In 1973 with little money in their pockets, members of Dorchester’s growing Vietnamese population set out to do something for their faith and their community.
With the dream of building a Buddhist temple, they bought a lot in Fields Corner that held nothing but a burned-down triple decker. Now 38 years later, at that very spot on Greenwood St., the Luc Hoa Temple is a major place of worship for many Fields Corner Buddhists.
It has been a slow development process, and one that is still not complete. The temple has a garden and an entrance, but lacks a main building for worship, which makes festivals and Sunday ceremonies cramped and difficult to conduct during the winter. But the community has never stopped believing in their dream.
Today, it is up to Cam Tran and his family to continue the work on the temple and now they are one step closer.
'We are the third generation. The first generation was just two or three people. Day by day, they believed they could make it better and now as you can see it is better,’' he said.
On a muggy Sunday afternoon, parishioners and their families and friends gathered from across Massachusetts to lay the first brick of the new temple and celebrate its future.
Shaded from the sun with temporary canopies, children, devoted grandmothers, and others from the community celebrated the temple and spoke about its connection to the community. Parishioners also observed prayers and sang songs in celebration of Vu Lan-Bao Hieu, a month-long holiday that peaks on Wednesday.
Monks from Connecticut and New Mexico also made the journey to take park in the ceremony. Along with a roof, the temple does not have a monk guiding the construction work which is done by local volunteers along with Tran and his family.
For the followers that gathered in Fields Corner on Sunday, many were there to celebrate their religion and Vu Lan-Bao Hieu, and to connect with their community, heritage, and the temple itself.
‘The temple makes me feel warm and I feel good every time I am here,’ said Katie Nguyen of Quicy.
Katie, who immigrated to Massachusetts six years ago from Vietnam, explained that the temple is more than just a religious building, but a place to come together and share heritage.
‘It’s a really good thing to have a temple here. It’s how we spend time together and have a community. It’s a good tradition. It gathers people together,’ she said.
Tu Hanh, who came to the United States in 1985, volunteers at the temple and said along with Katie, the temple is a place to relax and connect. ‘I come here and I don’t think about issues in my life. You can forget about that part of your life,’ she said.
Aside from the festivities, Sinh Thi, a follower of the temple and Dorchester resident, said he is just excited to see the final construction getting underway.
“I’m very happy, and hopefully by next year this will be totally different. It’s very important for them to have a temple right in their community to practice in Buddha’s teachings,’ he said.
Construction costs are high, but Tran hopes to have the temple completed in the next couple of years. And even though parishioners had little separating them from the elements Sunday, they still continued to come and worship and create a community among a construction site.