Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Month On, the Healing Continues

Tomorrow, the traditional first month's "mind Mass" will be celebrated in Houston Co-Cathedral for the 17 pilgrims from four local parishes who died in an early August bus crash en route to the annual "Marian Days" festival in Missouri.

Sure, it's been conspicuous by its near-absence from the Catholic press, but the stories of the victims, their community's grief -- and, most notably, the strength of faith that's getting the survivors through -- have been covered with emotion and depth by the secular media, both nationally and especially in Houston and Dallas, where the early-morning accident occurred.

With another 43 pilgrims injured in the wreck, as the month-mark approaches today's Dallas Morning News visited with those still recovering in area hospitals, and the local folks who've been "knocking themselves out" in the effort to help:
Every day, for example, volunteers deliver plates of Vietnamese food to sons and daughters of 78-year-old Hoa Pham, recovering from head trauma at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Ms. Pham's children also have received help with hotel and gas costs. They've had regular visits from priests and lay people, who pop into their mother's room for prayers and counseling.

"I would like to thank the Catholic community of Dallas," said Son Vu, a Houston machinist and one of Mrs. Pham's 13 children. "They have given wonderful support."

Those who have been a part of the effort say they've been inspired by the survivors and family members.

"One of the patients said to me, 'You know, when you live in this country, things are so much easier. But our people in Vietnam endured so much,' " said Paz Austin, a Catholic chaplain at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where five victims were taken and one remains. "He was able to put his pain in perspective, thinking of what generations had gone through in his country."...

The Rev. Joseph Son-Van Nguyen, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ Vietnamese Church in Carrollton, has had to answer how a loving God could allow such a thing to happen to faithful people who already had endured the Vietnam War and the extraordinary suffering of its aftermath.

"Terrible things happen in our life," he said. "God can turn the bad to good."

Rather than dwell on theological questions, Vietnamese-Americans and others from the Catholic Diocese of Dallas have stayed busy helping.

Father Nguyen's church held a special Mass with prayers for the victims and families, and has raised nearly $6,000 for them. Two other local Vietnamese Catholic churches have organized the relay of Vietnamese food to family members of the handful of victims still hospitalized in Dallas, including four at Baylor facilities....

Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Dallas – a Catholic charity – has been a frequent hospital visitor. She credits the Vietnamese-Americans with extraordinary faith and gratitude.

She pointed to 57-year-old Thoa Uong, a crash victim still hospitalized at Baylor with a broken back.

Mrs. Uong faces a long recovery, but always greets Ms. Disco-Shearer with a smile.

"She's a fighter," Ms. Disco-Shearer said. "And she's promised to make spring rolls for us when all this is done."
Earlier today, a "Walk-n-Pray" benefit for the survivors was held in H-Town. And next week, the News notes, 100 representatives of the survivors and families of those lost will travel upstate to thank the first responders and others who've helped carry and comfort them along the way.

PHOTO: Lara Solt/Dallas Morning News