Bridge builder bishop took many leaps of faith

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen/Archdiocese of Melbourne

Explaining his episcopal motto, Duc in Altum (Go into the deep), Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen connected it to his own struggle as a refugee, writes Antonio Anup Gonsalves in the National Catholic Register.

On June 16, Bishop Long, a Conventual Franciscan, became the new shepherd of the Parramatta diocese.

"I have taken many leaps of faith before, including the one that launched me literally onto the Pacific Ocean," Bishop Long said at his installation Mass at Parramatta's St. Patrick's Cathedral..

Born in 1961 in Dong Nai, Vietnam, he entered St Paul's Minor Seminary in the Diocese of Xuan Loc, located about 60km north of Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam.

With the collapse of South Vietnamese forces and the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong in 1975, he became separated from most of his family, eventually boarding a 15m-long boat with a few family members and 146 other refugees.

The passengers were saved when their boat drifted near an oil rig. The refugees were housed in a refugee camp off the coast of Malaysia.

After a year, he was moved to Australia. There, he faced language differences, cultural shocks, and even a few incidents of bullying.

He later entered the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, a Franciscan order, and was ordained a priest in December 1989.

At his installation Mass, Bishop Long stressed his commitment to being "a bridge builder."

"We must foster pathways across the political and religious divide to build not only a rich and strong Australia, but also an inclusive and humane society and a responsible world citizen," he said. He urged the faithful to take heed to Pope Francis' counsel to be a Church "where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live according to the Gospel."

He voiced his commitment to Church renewal patterned on Christ: "The Church that dies to worldly power, privilege, clericalism, and rises to humility, simplicity, equality, and servanthood — the Church that might be smaller, poorer, and humbler but hopefully more of a light and a sacrament of God's love to the world."

Bishop Long lamented "the flood of secularisation that has washed away much of the Church we've known and loved."

"We have been battered and bruised. We've been reduced in numbers and status," he said. "What is more, we have to admit with the greatest humility that we have not lived up to that fundamental ethos of justice, mercy, and care for those who have been hurt by our own actions and inactions."

READ MORE

He Escaped Communist Vietnam on a Fishing Boat, and Now He's a Bishop (National Catholic Register)

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