As Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz ordained two men to the transitional diaconate Nov. 28, he told them there’s a “double dignity” inherent in the service of deacons.
“There is a dignity to the diaconate, it is a dignity that is a call to holiness that each of you will receive; a dignity that will grow within your soul,” he said during his homily at the Cathedral of the Assumption. “But it’s also a dignity imparted on those people whose lives are touched through Christ through your diaconate. It’s a double dignity.”
Deacons Loi Dinh Pham and Quan Minh Nguyen, natives of Vietnam, are currently in formation for the priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind. The diaconate is a transitional step for seminarians as their formation for priesthood nears its end. They are expected to be ordained priests in the spring.
The men came to the U.S. in 2016 to continue their education and to serve in the Archdiocese of Louisville through an agreement — which Archbishop Kurtz called a “covenant” — with the Dioceses of Vinh and Ha Tinh in Vietnam.
During his homily, Archbishop Kurtz said to his listeners that this ordination “gives testimony to the fact that we as a church are one body in Christ that crosses any lines of nations that seek always the good of all.”
Due to health and safety restrictions brought about by the pandemic, only a handful of clergy, friends and family members attended the ceremony.
The archbishop shared with the sparse congregation that the men wrote essays in preparation for their ordination. In the essays they both talked about “the gift” of their family, the archbishop said, noting that Deacon Nguyen described his family as “his first seminary.”
“For both of you, the grace of Christ has been alive from the moment of your conception, when like the prophet Jeremiah hearing a call, you received a call to follow Christ,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “You did so in a way that was nurtured and supported and uncovered with the help of your family. So I give thanks today for the gift of each of your families.”
The archbishop noted he had the “privilege” to meet the men’s families during a trip to Vietnam in 2017.
In his essay, Deacon Pham wrote about the church’s call to serve those who are poor, disabled and forgotten.
“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has often said that the work of the church in serving others is not the work of a non-governmental organization. Good work is done by NGOs throughout the world, but the church, the diaconate … is much more than an NGO,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “We are the hands of Jesus Christ touching the lives of those people who most need his comfort.”
The archbishop called the ordinands’ attention to the second reading from the fourth chapter of second Corinthians in which St. Paul said that “you and I are earthen vessels, we are imperfect. … We each can only do so much and yet for each of us God has a special plan and there are people whom God will place in your lives that you might serve them.”
Archbishop Kurtz said that Christ has reached into the hearts of Deacons Nguyen and Pham and called them to a life of service like he has done with others throughout the ages. The church is “enriched” because of this, he said.
“The diaconate has been called the ‘Icon of Christ,’ who serves so that as people see a holy icon and their hearts and minds are raised to the eternal, so also people will watch and hear as you preach and teach and serve and in doing so you will be the icon of Jesus … the one who is our savior and through whom all good things happen.”
Archbishop Kurtz said the occasion of the men’s ordination was a time to pause and give thanks, but also a time to pray that they will be “humble earthen vessels” open to the continued call of Christ.
Though their parish assignment will not be made until the spring following ordination to the priesthood; they’ve been serving members of the faithful. Deacon Nguyen does tele-ministry at St. Margaret Mary Church, where he calls parishioners and checks on their well-being. Deacon Pham serves the Vietnamese community at St. John Vianney Church.
The liturgy was live-streamed to the Cathedral of the Assumption’s Youtube page and can be viewed by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4o5dy7GoXU.