Our Lady of Lavang
On Friday, April 12 the Living Religions Collaborative (LRC) hosted a talk by Prof. Thien-Huong Ninh entitled “Our Lady of Lavang: The Ethnicization of the Virgin Mary in the Vietnamese Diaspora." Prof. Thao Nguyen, S.J. offered a response.
Ninh is an assistant sociology professor at Cosumnes River College and a scholar with research interests in race, gender, religion, and in immigration, particularly forced displacement as in the case of refugees. Her talk drew on her 2017 book, Race, Gender, and Religion in the Diaspora: Ethnic Vietnamese in the U.S. and Cambodia, and her more recent research on the meaning of Our Lady of Lavang among Catholics in the Vietnamese diaspora in San Jose. Her talk connected local history--e.g. the struggles to establish a Vietnamese "national" parish in San Jose dating to the 1980's and the recent successful $45 million campaign to construct a new church in downtown San Jose--with the fascinating transnational story of how Vietnamese Americans in southern California and in San Jose transformed the representation of Our Lady of Lavang, and her role in how these refugee communities navigated the complexities of their relationship with their country of origin. Nguyen drew on his research on Our Lady of Lavang to corroborate Ninh's account and provided an ecclesiological perspective on how the Diocese of San Jose came to meet the needs of Vietnamese Catholics in the area.
In addition to undergraduate students from among our majors and from ethnic studies and sociology, the event drew other faculty from our campus as well as a contingent of Jesuit School of Theology graduate students accompanied by Prof. Ahn Tran, S.J.
This talk was the first in what LRC hopes will become a series of Friday afternoon talks focusing on scholarship on living religion in the area.