From boat person to Catholic Bishop


Former Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Parish Priest Fr Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv - a Vietnamese refugee who came to Australia in a refugee boat - has been appointed a Catholic Bishop in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Bishop-Elect Nguyen was 18 years old when he and his family fled communism in 1980. He becomes the first Vietnamese-born member of the clergy in Australia to be elected Bishop.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Australia advised Archbishop Denis Hart on Thursday 19 May that Pope Benedict XVI had appointed Bishop-Elect Nguyen as Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne.

"The appointment of Bishop Vincent is a historic one," Archbishop Hart said.

"He escaped from Vietnam by boat as a young man, came to Melbourne, joined the Conventual Franciscans, and has already given distinguished service as a pastor in Springvale, as a leader in his order and has made a generous and gifted contribution to the Church.

“We welcome him warmly as he returns from Rome, and look forward to his ordination as Titular bishop of Tula on Thursday 23 June. He is in our prayers at this important moment."

After the fall of Saigon, three brothers of Bishop-Elect Nguyen settled in Holland, a sister is still in Vietnam and his parents and a brother and a sister are in Melbourne.

In 1983, Bishop-Elect Nguyen became a Conventual Franciscan friar and studied for the priesthood in Melbourne.

After his priestly ordination on 30 December 1989, he was sent to Rome for further studies and was awarded a licentiate in Christology and Spirituality from the Pontifical Faculty of St Bonaventure.

He served as Our Lady of the Rosary Kellyville Parish Priest for four years in the Diocese of Parramatta, and for seven years in Springvale in Victoria. He was elected superior of the Order of Friars Minor Conventuals in Australia in 2005.

Since 2008, he has been in Rome serving as Assistant General, responsible for the Asia-Oceania section of order.

The Bishop-Elect returns to Melbourne from Rome at the end of May.

Blessed day for the Church and Vietnamese Community

The Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, has welcomed Bishop-Elect Nguyen's appointment.

The Bishop-Elect studied for the priesthood with Bishop Anthony in Melbourne and they have known each other half their lives.

"I am really delighted that at last we have a bishop with a Vietnamese background in Australia,” Bishop Anthony said.

“The Vietnamese are one of the more recent migrant groups to have made an enormous contribution to our Church in Australia - and Fr Vincent is a really excellent example.”

"Bishop Vincent is a Conventual Franciscan and has served in the Diocese of Parramatta as Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Rosary in Kellyville. Though our first bishops were religious (Benedictines), most Australian bishops are Diocesan priests.

“That’s as it should be, as there is no better experience for a bishop than to have been a parish priest. But we now also have several Religious bishops: Capuchin, Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit, Salesian, Redemptorist.

“Some of our bishops also have associations with the new movements. And some are overseas born. It means that our episcopate is at last catching up with the diversity of our priests and people.”

Warm ACBC welcome

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Philip Wilson said the announcement is an important one for the Church in Australia, in particular for the Vietnamese Catholic Community.

“I wish to extend a warm welcome to Bishop-Elect Vincent Nguyen. It is a true privilege to finally have in the Episcopacy someone representing the strong Vietnamese Catholic Community in Australia,” Archbishop Wilson said.

“He will be a very much-loved Bishop in Melbourne, and a welcome addition to the Bishops Conference.

“As a Franciscan, he will bring a fresh perspective to our deliberations as a conference, and I am sure show unique servant leadership in the Archdiocese of Melbourne,” he said.


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