The joyous celebration was held in Saints Peter and Paul Church, Phnom Penh Thmey Diocesan Pastoral Center, with approximately 200 people attending, including family and friends of the newly ordained, and collaborators of the Jesuit mission Cambodia.
In his homily, Fr Enrique Figaredo SJ, Apostolic Prefect of Battambang, invited the new deacon to receive the joy and peace of the risen Christ and share it to others. Even in the face of challenges, he said, it is important to surrender our difficulties to Christ, who will bear them with us.
Born in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, in 1975, Nguyen, who uses the Cambodian name “San”, is the only son in his family, with one younger sister. Prior to joining the Jesuits, he graduated from Hanoi Architectural University in 1997, and subsequently moved to the South of Vietnam in 1999 for work. At that time he was not yet Catholic.
By chance, while in Ho Chi Minh city, he was introduced to a Catholic construction group to supervise the construction of Bac Hoi parish church in Lam Dong province. The pastor of the parish was Fr Peter Hoang Dinh Thuy, who belonged to the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB). This encounter provided San with the opportunity to become acquainted with the Catholic church. Fr Thuy introduced him to a portrait of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, which deeply resonated with him and sparked a calling to become a priest.
In 2001, he started work with another construction company, but still kept in touch with the Catholic construction group. For San, the turning point came when he was 27 years old, on the afternoon of Saturday preceding the 4th Sunday of Easter, also known as the Feast of the Good Shepherd. He describes that moment as a time when God granted him faith. He experienced unparalleled joy and a unique happiness he had never felt before. It was the first time he recognised God’s presence in his life.
With only one Jesuit priest, Fr Joseph Hoang Van Tinh SJ, known to him at the time, San promptly sought Fr Joseph to share his experience and request baptism. He was baptised on the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola on 31 July 2002.
Deacon San recalls: “Because of the happiness I experienced at the moment of faith, I developed a strong desire to share about God with others, so they too could experience the same joy. Although my knowledge of the Society of Jesus was limited to knowing that Jesuits are mature and independent individuals, who belong to a missionary group spreading the Good News, I was determined to join them.”
San entered the Jesuit Novitiate in 2009 and pronounced his First Vows two years later. After completing his first studies in Vietnam, he was sent to Cambodia in 2014 for his Regency, where he was missioned to Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey province to oversee the construction of Xavier Jesuit School and care for the boarding boys at the Nobili Center located within the Francis Xavier Church in Sisophon Parish.
Currently, Deacon San serves as Coordinator of Ruom Centre, an apostolate that cares for the literacy of factory workers. [Jescom Cambodia]