Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I was ordained to the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ at St. James Cathedral Basilica in Brooklyn on June 2nd of 2001. As I celebrate my twenty-first Anniversary this year, I give thanks to God for the gift of my calling, which enables me to participate in the mission of Christ in a special way. I invite you to join me in giving thanks for the gift of the priesthood in the Church.
As our parish prepares to host a newly ordained priest’s First Mass of Thanksgiving next Sunday, June 5th (see my announcement in this bulletin), I thought it appropriate to encourage more prayers and support for priestly vocations, especially in our parish and diocese. More than ever, we need to have more priests. Without them, the mission of Christ cannot continue. Without them, your spiritual and pastoral needs cannot be met. Simply put, without priests, there would be no Church. I invite you to pray each day that the Lord may call someone from your family to be a priest or religious. The answer to tomorrow’s needs is found today, perhaps in you and through you.
Saint John Paul II, who played an important role in my Christian formation which led me to my vocation, said that “Everybody has a vocation to holiness. Vocation is at the service of holiness. Some, however, such as the vocations to ordained ministry and consecrated life, are at the service of holiness in a thoroughly unique manner. It is to these vocations that I invite everyone to pay particular attention today, by intensifying their prayers for them.” (Message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 21, 2002). It has always been my passion to pray for and actively promote vocations. I do that by my daily prayers for the seminarians and novices in discernment, by my friendship and support to young people, by my own example of joyful service, and certainly
by my personal invitation and encouragement to the potential candidates that I know. I hope you can do the same and make someone aware of this sublime calling and the rewards that come with it. I have never regretted my choice, and the goodness of God’s people to me has never been outdone in my priestly life and ministry. The Holy Priesthood is a special gift not only to me and a chosen few but to the whole Church. We all know how vital the ministerial priesthood is for the life of the Church: Priests celebrate the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, preach the Gospel, and lead our parish communities. Catholic theology considers a priest as an “Alter Christus,” that is, “Another Christ.” A priest is called and set apart to speak and act in the name of the
Lord Jesus, announcing to everyone the Good News that God loves them, and bringing them healing and hope in a personal way.
In the twenty-one years, I have been privileged to serve as a priest, many things have changed in the Church and in the world, but the priesthood remains the same: being Christ’s representative in Word and Sacrament, calling people to spiritual growth and unity through the sharing of gifts, motivating others to come to know and love Jesus. This priestly journey has been quite an adventure for me. I never would have guessed, as a child growing up in Saigon, Vietnam, that God would one day use me as a shepherd to his flock in, of all places, the Diocese of Brooklyn, and in Astoria specifically, among the people of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish.
After Twenty-one years of service and I realize that I am just warming up. Even after all this time, I am still humbled when I approach the Altar to break the bread and be privileged to share the Living Presence of Christ with all of you. To me, the priesthood is an ongoing adventure. To me, there is no greater life. On my Anniversary, I thank you for allowing me to serve you, absolve you, feed you, preach to you, anoint you, love you… and allow me to be a spiritual member of your family! Commending you to the loving protection of Mary, the Mother of Priests, I remain
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham