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Archives ‘I would choose to do His will’

October 21, 2020

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

CHAMPLAIN – Imagine yourself adrift in the ocean in a small fishing boat for days. Sometimes you hear shooting above your head. Three times, pirates stop your boat, looking for gold or other valuables. They kidnap and rape some of the young girls on your boat. If you are caught, you will be imprisoned or have to pay a fine.

This is how Father Duc Nguyen escaped from Vietnam, where he was born, at the age of 14. After the war, the country’s new governmental system, “‘reeducated’ people, changed their money, and ended freedom of religion. We were not allowed to worship,” he explained.

Thankfully, Father Nguyen and his uncle, who fled by boat, were rescued by the United States military, which brought them to a refugee camp in Malaysia. They were put on an island, where they received food from the United Nations and the Red Cross each week.

Although they cleaned the island, there were no paying jobs. When his paperwork was completed and it was decided that he would go to the United States, Father Nguyen studied English.

Sponsors paid for airplane tickets and Father Nguyen went to stay with his aunt in Pennsylvania. Catholic Social Services were also helpful.

When he was adrift in the ocean, Father Nguyen said he prayed that, “If God delivered me, I would choose to do His will.” He said he relied on God in everything. In the refugee camp, priests came every once in a while, sometimes each month. It made him realize how many more priests were needed and how great the spiritual needs of people were.

At first, when he came to America, Father Nguyen was a Sunday Catholic. Over time, as others prayed for the grace of his conversion, he took his faith more seriously.

“It is challenging, in many vocations,” Father Nguyen said. “What we need is prayer to live out the Gospel, to love Jesus, love our neighbor as ourselves, to love others as we love ourselves.”

Father Nguyen was serving in Kansas City, Missouri until a little over a year ago, when he volunteered to come to the Diocese of Ogdensburg. He has relatives in Long Island, and he wanted to be closer to them, and he also saw that our diocese has a priest shortage.

Currently, Father Nguyen is the parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s in Rouses Point and St. Mary’s in Champlain.

A challenge in the North Country is that, unlike big cities, people are “spread out.”

Currently, many are still unable to attend church. Since some are not able to come back due to COVID, Father Nguyen goes out to them, making home visits to bring the sacraments. When he is able, Father Nguyen says Mass at the senior housing center and nursing home.

As people have their spiritual needs met, Father Nguyen shared, they are “happy and grateful.” Father Nguyen has also assisted with religious education, visiting the homebound, and shut-ins. He brings people Holy Communion, offers Mass at the parish and prays for the parishioners. Some of the ministries that Father Nguyen is most passionate about are: “faith formation, teaching Confirmation class for young people, religious education on Sundays, spending time with people to answer their questions, provide guidance and support in the faith.” He’s also helped train altar servers.

One of the most inspiring aspects of Father Nguyen’s priesthood, he noted, is when he is able to help those who are leading difficult lives to encounter God. To help lead the dying to “receive the sacraments and bring them closer to God as they prepare for the next life” is very fulfilling, he said.

Father Nguyen hopes to help “people grow close to God and pray.”

He said we need “grace and strength to serve and live our vocation in life as a Christian.”

Speaking of vocations, Father Nguyen said these are challenging times. He said it is important to “receive the sacraments . . . this will lead us in the vocation to holiness that all are called to live out [whether priesthood, consecrated, or married life].”

He also noted that it is essential to pray that “God will give us grace and direction.”

Some of Father Nguyen’s favorite devotions are to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary. He loves to “contemplate and meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life.” St. Anthony of Padua is one of his favorite saints.
“This patron of finding lost things will help us to find direction in life to lead us to God,” Father Nguyen said.

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