VIETNAM has a new Augustinian priest in the making following the diaconal ordination of Br Tuan Anh Le in Brisbane.
The young Vietnamese man from the Vinh diocese in central Vietnam was ordained a transitional deacon for the Order of St on August 15, the feast of the Assumption.
The ordination comes one year after the Augustinian’s established their first mission house in Vietnam nearly 500 years since Catholicism was introduced to the country.
The Augustinians follow the oldest monastic rule in the Roman Catholic Church, written by St Augustine of Hippo around the year 400.
Deacon Lê is one of several young Vietnamese men who have been training to be priests for the Augustinians for the past 10 years, in the hope of maintaining the mission back home.
The 30 year old said his vocation probably started as a child but he did not think about the priesthood until university, where he joined a youth group and became friends with several Jesuit brothers.
But despite the friendliness of the Jesuits, he chose to explore his priestly calling with the Augustinians, and specifically through St Augustine.
“At the time one of my friends in the Catholic youth group, he said there’s some Augustinian who came to Hanoi to look for some candidates and at the time, just out of curiosity I went to see some Augustinians at the Sisters of St Paul,” Deacon Le said.
“It actually was out of curiosity I got to know a bit more about the Augustinians and Augustine as well and I came to really love Augustine himself.
“His wayward life in the past, and then he turned to God to find the truth and he found something meaningful for his life after all, I thought that’s something that really drew me to Augustinian spirituality.
“That’s why I decided to come (to Australia) but I finished my uni first, in Hanoi.”
After several meetings, Deacon Le left Vietnam in 2013 to begin training for the priesthood in Sydney, aged 23.
The young deacon was sent to Brisbane in August last year to support the Augustinians in Coorparoo, and returned home for holidays in December.
He came back to Brisbane in February this year, one month before Australia went into lockdown to suppress the coronavirus.
He said he initially struggled with the lockdown because “everything was just frozen”.
“During the lockdown I struggled a lot, but at the same time I learnt something from the lockdown – the struggle to keep the faith and practice the faith, you have a lot of time for God but at the same time you’re just like locked down, you feel you’re restrained yourself in one place and can’t reach out,” he said.
“I think it gives me time as well just to reflect more on my journey towards religious brother or towards the priesthood so it gave me much more time to do those things, to reflect upon my journey and what I can do in the future.
“If this lockdown keeps going, what can I do to be more productive in a way?”
Deacon Le was initially going to be ordained in May, but COVID-19 restrictions pushed the ordination to August 15.
The date has some personal significance, as the Marian title associated with the August 15 feast day, Our Lady of the Assumption, is also the patron of Deacon Le’s home diocese.
The ordination was live-streamed on the St James’ parish Facebook page, and was viewed by Deacon Le’s parents in Vietnam, and most of the Augustinians in Australia, including their provincial Fr Peter Jones and the brothers training with the deacon.
“It’s a weird time to have an ordination but I think it’s really a blessing,” Deacon Le said.
“I will never forget this one, and this year as well.”
St James’ parish priest Fr Francis Belcina said Deacon Le’s ordination was a great sign for the Vietnamese mission.
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