Stunned by violence, St. Alice Parish responds with Masses and rosary prayers for Vietnamese family
By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
UPPER DARBY – The Vietnamese Catholic community in Upper Darby is grieving after one of its leading members was brutally murdered on Monday night, Nov. 10. Each evening after the crime and leading up to the funeral for Hoa Pham on Saturday, Nov. 15, hundreds of men, women and children gathered at St. Alice Church for the rosary and Mass celebrated by the Vietnamese priests of the Archdiocese.
It is the Vietnamese custom to gather at the home every night before the funeral for the rosary, explained Father Peter Quinn, pastor of St. Alice. In this case it wasn’t practical because the family home where Pham was murdered and his wife, Thai Nguyen, was brutalized by an unknown and still-at-large assailant was closed for investigation as a crime scene; the large number of mourners would have made it difficult as well.
“Mr. Pham was a very good, devout Catholic. He worked with me to run liturgies and activities for the community,” Father Quinn said.
A former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Army, Pham, 60, was imprisoned for seven years after the communist takeover. He and his family were permitted to immigrate to America about 17 years ago. After a short time in the Southwest, they relocated to Upper Darby, where other family members live. There, they raised their six now-grown children, all of whom were active members of St. Alice Parish.
“He was a good father, a loving husband and a good neighbor,” Father Quinn said. “He worked for vocations in his home diocese in Vietnam and every year would raise money to support their seminarians.”
Pham, whose home on Copley Street faced St. Alice, was sleeping, as was his wife, when their home was broken into. The assailant bound and tortured them for several hours to extract money, then stabbed and killed Pham. Thai Nguyen Pham managed to escape and call 911. She was hospitalized for several days following the murder.
Although the evening liturgies were in Vietnamese, people of many nationalities joined in to mourn the death of a good man who should have found peace in America. But the bulk of the mourners were members of the close-knit Vietnamese community.
“Mr. Pham was my vice president,” said Din Xuang Nguyen, chairman of the Upper Darby Vietnamese Catholic Community. “We worked together for four years and he was a hard worker. We lost a good man in service to the Church and the community.”
Following Pham’s Saturday funeral, interment was at St. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Springfield. There was also a candlelit vigil in front of the family home on Sunday evening, Nov. 16.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103