Three men — Franciscan brothers — at different points on the path to priesthood share at least a pair of unique traits.
First, each spent time serving the Diocese of Phoenix during formation. Second, English isn’t their native language.
In a diocese where the Mass is regularly offered in at least 14 languages, that helped each Franciscan brother fit in even more. At times, it also helped them take comfort in the saying often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.”
Br. Louis Khoury
Only Br. Louis Khoury was at a point in his formation where he could officially “preach” while serving the diocese. Such a privilege was a long time coming. The former Navy man who also worked in hospital administration for 11 years began discerning religious life 18 years ago. Now he’s counting down the days until his Oct. 22 priestly ordination at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Guadalupe.
Br. Louis began serving the nearly 2,200-family church this summer as a transitional deacon. He is eager to remain there as a priest and hopes a third Franciscan can join them soon to strengthen their own fraternal lifestyle and to support the busy parish. There’s a wedding, Confessions and Mass nearly every Saturday with three more Masses each Sunday.
“I’m just hoping to serve well. That’s the one consistent, highest hope I have,” Br. Louis said, noting the importance of putting his whole heart and mind into it. “People are doing that in different churches whether they are a priest or not.”
Br. Louis initially discerned diocesan priesthood in Los Angeles, but the retreat master saw his charism as aligning better with a religious order.
Before I was just a nice guy. I have to be a person of action — respond to the needs of the poor.
— Br. Louis Khoury, OFM
“It gives me more freedom to work with the poor,” he said. It was his time as an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, which included visiting a nursing home and detention center, that helped him get to know his faith better.
Br. Louis, who grew up Greek Orthodox in Jordan, sees having compassion toward the poor as one key difference between practicing the faith or not.
“Before I was just a nice guy,” he admitted. “I have to be a person of action — respond to the needs of the poor.”
Sacramentally, Br. Louis looks forward to hearing confessions as a priest because it provides healing. He refers to the 10 Commandments as “10 calls to love,” because “each one is about being a loving person after the heart of God,” he said.
Br. Vincent Nguyen
If Br. Louis imitates God’s heart, Br. Vincent Nguyen might emulate the Holy Spirit’s joy and wisdom. Br. Vincent recalled watching the opening of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 on television. He felt anointed by the Holy Spirit to bring the Good News to the poor.
He quietly pondered that for several years until he encountered some Franciscans at a Los Angeles-area church. The habit attracted him. Br. Vincent had already discerned diocesan priesthood plus communal life as a Benedictine monk — too quiet — and as a Salesian.
“When I met the Franciscans, I really liked it because it’s a little bit of everything,” Br. Vincent said, noting how they walk with the poor, support parish life and wear a habit.
People over there welcomed me so well, most of the time I forgot that I was the only Asian over there.
— Br. Vincent Nguyen, OFM
One of his earlier assignments during his pastoral year of formation brought Br. Vincent to the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale. Masses and services are in English only.
“People over there welcomed me so well, most of the time I forgot that I was the only Asian over there,” said Br. Vincent, who became a political refugee in the U.S. 22 years ago.
His assignment also supported his ongoing quest for more confidence in speaking English — and eating American food. Both tied for the top fears listed during his seminary application process. A co-worker translated his 10-page autobiography from Vietnamese to accompany his application.
Br. Vincent’s family — his parents and seven siblings — all live in the U.S. now. One sister approached him in tears following his diaconal ordination last month. She said the former electronics assemblyman brought honor to the family.
“I’m the only one with a bachelor degree and master degree,” he said proudly.
The children’s education was interrupted when communists captured their father. They worked to support their own poor family.
So the moment he put on a deacon stole, left his parents’ side and knelt at the altar, was particularly moving. Br. Vincent couldn’t believe the moment he had waited so long for — and barely slept the night prior out of excitement — was a reality.
“It was a very, very, very profound moment in my life,” he said.
Br. Vincent is now serving an Orange County, California parish with 4,500 families, not counting elementary school students. He enjoys every aspect, especially offering funeral services.
“It’s a time that people need a priest or a deacon or a minister of the Church the most,” Br. Vincent said. “When they come with sadness or with tears, I am there for them.”
Br. Sam Nasada
Ministering to the people lies at the heart of Br. Sam Nasada’s vocation too — so much so that he longs for greater collaboration with laity to support parish administrative work. It would give priests and deacons more time to minister to the people, Br. Sam said in OFM.FYI, a weekly newsletter of the Franciscan Friars Province of Saint Barbara.
The province had him serving at St. Mary’s Basilica earlier this year and walking a migrant trail this summer. Br. Sam took solemn vows in August and plans to increase his Spanish language skills as he prepares for the diaconate and priestly ordinations. For now, his studies have resumed at Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, California.
The former industrial engineer is from Indonesia, something that he said has made him more sensitive to other people. The culture there is a Muslim majority.
“We just have to start with the very basic things like mutual respect — just doing things together,” Br. Sam said.
With the election of Pope Francis, I believe that Franciscan spirituality and values are coming to the forefront. I feel blessed to be right in the midst of something big that is growing in the world, something really important.
— Br. Sam Nasada, OFM
Being present is the unique Franciscan way, he said. “We just kind of spend time and break bread together.”
It was the Franciscan spirituality of welcoming that first attracted Br. Sam to the community. Learning more about Franciscan values has continued to nourish him. He said the world needs to show them better.
“With the election of Pope Francis, I believe that Franciscan spirituality and values are coming to the forefront,” Br. Sam said in OFM.FYI, “I feel blessed to be right in the midst of something big that is growing in the world, something really important.”