WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Diocese of Orange, California, received an early Christmas present in the form of a new bishop Dec. 19, when a man who entered the country as a young refugee from Vietnam in 1973 became its new auxiliary bishop.
Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen, 64, became the second priest born in Vietnam to become a bishop in the United States. The first, Bishop Dominic M. Luong – an auxiliary bishop of the Orange Diocese from 2003 until his retirement in 2015 – died days before, on Dec. 6, at age 77.
Some saw the two events – the ordination of Nguyen and the death of his predecessor – as a providential passing of the torch. A Dec. 14 article from The Orange County Register, about Bishop Luong’s funeral, quotes Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Orange saying the events are “part of God’s plan for our diocese.”
Vann told the new bishop during the ordination ceremony: “You, in another way, daily, will be a bearer of light to those in need of guidance and hope, who are surrounded by darkness at times, who are trying to find their way back to God,” according to a Dec. 26 article from the Daily Pilot, a community publication of the Los Angeles Times.
As a young man, Nguyen had part of his religious journey interrupted when he was forced to flee his native country as a seminarian, spending 18 days at sea without food or water in a boat with others trying to flee the violence of the war. He and his family became part of a statistic of 3 million Vietnamese refugees who survived but were displaced from their native land, and were among the two million refugees from Vietnam resettled in the United States. In his adopted home, he continued his education, which included religious formation.
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