The Our Lady of La Vang Shrine at the world-famous Christ Cathedral campus in Garden Grove serves as a testament to the remarkable journey of the Vietnamese-American people — from war and persecution to a new reality where faith and community are vibrant and ascendant. The centerpiece of the shrine, which first opened in a blessing ceremony in July 2021, is a statue of the Virgin Mary as she is believed to have appeared before a group of persecuted Vietnamese Catholics in 1798. During that historic Marian apparition, which took place in a remote rainforest region in Vietnam, the Blessed Mother offered the desperate parishioners hope and guidance. In the centuries since, Our Lady of La Vang, as the apparition has since been named, has represented hope, faith and promise to Vietnamese Catholics around the world.
The $12.6-million shrine represents both that historic apparition and honors the important contributions of the Vietnamese-Catholic diaspora in Orange County, which is home to the world’s largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. The shrine, modern in design like Christ Cathedral behind it, features an alpha-shaped ribbon of stainless steel panels under a glass-paned roof.
Standing on a cloud, Mary is depicted wearing a traditional Vietnamese áo dài dress and khăn đống hat. She has a Eurasian face and holds the Baby Jesus. Behind her are three supporting poles that hold up the canopy-like structure, which itself symbolizes the rainforest setting of the 1798 Marian apparition. The poles resemble the three banyan trees that were behind the Virgin Mary during the apparition.
The shrine also contains donor names and the names of 117 Catholics who were martyred for their religious beliefs in Vietnam. The names detail how and when each person died. Aaron Torrence of Culver City-based Torrence Architects is the project’s architect of record, and Trần Quốc Trung of GlobalSolutions Development is the design architect.
Beginning in 2023, the OLLV Foundation is working to finish the shrine’s $2.2-million second construction phase. The architect is domusstudios architecture, based in San Diego. This phase centers on constructing Marian gardens on the shrine’s eastern side, facing Lewis Street. The roughly 10,000-square-foot gardens will have circular niches that can host prayer groups. The gardens will focus on Marian mysteries. A digital library is also planned, as is a new donor monument and water feature.
The Our Lady of La Va Shrine is scheduled to be fully completed in fall 2023.
Fast Facts about the Our Lady of La Vang Shrine
— The carved Italian white marble statue of Our Lady of Vang stands 12 feet tall and weighs an estimated 16,000 pounds. Below her is an altar and cloud that together are 6 feet tall.
— The statue was co-designed by a priest board headed by Monsignor Tuan Pham of Saint Columban Catholic Church and Nghi Dinh Pham, with approval of the Diocese Sacred Arts Committee and Bishop Kevin Vann. It was sculpted by Andrea Ceccarelli of the Italian Marble Company, which is based in Carrara, Italy. The company is a fifth-generation artisan marble business that was founded in 1897.
— About 400 steel panels are incorporated into the shrine structure.
— There are 80 skylight glass panels in the shrine.
— The footprint of the shrine site, which includes the rosary gardens, is 21,200 square feet, or just under a half acre.
— Approximately 300 volunteers have helped make the shrine a reality.
— Gray, the construction firm, was the general contractor.
— The $2.2-million second construction phase will focus on adding Marian gardens and prayer niches on the eastern side of the shrine. San Diego-based domusstudio architecture is the architectural firm.
— After three days of painstaking work, the Our Lady of La Vang statue is put in place within the shrinesite on June 3, 2021. Bishop Kevin Vann, Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen and Fr. Christopher Smith bless the work of installing the statue before a small crowd of onlookers and supporters.
— Hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics visited the campus of Christ Cathedral Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 to participate in a Mass and witness the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, bless the site that will house a shrine for the Lady of La Vang
Historical Background of the Our Lady of La Vang Apparition
The Our Lady of La Vang Shrine is dedicated to the 1798 Marian apparition within the rainforest of La Vang, Quảng Trị Province, in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam. At the time, the Catholic people of Vietnam were suffering persecution, with many being martyred for their faith. Many fled to La Vang, where one night the apparition of a lady in a traditional Vietnamese áo dài dress appeared alongside two angels. She was holding a child in her arms. The apparition was interpreted to be the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus. The Blessed Mother spoke words of love and comfort to the persecuted Catholics and showed them how to make medicines from trees growing in the forest. A shrine to Our Lady of La Vang was eventually built of rice straw and leaves at the site but was burned in 1805 during an insurgency in which many Catholics were martyred. The shrine was rebuilt in 1900 and enlarged in 1928. Pilgrims from around the world journey to the site annually and many have reported miraculous cures.