Tapao – The place Our Lady chose

 

Under the influences of the storms number three and four, the tropic atmospheric pressure had become low which caused heavy rain for more than two weeks in the Tanh Linh area including Tapao.  Despite the bad weather, thousands of people kept going toward Tapao to participate in the celebration of laying the first brick for the construction of Our Lady of Tapao.

There were approximately 15,000 people attending the vigil prayer on 12.8, and on 13.8, there were more than 50,000 people gathered for the celebration of the solemn Mass.

Such a large number of people was beyond the prediction of the organizing committee.

There are three ways to Tapao: The Cross-road Of The Sixth Base, the Ong Don Cross-road and the Co Don Cross-road.

All vehicles from Vung Tau, Ham Tan, Phan Thiet and Nha Trang reached Tapao through The Cross-road Of The Sixth Base.  The Ong Don Cross-road was used for vehicles from the western provinces, Saigon and Dong Nai.  The Co Don Cross-road was used by all vehicles from the central provinces, Ca Mau area and from the high plateau.

From 7am on 13.8.2006, the ten kilometre long road from Tanh Linh and Bac Ruong which leads to the stage built at the foot of the mountain on which the Statue of Our Lady was placed, and where the celebration would take place, was full with the pilgrims. 

The heavy rain kept pouring down yet people kept moving forward. 

From 8am, the one hectare area used for the celebration of Mass was full of people.  Others had to stand on the surrounding roads to attend the Mass through five big screens.  Because of the continuos rain, the level of La Nga River rose high and overflew its bank reaching the feet of the stage.

At 8am, the faithful prayed the Rosary.  At 9am the procession of Statue of Our Lady of

Tapao reached the stage among the trumpets and the applauds resounded.  Then Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan and 50 Priests stepped on the stage for the con-celebration of the Mass.

To open the ceremony, father Andrew Luong Vinh Phuc, the Administrator of Phan Thiet Diocese, read out the statement of the Committee of People of Binh Thuan Province in which, they approved Phan Thiet Diocese’s project for the reconstruction of the shrine of Our Lady of Tapao.

Then father John Baptist Hoang Van Khanh, chief of the organization narrated the history of Our Lady of Tapao in summary.  He said:

“Today, 13.8.2006, Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan of Phan Thiet Diocese celebrates the Mass of laying the first brick for the construction of Our Lady of Tapao in Duc Tanh, Phan Thiet Diocese. This is the ideal opportunity for us to have a brief description about Our Lady of Tapao under two aspects: The origin of the statue of Our Lady of Tapao, and Our Lady of Tapao phenomenon.

 

1. The origin of the statue of Our Lady of Tapao:

Our Lady of Tapao is one of five statues of Our Lady which were placed from the Central to the South and at the High Plateau of the Central Area of Viet Nam in 1959.

On 8.12.1959, Monsignor Marcello Piquet, Bishop of Nha Trang Diocese, together with many Priests, Religious and thousands of the faithful, celebrated and sanctified the statue of Our Lady of Tapao.  This was a solemn and national stature celebration.

From 1964 to 1975, the whole area of Bac Ruong was under the control of the provisory revolutional power of the Republic of South Viet Nam.  So most of the faithful moved to the South of La Nga River and other places.  Hence the statue was not taken care of and was almost forgotten. 

After 1975, and roughly in October 1980, some faithful who lived in the new economic areas of Duc Tan and Huy Khiem villages wanted to find the place where Our Lady of Tapao was located.  At Easter of 1989, some of the faithful of Nghi Duc and Huy Khiem Parishes secretly climbed up to the mountain to visit the statue of Our Lady.  They discovered the head, arms and feet of Our Lady were seriously damaged.  

In late June 1991, and on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, with the permission of the Monsignor Nicolas Huynh Van Nghi, Bishop of Phan Thiet Diocese at that time, and were encouraged by father Francisco Savie Dinh Tan Thoi, the Parish Priest of Duy Can (now is Gia An), these people came and asked the sculptor Le Phat to repair it.  The work was finished on 30.7.1991.  From this day, the statue of Our Lady stands bulkily on Tapao mountain, in Tanh Linh District, Binh Thuan Province, where everybody can revere and be blessed by Our Lady of Tapao.

 

2. The phenomenon of Our Lady of Tapao:

The phenomenon started with the story of three pupils at Phuong Lam who claimed that they had seen Our Lady appearing, and then moving in the air to the other side of the mountain.  On 29.9.1999, the feast of the Archangels, a group of the faithful of Phuong Lam Perisher and of the Perishers nearby went to the border of Phuong Lam and Tanh Linh to contemplate at the statue of Our Lady on the mountain.  Many people claimed they have witnessed the phenomena.  Later on, people from Doc Mo, Gia Kiem, Ho Nai, and Saigon made pilgrimage to Tapao mountain to venerate Our Lady of Tapao too.

To the early year of 2000, the rumour about Our Lady of Tapao has attracted many people from everywhere, so they wished to come there to venerate and pray to Our Lady.  There were many reports from people who claimed that they have obtained great graces from God through Our Lady.  Many sinners came back to God; people lined up for confession; families at breaking point were reunited; the sorrowful were comforted; those that despaired gained back hope…People also received physical grace, such as:

A female Vietnamese American who suffered from cancer that had reached the last stage.  There was no hope in science, since it became incurable.  So she thought about Our Lady of Tapao, and she decided to come back to Viet Nam and made the pilgrimage to Tapao Mountain.  Here she made repentance and prayed fervently to Our Lady of Tapao.  When she came back to American, she felt her health improving gradually.  She then went to the hospital for a detailed check.  The result showed that her cancer had disappeared.  Everyone was very surprised.  Her faith had cured her 

The second case was a couple at Tu Te, Duc Linh where the husband was a pagan but his wife was a devout Catholic.  The husband showed hostility toward religion.  He often scolded his wife and criticized openly each time she went to Church or prayed…Unfortunately, he soon suffered a critical and incurable disease.  He told his wife to pray to Our Lady of Tapao for him and he was cured mysteriously.  Shocked by this event, he decided to convert to Catholic.

However, the most marvellous thing is this: from a remote and unknown area, Our Lady of Tapao has raisen it into one of the most supernatural places in Viet Nam. Now it has obtained enough conditions to become a Marian Pilgrimage Centre among others in Viet Nam, as two Bishops, all members of Phan Thiet Diocese and millions of pilgrims in Viet Nam and abroad wished for a long time.        

That was the reason for the solemn Mass to celebrate the laying the first brick for the construction of Our Lady of Tapao.

To start the Mass, Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan summarized the history of Our Lady of Tapao, and he mentioned that, besides the theological titles of Our Lady in the Church such as “Our Lady of Assumption”, “Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces”…, there are also the titles linking to the places She wanted to appear to Her dear children, such as “Our Lady of Lourdes”, “Our Lady of Fatima”… In Viet Nam we have “Our Lady of Tra Kieu”, “Our Lady of La Vang”.  And now, we are happy to honour Our Mother with another title: “Our Lady of Tapao”.

Concerning permission from the local government, Bishop Paul said that, the civil authorities have approved the plan that Phan thiet Diocese had submitted, in which we will:

-          make a way of 300m in length up to the statue of Our Lady.

-          Construct a stage of 200m in width.     

To conclude, he said, by faith we had to believe that this work was a gift of Our Mother’s Mercy, since She wanted to choose this place to meet Her children, so that She might grant abundant Graces upon us, both in physical and spiritual ones, and help make our faith stronger.     

Though the Mass was said under heavy rain, all faithful participated in it seriously and fervently and contemplated on the homily of the Mass.

The homily was followed by the ceremony of blessing the stage and the first brick.  Monsignor John Baptist Le Xuan Hoa, General Representative of Phan Thiet Diocese, read out the letter of Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan in which he “approves the plan of construction of Our Lady of Tapao”.

After the Mass, the Priest in charge of the organization said thanks to all people of God present to what they have done for the ceremony and for the construction of Our Lady of Tapao. 

This event was extremely successful despite of the inconvenience caused by the bad weather.  Thanks to Our Mother of Tapao for bestowing abundant Graces upon Her children. Everyone went home in happiness and gratefulness.  

Tapao is not a place chosen by man.  It is Our Mother Herself who chose Tapao, so it will become a place for Her children from everywhere who gathers here to pray and receive Graces from God through Our Mother for both physical and spiritual aspects.  Their lives could now be changed and live according to the Gospel.  

Coming to Our Lady of Tapao, be faithful and imitate Our Mother virtues to love one another.

Coming to Our Lady of Tapao, say the Rosary regularly and fervently.

Coming to Our Lady of Tapao, will not go with empty hand.

 

 Fr. Joseph Nguyen Huu An