GREENVILLE — Seminarian Hiep Van Nguyen marked the next-to-last step in his journey to the priesthood when he was ordained a transitional deacon Saturday morning by Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans.
Under warm, sunny skies, after a week sprinkled with rain, Nguyen, 32, processed into the ceremony at St. Philip Church along with more than 30 priests and a dozen deacons from the Diocese of Providence, as well as a number of fellow seminarians and faculty members from Saint John Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts, where he is in formation for the priesthood.
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“Today, by virtue of your ordination to the diaconate, you will undertake a commitment to the ministry of the word, of the altar and of charity,” Bishop Evans said in his homily, directing his remarks to the transitional diaconate candidate before him.
“In all this, you are to show yourself a true servant to everyone since you are not assuming such duties on your own initiative, but because you have been singled out by the Lord for a work that truly is not of your own making.”
The bishop noted that from that day forward, he would not only be a hearer of the Gospel, but also its minister.
“Express by your actions the word of God, which your lips proclaim, so that the faithful may see and love in you what they see and love in Christ,” Bishop Evans said.
Hiep, son of the late Thao Nguyen and Phuong Pham of Ninh Binh City, in the North of Vietnam, was beginning priestly formation in his native country when he was invited to the Diocese of Providence to prepare to serve as a priest here by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.
Hiep, who has a brother in the priesthood in Vietnam, and a sister who is a religious sister in St. Louis — as well as a married sister living in Vietnam, and aunts and uncles serving as sisters and priests — entered seminary in 2012 and was assigned to St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. He also attended the University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines, for additional studies.
His summer assignments as a seminarian here included serving at St. John Paul II, Pawtucket; St. Paul, Cranston; St. Timothy, Warwick; Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich; Jesus Saviour, Newport and SS. John and Paul, Coventry.
“He got up at 4 a.m. and texted me; he was so nervous and excited,” Sister Hanhn Thi Bich Nguyen, said of her brother Hiep’s communication with her on the morning of his ordination as a transitional deacon.
Sister Hanhn is a religious sister of the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Vietnam, which maintains a community in St. Louis, where she serves.
“I’m so proud of him, please pray for him,” she said before the Mass.
Don Turbitt, who is active in ministries at St. Philip Parish in addition to his independent work in Renewal Ministries in various parts of the world through the years, along with St. Philip Pastor Father Francis Santilli, extended an invitation on behalf of Bishop Tobin to Hiep and Doan, another Vietnamese seminarian, to prepare to serve as priests in the Diocese of Providence.
“The bishop was open to allowing us to have two seminarians come back home with us,” said Turbitt, recounting the second visit he made to Vietnam with Father Santilli six years ago to offer a retreat at the local seminary, when Hiep returned to the U.S. with them.
“Father Frank has done tremendous work in taking care of their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs over these last six years,” he added.
Turbitt described Hiep as brilliant, noting how he already spoke five languages when he came to the U.S.
Father Santilli vested the new deacon during the ceremony.
“He’s enthusiastic, joyful and he has the heart of a servant,” Father Santilli said with a broad smile following the Mass.
Vocations Director Father Christopher Murphy said the diocese was fortunate to welcome such a faith-filled man on the road to the priesthood.
“The Diocese of Providence is blessed today to ordain to the diaconate another servant for God’s Church,” he said.
“Hiep is a wonderful man of faith, generosity and joy. We offer him our sincere prayers and support as he begins this new ministry.”
Outside, the Rev. Mr. Hiep Van Nguyen greeted many well-wishers from St. Philip and beyond who traveled to be there for his special day, including members of the St. Ann and St. Augustin Choir from Manchester New Hampshire who performed several beautiful songs in Vietnamese during the Mass.
“This a great and blessed day for me because I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” Deacon Hiep said. “I’m so excited, this is one step getting closer to my priesthood ordination so that I can serve God’s people in the full ministry.
He will serve as a deacon for the summer and during the academic year at St. Paul Parish in Cranston before returning to the seminary to complete his formation for the priesthood.
Transitional deacons may baptize, proclaim the Gospel and preach at Mass, distribute holy Communion, officiate at marriages and lead rites for Christian burials.
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