October 8, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters,

How wonderful it is to be back among you! Two enriching weeks in Rome, with its historic wonders and grand papal liturgies, have only deepened my faith. But even amidst the Eternal City’s majesty, I missed our parish’s unique warmth and spirit. I’ve been eager to share the memorable stories of my journey with you.

One of the trip’s highlights was attending the Consistory in St. Peter’s Square on September 30th. Witnessing the Holy Father elevate 21 esteemed prelates, among them the beloved Archbishop Christophe Pierre—the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and a figure close to my heart—to the College of Cardinals was truly a joyous occasion. Pope Francis’s heartfelt call to these newly appointed Cardinals to serve the Lord’s flock with unity and selflessness resonated deeply within me.

Another significant moment was the Opening Mass for the Synod of Bishops on Synodality on October 4th. This gathering exemplifies the Church’s essence, with representatives from all around the world coming together to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance. The diverse experiences and aspirations shared by the Synod Fathers are a poignant reminder of our Church’s universality, encouraging us to walk together towards God’s Kingdom.

Yet, among these unforgettable moments, the evening of September 25th stands apart. I had the honor of a personal audience with Pope Francis. As we spoke, I shared stories of our parish, its cultural diversity, challenges with the influx of migrants, and our thriving youth ministries. The Pope’s genuine warmth and attentiveness, his words of encouragement to me and the greetings he sent to our priests and our community manifested tangibly his spiritual closeness and affection for his flock. I was profoundly moved by an extraordinary gesture from the Holy Father: he signed a zucchetto—the distinctive white skull cap that he usually wears—and presented it as a gift to our parish. This unique gift will be a cherished sign of our community’s close bond with the Vicar of Christ and the universal Church.

As I journeyed through Rome, you were always in my prayers, especially before the Tombs of our Saints and Popes. Witnessing the preparations for the 2025 Great Jubilee, I am now keen to plan a pilgrimage, hoping our parish can share in the deep blessings of being near the Vicar of Christ.

While I was away, I received news of the torrential rain and flooding in New York City from last week. It filled me with deep concern. I’m aware that many homes, including our church and parish facilities, sustained damage. I sincerely hope that each of you and your families are safe and have been able to address and repair any damages. During those trying times, I fervently prayed for everyone and stayed in close contact with our parish staff and lay leaders. I must express my profound gratitude and commend the dedicated efforts of our maintenance team. They responded swiftly to the flooding, ensuring that our church and facilities were repaired and made ready for the community’s use.

Drawing parallels with the readings of this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the vineyard’s allegory mirrors my recent experiences. God’s lovingly tended vineyard symbolizes His ceaseless care for us and our responsibility to bear fruit. I’m inspired by the spiritual commitment I observed in Rome and hope it serves as a beacon, urging our parish, the ‘little vineyard’ of the Lord, to continue flourishing in love, unity, and service.

With deep gratitude for your continuous devotion and care for our community, let us march forward, invigorated by the global Church’s example, firmly rooted in Christ’s boundless love.

With my heartfelt blessings,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham