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Pope names Florida priest auxiliary bishop for Orange, California

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Pope names Florida priest auxiliary bishop for Orange, California

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis
has appointed Father Thanh Thai Nguyen, a priest of the Diocese of St.
Augustine, Florida, to be an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange,

The appointment was announced in
Washington Oct. 6 by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d’affaires at the Vatican’s
nunciature in Washington.

Born in Vietnam, Bishop-designate Nguyen, 64, fled the country in 1979 by
boat with his family and spent 10 months in a refugee camp in the Philippines
before arriving in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1980. After brief studies at
Hartford State Technical College, he became a math and science teacher in
Hartford public schools.

In 1984, he joined the
Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, studying at Merrimack College and the
Weston School of Theology, both in Massachusetts. He was ordained to the
priesthood May 11, 1991.

For the next eight years, he
worked in parishes in Georgia and Florida. In 1999, he was incardinated into
the Diocese of St. Augustine. He has been pastor of St. Joseph Parish in
Jacksonville, Florida, since 2014.

Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of St.
Augustine said he learned of Father Thanh’s appointment Sept. 27, the day Pope
Francis launched the two-year campaign, “Share the Journey.” The global
initiative is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees
and migrants who have fled their homeland due to poverty, violence,
persecution, and war.

In 1979, Father Thanh and his
family escaped Vietnam during the war. They fled by boat, and after 18 days at
sea, they landed on the shores of the Philippines. He lived in a refugee camp
for 10 months before moving to the United States in 1980.

“Father Thanh knows the plight
of refugees, and he understands their journey seeking a safe home and the
ability to support their families,” Bishop Estevez said in a statement. “He has
a genuine gift when it comes to ministering to people of diverse cultures.”

“Now that reality is beginning
to set in, I need to start the process of letting go and letting God,” said
Bishop-designate Nguyen in a statement about his appointment. “Yes, letting go
of familiar places, familiar faces, Bishop Estevez, the presbyterate of the
diocese, parishioners, and staff of St. Joseph and Christ the King parishes who
have played an important role in my priestly ministry for more than 20 years.

While he was a Missionary of Our
Lady of La Salette serving in the St. Augustine Diocese, Bishop John J. Snyder,
then head of the diocese,  named the
priest parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Jacksonville.

In September 2001, Bishop Victor
B. Galeone, newly named to head the diocese, appointed him pastor of the parish.
Through his leadership and initiative, he brought harmony to the Vietnamese
community by celebrating a Sunday Mass in Vietnamese and building a Vietnamese
Center where cultural traditions among the youth and elderly are preserved.

As pastor of St. Joseph Parish,
Nguyen has been instrumental in strengthening the faith community by
celebrating its cultural diversity through parish events throughout the year.
He has also built a social/youth hall and added a youth Mass. The parish is
about to launch a $4 million capital campaign for parish improvements.

“Father Thanh has not only
promoted unity in the parish, but he has fostered more vocations to the
priesthood and religious life than any other parish in the diocese,” said
Bishop Estevez.

The Diocese of Orange, headed by
Bishop Kevin W. Vann, has a large Vietnamese Catholic community.

The Southern California diocese
is the 10th largest in the country and one of the fastest growing in the nation.
It has 1.3 million Catholics.


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