By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published June 10, 2016
COLLEGE PARK—With joyful song and clapping, the members of the Vietnamese community greeted Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as he visited the group’s program Saturday afternoon June 4 at the Eucharistic Congress.
Deacon Joseph Phu Nguyen of Our Lady of Vietnam Church in Riverdale said that 1,000 people attended the track featuring keynote speaker Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Phat Diem, Vietnam.
The Vietnamese track was held at the Atlanta Airport Marriot Gateway hotel next to the Georgia International Convention Center.
“Each year, it is my great privilege to visit with the Vietnamese community during the Eucharistic Congress, and this year I have been very fortunate to visit Our Lady of Vietnam several times, to open the Holy Doors at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs and this afternoon to visit with you,” said Archbishop Gregory.
The archbishop thanked his “brother bishop” from Vietnam for coming to the event.
“You see, what a wonderful Vietnamese community I am blessed with,” said Archbishop Gregory.
Bishop Nang was born in 1953, in Ninh Binh, Viet Nam. He joined his family to move to Saigon in 1954. He entered St. Joseph Seminary in Saigon, then Pontifical Seminary in Da Lat. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1990 for the Diocese of Xuan Loc.
He studied in Rome, Italy, and obtained a doctorate in dogmatic theology in 2002. He was assigned as the rector of Xuan Loc Major Seminary and then ordained as the bishop of the Diocese of Phat Diem in July 2009.
Bishop Nang spoke about mercy in keeping with the congress theme, as well as the Eucharist.
Archbishop Gregory emphasized the increased interest and enthusiasm of the Vietnamese in attending the annual event.
“The participation of the Vietnamese community in the Eucharistic Congress has grown every year, which is a great testament to your faith, your desire to love the Lord Jesus, and to love each other more each day,” he said.
From drummers to children dressed in first Communion suits and dresses and Eucharistic youth group members with colorful scarves, the Vietnamese community is a visible presence throughout the congress.
Before departing, Archbishop Gregory recognized the pastor of Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Msgr. Francis Pham Van Phuong, who is retiring July 1. Msgr. Phuong marked his golden jubilee as a priest in April.
“I bring close to me a beloved brother, Msgr. Phuong, who as you know is about to retire,” he said.
Father Peter Vu will become the pastor of Our Lady of Vietnam and the archbishop spoke affectionately of this transition after Msgr. Phuong’s decades of leadership.
“I told monsignor, Father Peter Vu will become Francis, and Msgr. Phuong will become Benedict. But I know that you will welcome Father Vu with the same affection and loyalty you have given Msgr. Phuong,” remarked the archbishop.
All of the priests, deacons and sisters of the Vietnamese apostolate gathered on the dais with Archbishop Gregory as he offered a final blessing for the community of faith.
Bishop Nang, with translation provided by Msgr. Phuong, said he was impressed to witness the crowds gathering in and outside of the convention center, as well as the procession and reverence of the people.
“They were very Catholic and full of faith in Jesus in the Eucharist,” remarked the bishop. “The bystanders on two sides knelt down instead of standing. This was a sign of great faith.”
Bishop Nang extended his prayers for the progress of the congress each year.
“All have learned a lot for their faith in one day,” he said.