Seminarians Loi Dinh Pham and Quan Minh Nguyen, who will be ordained to the transitional diaconate at the end of November, said they are feeling a mixture of joy and nervousness as this milestone on their vocation journey approaches.
The men, natives of Vietnam, will be ordained Nov. 28 at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption. The celebration will be live-streamed on the cathedral’s YouTube channel.
The men came to the U.S. in 2016 to continue their education and are currently in formation at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind.
The average cost per year to educate a seminarian is $45,000. Their education at St. Meinrad is supported by the Catholic Services Appeal’s Seminarian Education Fund. The CSA supports more than 100 ministries and programs in the archdiocese, including the Vocation Office.
As of Nov. 17, gifts and pledges to the 2020 campaign total $2,545,102. That represents 65 percent of this year’s $3.9 million goal.
The diaconate is a transitional step for seminarians as their formation for priesthood nears its end. Typically seminarians serve as deacons for a year. Pham and Nguyen would have been ordained last spring, but the pandemic forced the celebration to be postponed until the fall. With ordination to the priesthood expected to be next spring, the men will likely serve as deacons for about six months, said Father Anthony Chandler who is director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Vocation Office.
Pham, 34, is originally from Huong Son, a rural town in the Ha Tinh province in Vietnam. He is the second youngest of six children born to farmers who worked the land and raised cattle to make a living. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the Hue College of Foreign Languages in Hue, Vietnam.
Pham said he has “mixed-feelings” now that he can see the end of his formation, including diaconate ordination, on the horizon.
“On the one hand, I feel very excited thinking about ordination. That is something I’ve been preparing for most of my life and it’s on the horizon now. Being able to celebrate some sacraments and being able to preach and serve the church as a deacon really inspires me and makes me feel joyful,” he said. “On the other hand, I’m a little nervous. I ask the question, ‘Really, can I do it?’ It’s a scary thought for me. But I trust in God and in his providence. If he wants me to, he will make a path and he will grant me enough grace to do my job and do it well.”
Service to the poor and the disabled motivated Pham to enter formation for the priesthood. Pham said he’s looking forward to serving others and celebrating the sacraments. This keeps him inspired and motivated to “follow the call of Christ,” he said.
“I want to have the smell of sheep … and the smell of the altar. It’s a balance between the two,” he added.
Nguyen, 32, is originally from An Hoa, a rural town in the Nghe An Province in Vietnam. He is one of five children.
Like Pham, Nguyen is also experiencing a mixture of joy and nervousness as ordination to the transitional diaconate draws near. He said he thinks of the diaconate as an “unconditional gift of God” to be used for the whole church.
“I am feeling a sense of joy, peace and excitement. … I also feel a little bit nervous because I am deeply aware of my role and responsibility as a deacon of God and the church. Yet, I recognize that the Holy Spirit is working on me to become his instrument in bringing hope, joy and love for others,” said Nguyen in a recent interview.
Drawing closer to Christ by serving at the altar and service to the sick, the poor and the vulnerable is what he’s most looking forward to during his time as a deacon, he said. “Becoming a deacon helps to satisfy my desire to serve God and his people. I would like to discover the deep dimensions of a servant of God and the church,” said Nguyen.
Besides his parents, Nguyen credits Father Anthony Bui Duc Duyet — pastor of the parish where he grew up — and two of his siblings, who are sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for inspiring his vocation.
Though their service as deacons will be short-lived, Pham and Nguyen have already spent time serving members of the faithful this year, said Father Chandler.
“They’ve done great work this year even in the midst of COVID, calling parishioners and checking on them. So, already, I think their ministry of service has started. I’m very pleased about that,” said Father Chandler in a recent interview.
Father Chandler said he thinks of the men as missionaries and believes they will be assets to the presbyterate. An agreement between the bishops of the Diocese of Ha Tinh, where Pham is from, and the Diocese of Vinh, Nguyen’s home diocese, has allowed the men to continue formation in the U.S. and to serve in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“Both of them are very bright, very intelligent. They will be great assets to our presbyterate. They have done great work academically, theologically, socially and everything. We are looking forward to their service as deacons even though it’ll be short lived,” said Father Chandler. “I think overall they are two wonderful candidates. As deacons, they will begin to participate more fully in the sacramental life of the ministry with baptisms, weddings, and funerals.”
The parish assignments of the soon-to-be ordained deacons have not yet been announced.
To learn more about how the Catholic Services Appeal supports seminarians or to donate, visit www.archlou.org/CSA.
In late October the dioceses of Vinh and Ha Tinh were damaged by typhoons Saudel and Molave. The Archdiocese of Louisville is taking up a donation to benefit these dioceses. Those who would like to donate are asked to mail their contribution, by Dec. 15, to the Pastoral Center, 3940 Poplar Level Road, Louisville, Ky., 40213-1463. Checks should be made out to the Archdiocese of Louisville with “Vietnamese typhoons” written in the memo line.