Geraldton Diocese has welcomed a trio of Vietnamese priests, who were ordained at St Francis Xavier Cathedral last week in a historic moment for the diocese. Source: ABC News.
Physically, the Geraldton Diocese in Western Australia is the second largest in the world by land mass. But with only 28,000 Catholics living in the area, recruiting locals to take their vows has been nearly impossible.
“The last time someone was local, who was born and bred in Geraldton, was 25 years ago,” Geraldton Bishop Michael Morrissey said.
“That is the reason why we’ve gone looking to other places in the church for people who are willing to accept the call to come to another country to be priests.”
Bishop Morrissey said another contributing factor was recent controversies in the Church.
“We probably have some things that have contributed to it sadly and that is the whole debate and discussion of the sexual abuse issue,” he said. “It has really had a huge impact upon the Church, you cannot deny that.”
The diocese turned to Vietnam for its next generation of priests.
Fr Peter (Tam) Duong, Fr Dominic Hoang and Fr Savio Nguyen have spent seven years in Geraldton and Port Hedland both learning the scripture and to speak English. The new priests were approached by the former Geraldton Bishop Justin Joseph Bianchini in 2012 to move to Australia to being their training.
Fr Duong, fondly known as Fr Tam, came from a large Catholic family in Ho Chi Minh City.
His brother is a priest in the Dominican Order and he said moving to Australia was about giving back to the country that welcomed Vietnamese refugees following the Vietnam War.
“Here I see that not many people join the priesthood,” Fr Peter said. “That makes me really want to be here, to serve people here.”
Bishop Morrissey said it is a new chapter for the diocese.
“There is a real air of excitement and rejoicing,” he said. “And probably new energy, because these three young men have given up their home to come live in Australia and become part of this community.”