By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published January 24, 2023
ROSWELL—“God will provide,” is the episcopal motto of Atlanta’s newest auxiliary, Bishop John Nhan Tran, ordained Monday, Jan. 23, in a joyous afternoon Mass at St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell.
Bishop Tran most recently served as pastor at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville, Louisiana, in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Many members of his congregation made the trip to witness the ordination.
Pope Francis appointed then-Father Tran to serve Atlanta in October 2022.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the apostolic letter as part of the Rite of Ordination.
“Bishop-elect Tran has distinguished himself in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, especially as a pastor,” said the nuncio.
His “personal story is quite moving,” noted Archbishop Pierre.
Bishop Tran was born in 1966 in Vietnam. The bishop’s mother died when he was 2 years old, his father was shot and imprisoned by the communists and escaped, and a brother died after stepping on a land mine.
Amid the ravages of war, he and his family left their country and received refugee status in the United States.
“Throughout his life and ministry, he has shown remarkable patience and perseverance, and maintained his faith in God. His life experience has prepared him for this point, and the Divine Master has been shaping and forming him even through suffering into a masterpiece,” said Archbishop Pierre.
Bishop Tran is now one of two Vietnamese American bishops serving the U.S. Catholic Church.
Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen is an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, California.
The nuncio noted that Bishop Tran’s ordination is “also a sign of the great diversity in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the rich contribution of the Vietnamese faithful here.”
The Office of Planning and Research for the Archdiocese of Atlanta estimates that 50,000 Vietnamese Americans live in the metro area.
The Mass readings were proclaimed in Spanish, Vietnamese and English with an American Sign Language interpreter translating. The Archdiocesan Choir of Atlanta, first formed for the 25th Eucharistic Congress last June, presented the music. The choir, under the direction of Donal Noonan and Caitlin Norton, has members representing parishes throughout the archdiocese.
St. Peter Chanel’s sanctuary seats more than 900 people. Buses shuttled guests to and from the parking areas at the adjacent Blessed Trinity High School.
A companion of Jesus Christ
Father Robert Cooper, pastor of Divine Mercy Church in Kenner, Louisiana, presented the candidate to Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., for ordination.
In his homily, Archbishop Hartmayer expressed gratitude for the gift of a new auxiliary bishop and reflected on the spirit of rejoicing in Atlanta, New Orleans and the land of Vietnam. The ordination, noted the archbishop, was taking place during the celebration of Tet, the lunar new year.
Just as God gave the prophet Jeremiah the strength to speak the truth, he will aid Bishop Tran, said the archbishop.
“God has called you to shepherd his people. The consolation is that when God calls us, he also equips us. He gives us everything we need to succeed in our mission of serving him. To whomever I send you, you shall go—even to Atlanta,” he said as the congregation laughed.
“The deepest identity of bishop is to be a companion of Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop Hartmayer.
Prayer is essential in shaping the daily life of a bishop, he instructed.
“Without prayer, we lose our focus and our true sense of purpose. My dear brother John, you are a man of prayer. Therein, lies your strength,” said the archbishop.
Following the homily, the candidate promised to faithfully carry out the Office of Bishop. As the faithful invoked the Litany of Supplication, he prostrated himself before the altar as a sign of surrender to God.
Bishop Tran was anointed with sacred chrism, and was invested with the signs of the office—the ring, miter and crosier.
In addition to Archbishop Hartmayer and Atlanta auxiliaries Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, and Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, 11 other bishops attended the ordination Mass. Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, formerly Atlanta’s archbishop, was among them. As a sign of unity, each of the bishops shared a sign of peace with Bishop Tran.
Co-consecrators of the ordination were New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Archbishop-emeritus Alfred Hughes. They joined Bishop Tran for the “Te Deum” (We praise you, Oh God”). The archdiocesan choir beautifully chanted the “Te Deum” from the choir loft of the Roswell parish as the bishop made his way down the center aisle of the sanctuary, blessing the people.
The new bishop spoke at the conclusion of Mass.
“I am humbled by your presence, and my heart is filled with profound gratitude—gratitude to God for not only giving me life but also for calling me to serve his church as priest and now as bishop,” he said.
Bishop Tran gave thanks to the bishops attending, former parishioners, family and organizers of the Mass and for those watching the ticketed Mass by livestream.
“May God bless each of you as you have blessed me today,” said Bishop Tran.
Guests enjoyed a reception following Mass. Among those sharing stories of the new bishop were Allison and Michael Friel, who had traveled with several of their six children from Louisiana to see their former pastor ordained.
The Friels are parishioners at Mary, Queen of Peace and coordinate the altar servers ministry. They live next door to the rectory. Their neighbor-turned-bishop pointed at the children as he processed out of the sanctuary, saying “You should be in school.”
Friel said their children are used to seeing their priest tending to tasks around his house like mowing the grass and cutting the shrubs. He admits there is some sadness in losing their pastor, whom he called relatable.
“We have mixed feelings,” said Friel. “You are really getting a treat.”
Bishop Tran’s former parishioner and fishing buddy Michael Lavie also attended the ordination. “He fished better than me,” said Lavie.
Although Lavie moved away from Mandeville to Metairie, he still recalls participating in the debris clean-up missions then-Father Tran organized after hurricanes and storms.
“He would literally lead the flock,” said Lavie. “He is probably the most humble man I’ve ever met and really just a servant.”