AUSTRALIA’S Augustinians are closer to realising their plan of opening their first house in Vietnam following the diaconate ordination of Br Dang Nguyen in Brisbane.
Br Nguyen, who left Vietnam nine years ago to be a priest, said it was a “dream” for the Australian Augustinian province to open the order’s first house in Vietnam and he hoped to be a central figure in the plans.
The Augustinians already have a presence in four South-East Asian countries including South Korea which is part of the Australian Augustinian province, but not in Vietnam.
Originally from a small village 400km from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Br Nguyen joined the Augustinians in 2008 after discerning his vocation at the minor seminary.
Inspired by family and the priests in his diocese, he intended on becoming a diocesan priest.
“My dream was to become a priest but at the time it didn’t work out,” Br Nguyen said.
“You have other dreams that come along and take you away from your childhood dream.”
Despite being away from the seminary for a few years, the call to the priesthood still lingered, quite literally.
Br Nguyen received a call from a relative who wanted him to meet a priest from the Order of St Augustine, which does not have a presence in Vietnam despite being in 47 countries.
The order’s Australian province was looking to recruit Vietnamese students to become priests Down Under.
It was good timing for Br Nguyen, who was in his early-20s at the time and reconsidering his vocation to the priesthood.
“I had been thinking about it a lot during all the time I worked and enjoyed my life with friends,” he said. “In the back of your mind it’s always there; you have to discern, you have to give yourself another chance.”
After discerning for two years, which included several trips between his home country and Australia, he agreed to join the Augustinians and arrived in Sydney in 2008.
Last week, at 33, he made his final step before ordination to the priesthood when Archbishop Mark Coleridge ordained him a transitional deacon at St James’ church, Coorparoo on December 2.
“I have not gotten over it yet,” Br Nguyen said of his diaconate ordination.
“After a long journey, I’ve arrived here.
“It’s an amazing journey – God has shown me love and I want to share that love with others.”
It will be at least six months until Br Nguyen can be ordained for the priesthood and fulfil his childhood dream.
“After I left the minor seminary where I was discerning, it helped me realise the gift of my vocation,” he said.
“When you’re discerning with prayer and you feel the love that God has given you, you feel the desire to pursue that vocation and just get closer to God.
“It’s like a feeling (that) I want to spend more time in prayer and searching for God.
“I want to share that gift to others through becoming a priest.”
Br Nguyen hopes to be ordained in Brisbane in June but, as most religious tend to do, he will listen to his superior’s decision.
He will continue his placement with the Augustinian priory in Coorparoo, which serves St James’ parish and school and Villanova College, until his ordination.
He hopes to return to Vietnam to be part of the first mission house for the Australian Augustinian province.