June 2nd, 2010
05:12 PM ET

Faith endures for Vietnamese in New Orleans

CNN's Jessica Ravitz and David Banks are on assignment in the Gulf region and filed this report:

The importance of Catholic faith is evident in the yards of many in New Orleans East, a community that sits on the outskirts of the Louisiana city.

Here, numerous statues of the Virgin Mary overlook manicured lawns, well-kept gardens and even driveways.

At the center of the neighborhood stands Mary Queen of Viet Nam Church, the Catholic spiritual base to a community that came here in 1975.

The then-archbishop of New Orleans visited Vietnamese refugee camps in the U.S. and encouraged people in search of a home to call his city theirs, according to the church’s priest of eight years, the Rev. Vien The Nguyen.

A statue of the Virgin Mary in front of an eastern New Orleans house.

About 6,000 Vietnamese-Americans live within a two-mile radius of the church, Nguyen says, making it possibly the densest concentration of Vietnamese in the world outside of Vietnam. Many of them work in the fishing or seafood industries.

Devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the community rebuilt. Now, with about 80 percent of his community impacted by the oil spill, the priest says their faith remains as strong as ever.

“They’ve always been in church,” he says. “Faith is an abiding foundation.”

Pictured at top: Le Pham, 47, poses with his Virgin Mary tattoo in front of the backyard statue of the Virgin Mary outside his eastern New Orleans home.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Jessica H.

    Even though I am not Vietnamese, I grew up in this community, attended school with Vietnamese children and as an adult, returned to the community as a teacher. These people are the hardest-working, most respectful people I have ever had the privelege to meet. They have a deep understanding of the importance of education, faith, caring for family and neighbors, and taking care of the elderly. Even with the challenges of coming to America, they work to maintain thier culture and traditions. I was lucky enough as a child to be exposed to many wonderful foods, celebrations, and traditions as a result of living in this eclectic New Orleans community. I will never forget the TET celebrations!
    As far as the manicured lawn, this one photograph does not do justice to the community as a whole. I found that after Katrina, this community was one that quietly took the effort of rebuilding in to thier own hands, while many others were waiting for hand-outs or just paralized by post-Katrina shock. The land the community sits on is swampy, and the ground is constantly sinking, causing sidewalks and driveways to crack and shift. It was probably an engineering mistake to build on this property, but these people have moved in, made it their home, and they take great pride in thier hard work, faith, and culture. A tour of the neighborhood will reveal a fascinating community and friendly people.
    I highly recommend visiting the Vietnamese bakery and the restaurants in this community if you are interested in a truly unique New Orleans experience.

    June 11, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  2. Justin H.

    The Vietnamese spirit is very impressive. My father-in-law is a shrimperman in the gulf (Texas) and much of his family fish and shrimp in the areas closed to fishing. They have moved their boats to Galveston and are living in his house. Diesel prices are low and shrip prices are high. This year will be a good year for their family inspite of the oil spill. Their faith has played a role in their desire to succeed.

    As for faith, it is a very personal experience. It is tough to explain. If a man is successful, endures and helps his community because of his faith–how is that a bad thing?

    June 11, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • whybs

      Yes, Vietnamese are truly impressive – uber hard working, enduring, highly ethical, super independent, etc. And yes, Vietnamese food is awesome.

      Unfortunately, most Vietnamese eat tons of Ramen noodles, which is terrible for them. Don't believe it? Ask them! We can help by reminding them that it[Ramen] is bad for you!

      June 12, 2010 at 2:40 am |
    • whybs

      about faith... this article is Christian tainted. Buddhist/agnostic/atheistic Vietnamese endure just as much/well. Religions have nothing to do with it - no more/less than horoscopes! Nancy Reagan felt embarrassed for having faith on horoscopes, but she shouldn't feel that way because they both serve the same purposes. Though one can't exist without the subjugation of self AND others!

      June 12, 2010 at 2:50 am |
  3. lmao

    whybs – you're as ignorant as they come. Their kids might eat noodles but I prefer that over Mcdonalds. Learn our habits? What are our habits? Asian people are the most well-mannered and most considerate people I've ever met. You need to take a look at your own kind first before you come on this board insulting people. If you really know what happened to these people after Katrina you wouldn't insult them. While the black and white community in New Orleans waited for government assistance, these people came back and rebuild their community without help from the government.

    June 11, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  4. whybs


    From the way things look, Catholicism hasn't helped you or the Vietnamese community much! But perception is everything! 🙁

    Here's what you need to do... ditch that Ramen noodle crap (not good for you) - your kids will be taller; eat American food and learn their habits - stop slurping, talk quietly on your cell phone, etc.!

    And wake up, religions are the subjugation of self AND others! No more; no less. It might be too late but... don't be obsequious, especially to fairy tales! Buddhist Vietnamese endure just as much as you do.

    June 11, 2010 at 12:21 am |
    • HHH

      Ah, yes, the token racist comment...very lame. I wonder if this person, whybs, realizes that Le might just be a naturalized US citizen thereby making him officially a red-blooded AMERICAN.

      June 12, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  5. Jyme

    Obviously, you've never been to New Orleans East! Trust me, this is immaculate for that part of the city.

    June 10, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  6. Andrew

    Its actually kinda sad as this is an interesting article and if i wrote it id freak out and then saw that picture.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  7. keeping it fresh

    lol'd at this quote after looking at the picture:

    "Here, numerous statues of the Virgin Mary overlook manicured lawns, well-kept gardens and even driveways."

    should have read: "Here, one giant statute of the Virgin Mary overlooks an out-of-control lawn, un-kept(sic) garden and a badly cracking, uneven driveway."

    June 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  8. Andrew

    As a Catholic, im pretty sure Mary's outstretched arms there on that statue mean "guys week whack this junk"

    June 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
  9. Tan

    if that is a picture of a "manicured lawns, well-kept gardens and even driveways." then I don't know how bad the really "bad" one looks then 🙂

    June 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  10. no faith

    I don't have a religion, but i still know how to endure... Religion is an escape that helps you endure.

    June 8, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  11. John

    Everything Marian points to Christ...Hail Mary full of grace...blessed is the fruit of thy womb...Jesus!

    June 8, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Li Ran

      Your mom is Jesus

      June 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  12. silentlamb

    A true faith teach us to how to endure...

    June 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.