Without love,
vocation will feel
burdensome, priest says

Father Kien Nguyen, the associate vocation director and pastor of St. Gregory Church in Samuels, Ky., displayed a rosary during an interview about the priesthood in late October. He bought 500 rosaries from Vietnam to promote the devotion in his parish. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

On the road to St. Gregory Church located off rural Highway 245 in Samuels, Ky., Father Kien Ngyuen decided that his first act as the leader of a parish would be a prayer of petition.

He called the parish office en route that morning in April of 2019 and asked for the church to be opened. When he arrived, “I didn’t prepare anything, but it came out as I was kneeling at the tabernacle,” he said. “ ‘Unite us in your love and mercy.’ ”

“Since that time, I see the unity in the parish,” he said during a recent interview about the priesthood and National Vocation Awareness Week, which is observed Nov. 7-13. “Everyone plays an important part in the parish family. I hope when people come, they feel connected to the parish.”

Father Nguyen is pastor of St. Gregory and in April of 2021 was named the associate vocation director for the Archdiocese of Louisville.

He recently visited seminaries in the region, where he checked on the progress of archdiocesan seminarians and heard from those charged with their formation. The experience prompted him to reflect on his own experience and continued formation as a relatively new priest. He was ordained in May of 2018.

“I listened to their formators,” he noted. “They really focus on human formation and pastoral formation and spiritual formation and academic formation — those are the four pillars.

“They really help the priest learn to be a good minister of the church as a public person and to be a spiritual leader,” Father Nguyen said.

One of the formation leaders told him that one who helps the community and helps others will be a good spiritual leader as well, he said.

“It’s good for me to hear that,” Father Nguyen said, noting that he asked himself, “ ‘How can I love my people?’ I show my love by my action. If I am willing to serve my people, no matter when, that means I carry them in my heart, in my prayer life.”

The foundation for that love, he said, lies in loving God and your vocation.

“If you don’t love your vocation, it will feel like a burden when you get a call at midnight,” he added with a smile.

During his first year-plus as pastor, Father Nguyen prayed for every member of his parish by name using a prayer book that lists each person. He prayed the rosary, celebrated Mass or offered another form of prayer for them and tried to call them as well.

He also bought 500 rosaries from Vietnam to give to parishioners and started a regular rosary devotion before Masses.

And he is teaching St. Gregory School children about adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with school-wide adoration every first Friday.

Father Nguyen feels his love for his parishioners has been returned, even though “I am not worthy,” he said.

“There are a lot of good and pious people in my parish and they inspire me. I learn a lot from them and they support my vocation,” he said. “This is my family. I don’t have my physical family (who live in Vietnam) here. I tell them they are my parents, grandparents and they say I am part of their family.”

He noted that, like all people, “I am a human being, I am tired, I am overwhelmed sometimes. But I feel God’s love in me.

“I feel I’m not worthy, but we are humble before God,” he said. “Whatever you have done, the result is from God. We are called to be instruments.”

For more information about vocations in the archdiocese, visit louisvillevocations.com.

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