“We are thankful for this country and the Diocese of St. Petersburg for taking us in as refugees, for adopting us as brothers and sisters in faith, and for now allowing us a new church location as our own spiritual home.”

- Father Chien X. Dinh, S.V.D., First Pastor of St. Joseph’s Vietnamese Catholic Church of Tampa

In the face of the pandemic they built their church.

The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg officially welcomed a new parish this weekend--The St. Joseph Vietnamese Parish of Tampa.

Bishop Gregory Parkes blessed the new altar and celebrated mass along with a group of priests, including the parish’s first Pastor -- Father Chien X. Dinh, S.V.D. 

Parishioners celebrated after spending 2020 renovating to make a vacant church their new home.

The community started as a Mission in 1991 at Epiphany Catholic Church to help Vietnamese natives and Vietnamese speaking people. Their work began in 1975, as more Vietnamese war refugees arrived in the Tampa Bay area.

After their generational upheaval of suffering and loss, the pandemic left them undeterred.

Some parishioners lost jobs or closed their businesses.

But they did not waver in their commitments to the project.

These are the stories Father Dinh is excited to tell.

Like how families even sacrificed buying new cars or moving into bigger houses so they could help the church community.

In addition to financial support, Father Dinh calls parishioners like Ly Tran to give of their expertise—Tran is the head of the parish council, and he’s been there since 2005, and Father Dinh, who arrived in 2019, suggested we interview Tran. He’s retired from the IT field, so it only makes sense he’s been keeping their news bulletins in hard copies and online, both available in the church’s narthex. (You know he has a QR code on a poster.)

You gotta reach the younger kids where they are—online.

“I’m actually 71-years-old,” said Tran, “I know it doesn't it look like it.”

Tran arrived in North America as student in 1969, before the end of the Vietnam war.

As the war continues, he faced never seeing his family again.

“It was tough, really tough,” Tran said.

But he was ready to help fellow Vietnamese refugees when they arrived in 1975.

“If you find say, people, you know, speaking the same language, sharing the same culture, eating the same food, then you feel like, very close,” says Tran, especially in a new country.

“If we believe and trust in God then, you know, maybe we lost some family, but again, we found a big family,” Tran said.

Father Dinh says the church welcomes anyone interested in Vietnamese language and culture to enjoy their liturgy.