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Vietnamese community to celebrate new church in Tukwila, Lunar New Year

Father Thanh Dao, pastor of the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Tukwila, stands at the altar of the temporary church, where parishioners have been working to finish interiors in time for the Thursday blessing. - Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter
Father Thanh Dao, pastor of the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Tukwila, stands at the altar of the temporary church, where parishioners have been working to finish interiors in time for the Thursday blessing.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter

Starting this week, the Vietnamese community of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle will gather in Tukwila to worship in their own language.

Members of the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish are working hard to put the finishing touches on for what for now is a temporary sanctuary and meeting rooms in a large building on South 180th Street, just west of West Valley Highway.

Firecrackers will fill the air with joyful celebration as the new building is blessed Thursday evening, followed this weekend by Masses marking the traditional Lunar New Year.

The parish is the outgrowth of the Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Community that brought together Vietnamese from throughout the Archdiocese that encompasses Western Washington.

The parish was established in 2010 by Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett as a personal parish.

"That means that the parish just meets the needs of Vietnamese language and traditions," said Father Thanh Dao, the parish pastor.

In Seattle, the parish has about 1,300 families, but Dao said that not all of the families will move to the church in Tukwila. The move is necessary because the current location was too small to serve all members who were split over two locations, he said.

The search began between Seattle and Skyway for a new location, but all the possible sites were too small, he said. Then, they found the site of a former car-wash company next to the Green River, which Dao said is a peaceful place like Lourdes, where Catholics go on pilgrimage to the mountains of south France.

Last summer, the parish held its Summer Festival along the Green River to mark the 25th anniversary of the canonization of the Vietnamese martyrs, who were Catholics persecuted and killed in Vietnam.

The parish will look forward to the future, said Dao.

"We focus more on our young people. A lot of them have wandered away from faith," he said. The parish now has about 300 youths.

With the large space, the parish will have plenty of space for its faithful mission program and language school. It will involve youth in its own youth program that blends religion and scouting.

The future includes a new church the parish will build on the 5.8-acre site next to the current building.

But, now, the parish plans to celebrate its temporary church and the Lunar New Year.

It received permission from the Tukwila City Council to light the thousands of celebratory firecrackers.

The red firecrackers are a long Vietnamese tradition, said Dao, symbolizing good luck.

"You are making merry. People love it," he said.

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