Vietnamese parish celebrates anniversary with Bishop Nguyen of Orange, Calif. as homilist

Friday, Jun. 28, 2024
Vietnamese parish celebrates anniversary with Bishop Nguyen of Orange, Calif. as homilist + Enlarge
Bishop Oscar A. Solis (left) and the Most Rev. Thomas Thanh Thai Nguyen greet parishioners as they process from the altar following Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kearns on June 23, when the parish celebrated its 30th anniversary. Bishop Nguyen is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, Calif.
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic

KEARNS — In honor of its 30th anniversary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Kearns invited the Most Rev. Thomas Thanh Thai Nguyen, auxiliary bishop of Orange, Calif. to the June 23 celebration. Bishop Oscar A. Solis presided at the Mass. Concelebrating were Father Langes Silva, the diocese’s judicial vicar; Father Kenneth Vialpando, the vicar for clergy; the parish’ pastor and pastor emeritus, Father Tai Nguyen and Father Dominic Thuy Dang Ha; and Father Ryan Jimenez, parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Sandy. Deacon Lynn Johnson was master of ceremonies.

In the 30 years of joys and challenges faced by Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, “God has never left us,” Bishop Solis said in his opening comments. Gathering for the Eucharist, “We say ‘thank you, Lord,’ from the bottom of our hearts. …”   

Bishop Nguyen echoed that sentiment as he began his homily. “Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting,” he said. “These words from our responsorial song today fit so well with, fit so wonderfully” with the day’s celebration, he said.

From their beginnings as a community of Vietnamese refugees, they have developed into a vibrant, generous community, said Bishop Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and entered the seminary there in 1966. When the communist government took over the country in 1975, he and the other seminarians were forced into hard labor in the rice fields. Four years later, after suffering religious persecution, he and 26 members of his extended family boarded a small motorboat, trying to reach the Philippines, according to the Diocese of Orange’s website.

A tropical storm hit, and the family spent 18 days at sea, the website states. They prayed the rosary together each morning and evening, and the entire family arrived safely in the Philippines. Following 10 months in a refugee camp, they emigrated to the United States. After several years of work and study, Bishop Nguyen took his first vows with the La Salette Order in 1987. He graduated from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in 1990 and was ordained on May 11, 1991. In 2017 he was consecrated as a bishop.

Bishop Nguyen thanked the parish community for their dedication to the parish and mission. He also thanked the parish’s current and former pastors, noting that he first met Fr. Thuy in the refugee camp in 1979, where they were together for about two months.

Fr. Thuy, who was the parish’s first pastor, built a “vibrant and beautiful church,” Bishop Nguyen said, asking the gathered parishioners to express their gratitude to both Fr. Thuy and Fr. Tai.

The fruits of the parish’s faith were visible by their presence at the celebration, by their generous acts of charity, by the many ministries they are involved in, and by the way they reach out into the life of the parish, Bishop Nguyen said. “These and many more ways demonstrate your love for God beyond the bricks and walls of the church.”

The church is the place where many of the people present have celebrated the sacraments and brought their children to be baptized and confirmed, he said, adding that the Eucharist unites them. At that table “you are nourished, and then you are sent forth to continue your mission” as a disciples, he said.

The memories, whether happy or sad, and celebrations still to come help them draw closer together and also closer to Jesus Christ, he said.

“So as you continue to grow, I pray that the Lord will bless you for many years to come, and that Christ’s gifts … will always be in your hearts,” he said.

“On behalf of Bishop Solis and the diocese, I would like to extend to you, Fr. Thuy, Fr. Tai and all of you, congratulations and happy 30th anniversary on the establishment of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church,” he added.

Following his homily in English, Bishop Nguyen gave his remarks in Vietnamese.

At the end of Mass, two members of the parish council, Hoa Nguyen and Thoa Nguyen, thanked the visitors for being present to help commemorate the church’s anniversary, and they presented icons of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the two bishops and the priests.  

“We especially want to thank you, our retired priest Fr. Thuy, for having the vision for the Vietnamese parish in Salt Lake City, and building this beautiful church,” they said in Vietnamese and English.

Fr. Tai Nguyen added his thanks to Fr. Thuy, and asked the retired priest “to instruct me so I can continue with the task set on me for the future of the Vietnamese Catholic community.”

In his comments, Fr. Thuy thanked Bishop Solis, the three previous bishops of the diocese, and past and present parishioners, living and deceased, “especially those who have been with me, shoulder to shoulder, to build up this parish,” he said.

Closing the Mass, Bishop Solis asked those present to remember that when the Catholic Vietnamese community first came to Salt Lake, there was no church, but now “you not only have a beautiful church, you have a community, you have a faith family. … What a great blessing, to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.”

Following the Mass, the parish had a celebration that included traditional food and dances not only of Vietnam  but also the Philippines.

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