities in California, Texas, and Louisiana more than in Pennsylvania.

A reader promptly responded with a link to an article from that astonished me.

Not only are there between 7,000 and 10,000 Vietnamese living in Philadelphia (eight parishes in the Archdiocese  offer Mass regularly in Vietnamese), Vietnam is the source of the greatest participation in the World Meeting of Families outside of the United States. The article, dated April 24, gave these figures:

Right now, there are more people registered for the WMOF from Vietnam than from any other country outside of the United States, according Lizanne Pando, director of marketing and communications for the WMOF.

Of the estimated 7,000 registrants from 60 countries so far, 668 have requested Vietnamese translation services - and 209 of those people are coming directly from Vietnam, Pando said.

That’s an 8,000 mile journey, in case you wondered. And they have to obtain a visa to come.  

The organizers have bumped Vietnamese up to one of the basic languages into which the keynote addresses will be simultaneously translated. Good call.

To be quite honest, I haven’t found much about the anticipated World Meeting of Families to pique my interest. The talks and events all seem predictable. Even the logo is dull. But the thought that all these folks are coming such a distance to take part in the event has put it in a new light for me.

I hope they have a good experience in Philadelphia. I hope they are treated kindly by their American hosts. I hope they enjoy the cheesesteaks.


Rita Ferrone is the author of several books about liturgy, including Pastoral Guide to Pope Francis’s Desiderio Desideravi (Liturgical Press). She is a contributing writer to Commonweal.

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