The day started with small group prayer in a Phoenix seminarian’s room followed by intercessory prayer before the bones of St. Peter in the Roman basilica dedicated to his name.
It continued with Vinhson Nguyen among 31 U.S., Canadian and Australian men who knelt at the chair of St. Peter Sept. 28 and was ordained a deacon for the Church. For Dcn. Nguyen, it ended very late into the night after serving as coordinator for the occasion that drew some 1,500 guests, more than 200 priests and over 10 bishops and a pair of cardinals — all from across the United States — plus some friends, family and classmates from other countries.
The six-day itinerary was full of receptions, Masses, a prayer vigil and an audience with Pope Francis. Dcn. Nguyen said he was blessed to be chosen by his classmates to head the planning committee. It showed him the importance of relying on others “and above all, leaning on the Lord to take control,” he said.
It was that same act of submission he and his fellow seminarians had been practicing for years. This marks the men’s fourth year of theology with at least two pre-theology years prior. His time at the Pontifical North American College — often referred to as “the NAC” — in Rome truly immersed Dcn. Nguyen in the life of the universal Church.
“The one affirming thing is that however we may go about our ministry, it is the one true Jesus Christ that we wish to bring to people,” Dcn. Nguyen said. “We all desire to be holy and for others to be holy. Living in Rome has given me a heart for those that do not know Christ and a deep desire to bring Christ to them so that they might know him in this life and especially in the next.”
This semester, Dcn. Nguyen is doing that every weekend on a U.S. Naval Base in Naples. He called it a “truly American parish, similar to those that we will be serving when we go home.” Dcn. Nguyen helps with confirmation retreats, faith formation of children and classes for adults completing their sacraments. Now, as a deacon, he will get to preach too.
Bishop James F. Checchio, former rector of the NAC, returned to the seminary for the ordination and said he looked forward to seeing the men’s configuration to Christ lived out in their daily lives and ministries. The Church, local dioceses, the city and world need this witness, he said.
Bishop Checchio also used his homily to express his privilege to witness in the men a spirit of self-sacrifice that’s rooted in prayer and communion with God.
“I have great confidence that you are ready for this life of service, this life of prayerful, dying to self as sacred ministers, living faithfully the promises of obedience, celibacy and prayer. Indeed, this is your road to sanctity,” the bishop said.
For Dcn. Nguyen, the road to holiness, and God-willing, priesthood, took a moving step early on during the Mass of his diaconate ordination. There’s a moment when each man was called by named and the bishop asks the rector if they are found worthy of such a calling.
“It is Christ who makes us worthy of such a calling, and it was the inquiry of the rector during our formation and the applause of the people that affirmed this calling,” Dcn. Nguyen explained. “It was so moving to witness an outward expression of the Church’s affirmation for my calling to the priesthood.”
The diaconate ordination inside St. Peter’s Basilica brought Dcn. Nguyen one step closer to the priesthood. God-willing, he will be ordained a priest in the Diocese of Phoenix next June.