Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This past week more than 200 Vietnamese American priests who are ministering throughout the United States gathered in Dallas, Texas for a four-day Convocation for Priests, which occurs every three years. The theme for reflection was “Emmaus IX: Love One Another With Mutual Affection.” (Romans 12:10). While it was a highly anticipated event for me, the Convocation was even more special for our Father Hung Tran who participates for the first time as a newly ordained priest.
This special Convocation, similar to the one that was held two weeks ago in Huntington for the priests of our own Diocese of Brooklyn, fostered community and brotherhood among Vietnamese American priests, some of whom are stationed in remote parishes or serve as the only priest of multiple mission churches in rural towns across the fifty states. The gathering included diocesan priests as well as priests who are members of various religious orders. The opportunity to spend four days together in spiritual talks, prayer and fellowship was well-received by all. Father Hung and I enjoyed very much the reunion with our friends who have studied and served with us over the years, as well as those who have given us inspiration in our priesthood.
The keynote speaker, Bishop Thomas Thanh Nguyen of the Diocese of Orange in California, addressed the theme “One in Christ’s Priesthood: Priestly Fraternity in Service of Unity.” He urged the priests to reflect on our unique relationship with Christ and our common bond as brothers in the priesthood, offering practical suggestions for us to stay focused in and to seek fraternal support. I myself was invited to lead a discussion on “The Canonical Rights and Obligations of Priests: Ministering in Today’s Complex and Challenging World”, which was among the most animated activities as priests enthusiastically shared their incredibly diverse pastoral and administrative experiences. Other presentations included “The Eucharistic Revival”, “The Catholic Priest and Social Media”, “Journeys of Vietnamese Priestly Fraternity”, and “Air Force Chaplaincy Program: Ministering to Our Military Men and Women”. The experience of the gathering itself was awesome, and the incredibly delicious Vietnamese meals each day was the icing on the cake.
For me, the most moving experience during this Convocation was the Evening of Eucharistic Adoration on Tuesday, during which the memories of priests who passed away in the last three years were lovingly recalled. As the image of each deceased priest appeared on the large screens in the dimly lit, silent church, and a priest stood up to give a moving testimony about the deceased’s life and contributions, my heart was filled with gratitude and pride. The witness of these “spiritual giants” no doubt strengthened my own resolve to be faithful to my unique calling. It was in that intensely prayerful gathering around the Lord that I discovered the transforming energy of priestly fraternity.
Throughout the Convocation, Father Hung and I reminded each other to pray for each of you, each family and each group of our parish. We lifted your hopes and fears, blessings and concerns, to the Lord at the Altar, knowing that many of you have also been praying for us. We appreciate all your emails and messages of encouragement. I am convinced that this joyful and holy experience will bear copious fruit in our ministry among you!
Yours in Christ’s peace,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham