The decision to postpone the ordination to the priesthood of Deacon Trung Nguyen hit him hard, but the love that poured from the people of the Palmerston North diocese, as well as from his own family, has kept his faith strong.
“When I heard about it, I felt sad. I had been waiting for a long, long time for that day,” he said. “I think, it’s human nature (to feel sad). But for the safety of the people and all things considered, like travelling, I think it’s a good decision to postpone the ordination.”
Deacon Nguyen was supposed to be ordained as a priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on April 18. But Wellington Cardinal John Dew and Palmerston North Vicar-general Msgr Brian Walsh talked to him about it and they agreed it was best to postpone.
“We will decide when to have the ordination when the lockdown is finished,” Deacon Nguyen said. “I still believe, in God’s plan, that day will come.”
He said, with the virus still around, it doesn’t seem possible for his family to fly here to witness his ordination.
“It’s funny because I have three brothers following the vocation as well, one in the States, one in Colombia and one in India. Through this event, they are also always encouraging me and we kind-of journeyed together, which means I am not alone,” he said.
One of his brothers is a diocesan seminarian in Washington, DC, another in a religious order in Colombia, and still another in the Rosminian order in India.
He said the people in Palmerston North diocese also sent him messages and emails, most telling him to “hang on in there”.
But he is most grateful to Bishop Owen Dolan, his first spiritual director in New Zealand. He said Bishop Dolan called him (Deacon Nguyen) as soon as he (Bishop Dolan) heard the news.
“He said to me, I come from Vietnam where, all through the history of the faith in Vietnam, we have been through challenges and persecution,” Deacon Nguyen said.
He added that Bishop Dolan pointed out that his (Deacon Nguyen’s) vocation journey was filled with challenges as well, first with having to learn a new culture and now, with this virus.
“In the end, he said to me that your vocation will flourish like the faith in Vietnam. Because the challenges and the struggles made the faith in Vietnam so strong. I reflect on it as well. The difficult times make my vocation stronger. The desire to be priest is more, compared to the past,” he said.
Deacon Nguyen said he is with Msgr Walsh and Msgr David Bell for the duration of the lockdown.
“It’s a good time to learn from these wise men. They have a lot of experiences in their pastoral ministry, so now it’s time for me to learn from them. Actually, it’s a good time,” he said.