Ordination of Australia’s first Asian-born Bishop
|Newly ordained Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen with Most Rev Marco Tasca OFM Conv, Minister General, and confreres of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. (File Photo courtesy Order of Friars Minor Conventual)|
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 - was ordained Australia's first Asian-born Bishop in Melbourne on Thursday 23 June.
Bishop Vincent's historic episcopal ordination as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Melbourne was witnessed by thousands at St Patrick’s Cathedral, East Melbourne, including many from Australia's proud Vietnamese community.
Principal consecrator Archbishop Denis Hart was joined by co-consecrators Cardinal George Pell and Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia. Nineteen other Archbishops and Bishops, including Bishop of Parramatta Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, concelebrated with hundreds of priests.
The head of the worldwide Order of Friars Minor Conventual, Minister General Father Marco Tasca OFM Conv, travelled from Rome to assist Bishop Vincent at the ordination. Members of Bishop Vincent’s immediate family from Australia, Holland and Vietnam also attended the ordination, as did members of Federal and State Parliaments.
Bishop Vincent lived his childhood in Vietnam in poverty and war and spent many nights bundled into a bomb shelter with his siblings and parents under their home.
He was 18 years old when he fled communism in 1980, travelling in a 17m boat with 147 other people. After eight terrifying days, he and all 147 other people made it safely to Malaysia.
Bishop Vincent has said that his vocation to the priesthood was confirmed for him in the refugee camp in Springvale, a suburb of Melbourne, where he first lived when he came to Australia.
In 1983, Bishop Vincent 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. 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.
“A call to risk all for Christ”
In his homily at the episcopal ordination, Archbishop Hart referred to Bishop Vincent’s life journey and spiritual growth.
“From his birth 49 years ago in Gia-Kiem, Vietnam, the love of Jesus Christ has always filled Bishop Vincent with hope,” Archbishop Hart said.
“The Spirit of Christ and attendant sufferings accompanied him as he entered the Minor Seminary, faced its closure and escaped to Australia.”
In his final address, which was partially in Vietnamese, Bishop Vincent expressed both a sense of personal inadequacy and yet a profound confidence in his new role.
“I feel small above all before the enormous task that lies ahead of me. Yet in the midst of these uncertainties, I am at peace knowing that no one else is more responsible for me being a bishop than the One who formed me in my mother’s womb,” Bishop Vincent said.
He thanked all those who had been part of his formation including the Vietnamese community of Melbourne saying, “It has been remarked that we are the new Irish of the Catholic Church in Australia.”
He also thanked the civic leaders present saying “In a way, I – a former refugee – stand before you as a testament to the fair go mentality that has shaped this great nation.”
Bishop Vincent referred to his ordination as “a call to risk all for Christ” and “a new way of giving myself” and asked for prayers as he undertakes his new role.
“A bishop must not be afraid to walk with his people in the new exodus to the fullness of life and love,” Bishop Vincent said.“It’s the place we can only reach with unwavering conviction and undying love for Christ and his people. I humbly ask you to pray for me your newly ordained bishop and all bishops to walk this path with fidelity and perseverance.”
From boat person to Catholic Bishop
Bishop Long article at the Catholic Outlook Site
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