By Anne Marie Amacher
“This is my vocation. This is my life,” Deacon Joseph Nguyen says of his call to the priesthood. The Vietnam native will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Davenport on Saturday, May 22, at 10 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.
The 36-year-old thanks Bishop Martin Amos and Father Marty Goetz, the diocese’s vocations director, for their support on the journey to priesthood. “They walked with me. They gave me lots of support. They helped me out.”
Born in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Vietnam, he attended school there. After high school he attended Viet Nam Public University of Saigon — Ho Chi Minh City where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He worked for two years as an accountant in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and then went to school in the Philippines to work on a master’s degree.
While studying economics at Our Lady of the Angel Seminary in the Philippines, Deacon Nguyen said he was inspired by some missionaries and decided to become a priest. He completed his master’s degree at the seminary there. He would not have been able to enroll in a seminary in Vietnam because his late father had been involved in activities the government did not approve of.
Deacon Nguyen learned about the Davenport Diocese by chance, from Father Carmelo Hernandez who had contacts with the diocese and provided that information to Deacon Nguyen. After contacting the diocese, Deacon Nguyen came to Davenport and completed his pre-theology studies at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
Then he began his major seminary studies at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., where he is scheduled to graduate this month.
During his major seminary studies, Deacon Nguyen completed an internship at Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton in 2008. He completed his clinical pastoral education at Rochester Hospital in New York in 2009.
On Oct. 24, 2009, he was ordained a transitional deacon for the diocese by Bishop Amos. Since December, Deacon Nguyen has been serving as a deacon at St. Mary of Gostyn Parish in Joliet, Ill.
He said his views of the priesthood have changed from when he first began seminary studies. And those views are not bad, he said. His experiences studying and doing internships in parishes have given him a true awareness of what the priesthood is all about, he believes.
He looks forward to being able to celebrate the sacraments with future parishioners. “This is what it is all about. I look forward to serving the people more efficiently and bringing people to God in all circumstances as I can.”
Deacon Nguyen’s mom, Mary Thau Luu, and his brother, Joseph Tam Nguyen, will be at the May 22 ordination. Deacon Nguyen’s first Mass as a priest will be celebrated that day during the 4 p.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. A reception will follow at Denning Hall at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport at 6 p.m.
Fr. Goetz said, “This is a great day for the diocese. Deacon Joseph has worked very hard and with a heart of compassion. He will be a fine priest for the diocese. He is anxious to do the Lord’s work.”
The theme Deacon Nguyen has chosen for his ordination is, “This is my body which will be given up for you.”
“God has given me his whole life; in return I think this is the best gift that I want to offer him.”