The generation of WYDs - Youngest Vietnamse parish priest in Western Australia
On the threshold of the great festival of Catholic Youths around the world, the World Youth Day 2013 in Rio De Janeiro, Lan Vy would like to introduce to you a young priest in the generation of World Youth Days, Fr. Joseph Vuong Ba Dat.
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Fr. Joseph is the youngest Vietnamese priest in Western Australia. Young, yet he currently is the parish priest of St. Peter The Apostle Church in Bedford.
1. Lan Vy: Good evening Father. As the road to Rio is fast approaching, it would be great if you could share some of your thoughts on the event?
Fr. Joseph Vuong: They say that Life's a journey not a destination. The road to Rio will be a journey of self discovery for the pilgrims. The destination at Rio will be a celebration of what we have discovered about our relationship with Christ through our companions on the journey. The event at Rio will broaden a person's faith to witness how large and wonderful faith really is. Once this awareness is embraced then the pilgrims will understand how to respond to their personal call to become a disciple of Christ.
2. Lan Vy: Many young viewers would be really happy to know when you first realized you had a vocation and how you could be certain about it.
Fr. Joseph Vuong: My first calling to the priesthood started during primary school. All students were asked to write an assignment on what they would like to become when they graduate from school. I was seeking a career that would give me the opportunity to offer others meaning in life. I could not find such career so I wrote my assignment on the life of a taxi driver. After graduating from high school I realised that what I was truly seeking for was not a career but a way of life, a vocation. At this stage I felt that there is no choice but to choose a career, earn money, have a family and live life like most people do. My mother realised that I wanted something more in life so she asked me if priesthood was something that may interest me. The moment she gave me this option, my mind was flooded with the idea of priesthood to the point that I needed to speak to a priest about it. After seeking advice from a few priests, the rector of St Charles' seminary encouraged me to join the seminary and see how I would go. Seven years of seminary formation went very quick and I was ordained on 13th December 2002 when I was 26. Certainty is a slow process and only when I put myself out for God to lead me is when I am certain that wherever God leads me, it can only be good.
3. Lan Vy: Just a question out of my curiosity, what did your family and friends think of your vocation?
Fr. Joseph Vuong:My parents were and are still very supportive of my vocation to the priesthood because they believe that it is God's will that I can be a priest. I just needed to respond to God's calling. My friends at first were in shock and it took them some time to adjust to the idea of me as a priest. Time changes people as it did with my friends and now it is better than before.
4. Lan Vy: What would your advice be for those who might be discerning a vocation?
Fr. Joseph Vuong: Vocation to the priesthood is for those who are called to live a dedicated life with Christ for others. This calling will never be made known if the person does not first discern about it or are being told about it. Discerning to be a priest is subtle and challenging because the calling asks the person the ultimate question, "Will you give up everything and follow Christ?"
5. Lan Vy: Where were you ordained? What was the day like?
Fr. Joseph Vuong: I was ordained at St Mary's Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia. It was an overwhelming day with lots of preparations, people and priests. The most striking moment was when all the priests from different parishes and places all came together to bless and welcome me as a new member of their family. I felt I have become part of a larger family who all share the same vocation as me.
6. Lan Vy: What were your first parish experiences?
Fr. Joseph Vuong: At St Thomas More in Bateman parish, my experience was of a community spirit. It is a faith-filled experience to see so many people volunteering and reaching out to one another. The strong faith of the young people gives me so much hope for the future of the church and the world. The beautiful liturgies and celebrations were very powerful and the generosity and support of the parishioners were life changing for me as a priest, they gave me energy to be a better priest.
7. Lan Vy: Father, how does a typical day of an Australian parish priest look like?
Fr. Joseph Vuong: My day begins with an early cup of espresso while reflecting on the day's scriptural readings for a message that I can carry with me throughout the day. The morning Mass is where I pray with the parish community and share my reflections on the scriptures and to see that it means something special to them. After Mass I spend time in the office, making sure everything is up to date. I usually attend many appointments with people, I try to help them feel more part of the parish community by listening to their stories and family life, whether it be a baby's baptism preparation, a couple getting married, a sick person seeking anointing and prayer, or a family experiencing loss of a family member. I find that everyone yearns for clarity in their faith and it enlightens me when I am able to help them.
Lan Vy: Thanks Father for sharing with us exciting experiences of your vocation and your priestly ministry.
Fr. Joseph Vuong: Thank you for allowing me to share my priesthood journey. We all have a spiritual journey, and it is our faith in the Risen Christ that we can rise above our limitations to go and make disciples of all the nations.