VIETNAMESE Augustinian Brother Dang Nguyen, who left his home country to join an order he didn’t know, will be ordained a deacon in Brisbane next week.
The 33-year-old who came to Brisbane two months ago for pastoral placement said he left Vietnam in 2008 to become a priest in the Augustinians, an order that has no presence in his country.
He had previously joined the minor seminary while studying English at university, but left halfway through.
“My dream was to become a priest,” Br Nguyen said.
“I received a phone call from my relative and said ‘Would you like to meet another religious order?’.
“I had no idea about religious life.
“In the Catholic system in Vietnam everything is diocesan; they run everything, and from a young (age) you know the diocesan priests.”
Br Nguyen met with Augustinian Father Joseph Farrell, now vicar general of the order, and he invited him to discern life as a religious priest.
The only catch was, since there were no Augustinians in Vietnam, he would have to travel to Australia for his discernment.
“So back and forth (between Australia and Vietnam) I came to visit my family during these two years, on and off, every couple of months,” Br Nguyen said.
“In the end I said ‘yes’.”
Br Nguyen’s arrival into Australia would have coincided with the Sydney World Youth Day, but a complication with his visas meant he missed out on the global youth event.
“I came the week after, literally,” he said.
“You clean up all the rubbish.”
Nine years after leaving Vietnam, Br Nguyen, who was solemnly professed a religious brother of the Augustinian order in 2016, is now preparing for his ordination as a deacon.
The transitional diaconate mark’s the final step before his ordination to the priesthood and the fulfilment of a childhood dream.
His priestly ordination will also bring the order closer to setting up its first Augustinian priory in Vietnam.
“We are still in the process of working with the government and the Catholic leaders in Vietnam trying to get a way into our country,” Br Nguyen said.
“They need a longer process because in Vietnam it is a communist government and they’re not accepting (of) religious.
“Hopefully I can be back to do the mission in Vietnam in my own country.”
The first Vietnamese-born member of the Augustinians was ordained in Brisbane in 2009.
Originally known as the Order of Hermits of St Augustine, the Augustinians have been in Australia for 179 years.
The majority of the seminarians are, like Br Nguyen, from South-East Asia but he hoped the Augustinian rule of communal life would inspire more Australians to join the order.
“We form a single soul, a single heart to looking for God, searching for God within yourself and the service of others,” Br Nguyen said.
“I hope through the life that we live together, we are able to inspire someone to join us, to give themselves a chance to see a different way of life.”
Br Nguyen will spend at least six months in Brisbane on pastoral placement but was unsure where his priestly ordination would take place.
“You don’t ask a religious where you are going to next,” he said.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge will ordain Br Nguyen to the diaconate at St James’ Church, Coorparoo, on December 2 at 10am.