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June 11, 2017

Ordination 2017: Meet our new priests

‘I hope to offer a servant’s heart and a ready ear ...’

Name: John Nguyen
Home parish: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Carmel

John NguyenWhat have been the highlights of your year in the diaconate?

One of the highlights of my year as a deacon was being able to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on three different occasions. As a seminarian, I have been used to assisting at various liturgies, but at the baptisms I was the main celebrant. The experience of leading the liturgy was new and I felt in a new way the special role of the celebrant as the instrument of God’s grace and love. I have also been mindful of the fact that I now have spiritual children who I pray for on a daily basis and hope to see them grow and mature over the years.

Has the experience affirmed your call to the priesthood?

The experience has been a powerful affirmation for my call to the priesthood as I prepare to embrace even more fully the role of spiritual father.

As we learn in seminary, being called “Father” does carry with it many similar responsibilities that biological fathers have in terms of caring for the welfare of the children. The main distinction is that as a priest I will be focused on the spiritual well-being of my parish family, while a biological father would be more focused on the physical well-being of his family.

Have any of your views on priestly life changed?

I would not say that my views on priestly life have changed as much as they have expanded. At the beginning of seminary, I was focused on the role of the priest in terms of celebrating Mass and hearing confessions, which are still primary parts of the priestly life, but I have experienced many more of the less public aspects of priestly life, including the challenge of balancing work and prayer, the importance of various relationships in the life of priests like friendships, and practical day-to-day parts of ministry.

Were you surprised by anything over the past year?

I was surprised by how much I have grown to enjoy preaching. During my discernment before seminary, one of the biggest reservations I had about myself was my public speaking ability. I was worried that I would not be an effective preacher and I used that for many years as an excuse to avoid entering seminary. Now many years later, I find myself looking forward to preaching and it has reminded me of how God uses our weaknesses to build up his kingdom. I am excited to continue to grow as a preacher so that God can more effectively use me to share his good news.

What do you hope to offer to parishioners as a new priest?

I hope to offer a servant’s heart and a ready ear to my parishioners.

All throughout my life, I have always lived by the saying that our actions speak louder than our words. Being able to serve others and share the love of Christ through quiet and unseen actions is one of the biggest sources of joy in my life and to be able to do it as part of my priestly identity is such a gift.

One of the biggest lessons I learned about preaching is that being a good preacher requires being a good listener first. So it is one of my priorities to be an active listener as I am given the privilege of sharing in the lives of my parishioners.

Can you share some reflections on your journey?

My journey through seminary has had more twists and turns than the average one, which has been a great reminder that we are on God’s time.

When I started seminary, I was in a hurry to finish it as quickly as possible so that I could start being a priest as soon as possible. Ten years after I started, I can look back and see that there was no need for any rush and that all of the unexpected challenges and experiences I have gone through have helped shape me into the man and priest that God is calling me to be.

In our culture where instant gratification is a high commodity, learning patience is one of the biggest parts in growing in our spiritual lives.

What do you most look forward to as ordination nears?

I most look forward to the joy of celebrating the sacraments daily.

I have been going to daily Mass for half of my life now and soon I will be the one through whom Christ comes into the world in sacramental form. It will take some time getting used to being the celebrant at the majority of the Masses I participate in in the future. As a priest I hope to grow in my love, understanding and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament each and every day.

What did you find most meaningful or helpful or inspirational during your last year in the seminary?

As part of our last year in seminary at Saint Meinrad, the deacon class has the gift of traveling in Europe for four weeks during January.

My classmates and I were able to spend a week in London, Paris, Rome, and have our retreat at Einsiedeln, Switzerland, at the monastery where the founding monks of Saint Meinrad came from.

It was an amazing experience to see the Church in so many different countries where some of the most well-known saints originated. It reminded me that the Church is so much larger than any one parish, diocese or even country, and that our faith connects us not only to people all over the world, but with people throughout time and even beyond death.

The interconnectedness that we share as Catholics is a gift that we can often overlook, but it is a major source of our strength as we travel together in our pilgrimage to heaven.

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