In 1986, Father Michael Viet Anh, Superior of the Congregation of the Incarnation Consecrated to Mission, was elected by the Vietnamese Clergy and religious Community in the United States to be Chairman of the Committee to Prepare for Sainthood in the United States. Around the canonization event (1988), there were many events of political relations, making responsible people worried. Father Viet Anh prayed to the Martyrs: if the canonization event in Rome goes well, he will campaign to build a Pilgrimage Center dedicated to them in the United States. After that, He began to fulfill his vow. But things happened unexpectedly, and the project was suspended indefinitely.
Six years after Father Viet Anh passed away (1999), the Congregation of the Incarnation- Consecrated- Mission (ICM) wanted to continue the project of building a Pilgrimage Center, named Pilgrimage Center of Saint Andrew Dung Lac and his Martyred Companions, located on a 42-acre plot of land, with many trees and lakes, a prayer garden dedicated to Blessed Andrew Phu Yen and the Stations of the Cross according to Vietnamese art. The Center is 30 miles northwest of downtown Houston, two miles off Highway 290. The first intention of the project is to build a Retreat House in Saint Le Thi Thanh. The project started in June 2006, but unfortunately, construction had to be suspended due to lack of finance.
In 2009, the second side project started when a benefactor donated 11 mobile homes to the Center, with a total area of 10,000 SF. After two years of renovation, with the contributions of many sponsors in terms of effort, time, ability, and finance, the project was completed in December 2011. Retreat House consists of two buildings - The St. Mary Building has 28 rooms, and the St. Joseph Building 10 rooms - was blessed and inaugurated during Lent this year and officially opened to welcome groups and individuals to meditate and pray. In addition to the retreat and prayer program, the Retreat House will organize Bible study sessions, prayer sessions, and seminars on religious, cultural, charitable, and social issues for all participants, regardless of religion. In addition, the Retreat House, because it is located on a 42-acre plot of land, is an ideal place for organizations such as Scouts, Eucharistic Youth, Catechist Groups, Marriage and Family, Cursillo Movement, The choir,... organizes training camps and youth camps.
Saint Agnes Lê Thị Thành (Also known as Đê) Catholic Laity (1781-1841) Martyred on July 12, 1841, "My dear daughter, do not cry. The blood patches on my clothes are like roses. I am happy to suffer, for Jesus Christ's sake. Why are you crying?""
St. Agnes Le Thi Thanh was born to wealthy Catholic parents in 1781 at Bái Điền Village, Yên Định District, Thanh Hóa Province. However, her father later married a second wife because her birth mother could not give him a son to be his heir. Because of this, her mother (at the age of 12) and her sister, Thuộc (at the age of 10), had to leave her father's home and settle at Đông Village, Phúc Nhạc Town, Ninh Bình Province. At 17, she married a Catholic man, Nguyễn Văn Nhất. The couple had two sons and four daughters. She was also known as Mrs. Đê, the name of her first-born son by a local custom by which their son's name addressed the parents of their first-born son. The couple took raising their children in the Catholic faith very seriously. St. Agnes Đê especially loved and respected religious people, Christian missionaries, and indigenous priests. Her family always and willingly provided sanctuary to the clergy during the persecution of Christianity.
On the morning of Easter Sunday, April 14, 1841, a person named Đễ, who was an assistant to Father Thành, betrayed him by secretly reporting the priests' whereabouts to Magistrate Trịnh Quang Khanh for reward. To escape the Magistrate's raid, the head of the pastoral council, Mr. Cơ, had St. Agnes Đê hide Father Jean-Paul Galy Carles, a missionary priest, in a dry bayou hidden behind a bamboo bush of her garden. However, the magistrate' 'soldiers found and arrested Father Jean and St. Agnes Đê for hiding him. Mr. Cơ, St. Agnes Đê, and eight other people were chained in shackles and walked to Nam Định Prison. St. Agnes Đê has fallen many times on the way to the prison because of the heavy bond on her neck. Despite being enticed, severely tortured, beaten, and almost bitten by poisonous snakes released by the soldiers into her pants, she remained unwavering in her faith. While visiting her mother in prison, Nu Nguyen, St. Agnes Đê's youngest daughter, could not stop weeping upon seeing her mother's clothes stained with patchy blood from bleeding wounds. St. Agnes Đê consoled her daughter: "My dear daughter, do not cry. The blood patches on my clothes are like roses. I am happy to suffer, for Jesus Christ's sake. Why are you crying?" On her daughter's other prison visit, St. Agnes Đê told her daughter: "Tell your siblings to take good care of our family, be devout Catholics, faithful in keeping prayer and attending masses, and pray for mom to be unwavering in carrying my cross to the end. We will soon be reunited in Heaven."
Besides suffering excruciating torment and severe malnutrition, St. Agnes Đê also suffered infectious diarrhea (Dysentery). Her health was deteriorating quickly despite the tending of two nuns in the same prison. St. Agnes Đê finally rested in God on December 7, 1841, while in jail under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri. According to the prevalent laws, her toes were burnt as a certification of prisoner's death. Her body was buried at the execution field known as Five Acres and later was exhumed by other Christians to be buried at Phuc Nhac Church. St. Agnes Đê was beatified on May 2, 1909, and canonized on June 19, 1988.
(From the book "Martyrs of Vietnam,"” y The Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops, May 2018. Translation by Nam-Phương Nguyễn, Houston, TX)