Father Linh Nguyen eager to offer God's love and sacramental grace
FORT WORTH — When Bishop Michael Olson ordained Linh Nguyen to the priesthood on May 22 in Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington, the people who watched him grow up in Christ the King Parish witnessed the ceremony with pride and gratitude. The Vietnamese faith community in northeast Fort Worth supported the parishioner with prayers and encouragement since he entered the seminary after high school.
The 26-year-old who was active in the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement and other church activities said, “In a sense, it’s like a family watching their son grow up and head off to something big in their life.” He returned to Christ the King Parish on May 23 to celebrate his first Mass.
Nguyen is the youngest of six men who received the sacrament of Holy Orders at the 10 a.m. Mass. Seeing how pastors engaged people in the parish inspired the son of Tuyet and Viet Nguyen to consider a call to the priesthood. Members of the Vietnam-based Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer not only served the parish sacramentally, they became part of family life, attending birthday parties and other special occasions.
“I was only five or six-years-old when I noticed how my pastor interacted with the people in the parish,” he told the North Texas Catholic in a 2020 interview. “I knew, in my heart, I wanted to be like him.”
Although the young parishioner admired the missionary zeal of the priests assigned to Christ the King, Nguyen decided to become a diocesan priest rather than join a religious order in order to forge long-term, spiritual relationships with people.
Accomplishing that during a pandemic was both a blessing and a challenge, said the transitional deacon.
“It’s been a blessing to be part of people’s journey helping them through the stress of COVID and issues that develop,” explained Fr. Nguyen, who offered advice and reassurance to those contacting him. “At the same time, you have to come up with different ways to reach out to people and make them feel part of the community and that’s the challenge.”
In a typical year, a man in his final year of seminary studies receives a parish assignment and is busy celebrating the sacraments and other joyous occasions with members of the congregation. Public health concerns curtailed those gatherings.
“Weekends give me the chance to check on people by email, phone calls, or Skype,” he added.
Nguyen began preparing for the priesthood nine years ago, and finding joy in life’s little moments made the difficult times easier.
“I like bringing joy to people, whether that’s my brothers in the seminary, my family, or the people I minister to,” he continued. “It’s not super extraordinary things either — just simple gestures like saying hello, acknowledging someone, and caring for them allows me to bring happiness.”
After ordination, the Fort Worth native is looking forward to “helping people encounter God’s mercy and love” in the confessional. Catholics who avoid the sacrament of Reconciliation are missing a chance for personal renewal and grace.
“Confession is an opportunity to realize our frailties and weaknesses,” Nguyen pointed out. “We come to God and ask for His help and mercy so we can continue to grow in a relationship with Him.”
Fr. Nguyen has been assigned to serve as parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller.
Silent prayer is where the priest finds peace and tranquility. He also has a cadre of saints he turns to for inspiration and intercession depending on the situation.
“For example, St. Therese de Lisieux is someone I look to when I’m frustrated with things,” Fr. Nguyen said. “She is a reminder that as tedious and dreadful as some things are, if I do it with love, it means a lot more than just bearing through.”
Nguyen is part of the largest class of new priests in the Diocese of Fort Worth. As he prepared to receive the ancient rite on the vigil of Pentecost, he used the image of the apostles, huddled in an upper room and fearful of the outside world, to encourage others to seek a religious vocation.
“The doors were locked yet the Holy Spirit penetrated through,” he said, describing the miracle that gave early Christians the courage to preach the Good News. “I ask young adults in our diocese to let the Holy Spirit penetrate through the fear, darkness, and struggles of their own lives so they can hear God’s call to be disciples.”
Editor's note: This article was updated June 3, 2021.