Take 5 with Father: returning the gift
He is: Father Nghia Nguyen, parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills and a vocations liaison for the Diocese of Fort Worth.
The gift of life: Born four months premature at barely two pounds, Fr. Nguyen had several brushes with death in his first days. He has always felt God saved his life for a reason.
Faithful family: The second of five children of Vietnamese immigrants, his mother took them to daily Mass. The family prayed and sang each evening, including a hymn to St. Martin de Porres, to whom the family prayed for intercession during Fr. Nguyen’s early hospitalization. Along with his two brothers, Fr. Nguyen became an altar server beginning at age seven at Christ the King Parish in Fort Worth.
The call: At a Confirmation retreat, “I remember telling God, you gave me the gift of life; my gift to you is my life. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” After his freshman year of high school, he left home and entered the high school discernment program with the Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer in Carthage, Missouri, where his uncle was a priest.
To the diocese: After completing high school, prayer and priestly counsel led him to return to Fort Worth and begin formation to become a diocesan priest.
The special day: Fr. Nguyen was ordained May 21, 2016, and his parents were “excited, elated.” In Vietnamese culture, the father and mother of a priest receive an honorary title, Ông Cố and Bà Cố, equivalent to great grandparents, to indicate that a priest is the father of many.
Best thing about being a priest: Celebrating the sacraments. “The sacrament of Reconciliation is probably the most joyful. . . . When you see the people yearning for Christ’s mercy and love . . . it’s a joy to speak on behalf of Christ, to absolve them of their sins on behalf of the Church.”
Baptism is “always fun and joyful,” and his knack for keeping babies quiet and calm during the sacrament has earned him the nickname of “the baby whisperer.”
School days: Fr. Nguyen frequently visits classrooms at St. John the Apostle Catholic School, where he’s not afraid to tackle tough questions ranging from theology to algebra.
Hobbies: Target shooting, reading science fiction, and cooking. Fr. Nguyen began cooking for his family in his youth, and his Vietnamese fried rice, crème brûlée, and bread pudding earn rave reviews.
Quiet time: Fr. Nguyen heads to his office at 7 each morning to pray and read Scripture before the day begins. His devotion to Mary began during his years with the Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer, who along with St. John Paul II taught him “to see Mary as my mother. She leads me always towards Christ.”
He enjoys reading about the early Church, recommending The Desert Fathers by Helen Waddell. “The early Church’s spirituality still rings true today. They were struggling with how to overcome vices and practice the virtues that God gives.”
The takeaway: “We can teach others to love because God loves us first. We as Christians and Catholics can practice that, to love as God loves us.”