Vietnamese deacon Anthony Tang Vinh Phan was finally ordained to the priesthood, as Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin SM called on him to be “configured in Christ” and “grow into holiness”.
Fr Tang’s ordination had to be rescheduled four times due to the different lockdowns the country had undergone. The closure of the borders also meant Fr Tang’s family, with the exception of his brother – who is also studying to be a priest for the Christchurch diocese – could not be present at the ordination at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on October 10.
Bishop Martin started Mass with the Sign of the Cross in Vietnamese, as a nod to Fr Tang’s heritage.
“It is unfortunate that Deacon Tang’s family are not able to be with us here physically, but we are united in prayer and in our faith in Jesus Christ and his love for the Church,” Bishop Martin said. “While there might be barriers due to language, there are none when it comes to sharing in the liturgy of the Church. I want you to know that you in Vietnam are very much in our thoughts and present to us, and we know that we are united in our joy of seeing this man, your son, our brother and friend, ordained a priest of the Church for our diocese of Christchurch.”
The Mass was celebrated mostly in English and, at times, was translated into Vietnamese. Some of the songs were also sung in Vietnamese.
In his homily, Bishop Martin noted how Jesus, in the Gospel, requested that the people ask God for more labourers to help in the harvest.
“Tang has responded to this call, this request of God, to be a shepherd. In doing so, he embraces all the beauty that is the priesthood and all that it demands of someone. For to become a priest is to be configured to Christ as teacher, priest and shepherd,” he said.
He reminded Fr Tang that commitment to Jesus means developing “a deep and personal life of prayer”.
Bishop Martin said that, through the sacraments carried out by the priest, “Christ is made present at key moments in the faith life of the Christian person. What we do as priest should transform us to become more fully and perfectly into the one who works through us”.
Referencing St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, Bishop Martin said that building up the body of the Church is the key part in the life of the priest, “for the Church as the body of Christ is where the priest is grounded, and from which he goes out to people”.
“Your call is to be with your people, not removed from them. And you will spend your years as a priest working out what this means, what this feels like. And if you do it well, you will be deeply loved by those you serve. And you will, in turn, grow in your own holiness, which will bring others to Christ to whom you are configured,” he said.
Bishop Martin, at the start of his homily, joked that he had “blow the cobwebs off” to see if he still agreed with what he’d written before.
After the Rite of Ordination, Fr Tang laid flowers before the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and prayed for a few minutes.
Bishop Martin again thanked Fr Tang’s parents, Holy Cross rector Fr Brendan Ward, and the staff of the seminary and all those who were involved in the formation of Fr Tang.