The Diocese of Orange will soon ordain Rev. Thanh Thai Nguyen as its second auxiliary bishop. He will support Bishop Vann and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer in ministering to the spiritual needs of the 1.3 million members of the Diocese of Orange, the most ethnically diverse diocese in the nation. Bishop-elect Nguyen will provide important pastoral care and leadership to the large Vietnamese community within the diocese. The Vatican Press Office made the announcement of the appointment of Bishop-elect Nguyen to the diocese on Oct. 6. The episcopal ordination date is Dec. 19.
“I am both humbled and honored to accept this appointment,” said Bishop-elect Thanh Thai Nguyen. “I am grateful to Pope Francis and to Bishop Vann for their trust and confidence in me and I pray that I may live up to their expectations. My life continues to be blessed by the Grace of God and I look forward to joining with my new family of faith in the Diocese of Orange.”
“We are blessed as a Diocese to welcome such an experienced and passionate leader to journey with us in faith. Bishop-elect Nguyen is loved greatly by his current congregation and has a reputation as a humble, competent and caring leader. These traits will serve our Diocese well as our community continues its growth – both in size and faith,” said the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange.
Bishop-elect Nguyen was born in Vietnam in 1953 and is the second oldest of eight boys and three girls. He spent most of his elementary education in Catholic schools and in 1966 he entered St. Joseph Seminary, a small diocesan institute in Vietnam. His seminary formation was interrupted when the communist government took over the country in 1975. Bishop-elect Nguyen and other seminarians were forced into hard labor in the rice fields to be allowed to continue their studies.
In 1979, after suffering religious persecution, Bishop-elect Nguyen, along with 26 members of his extended family, boarded a small motorboat and slipped out of Cam Ranh Bay – headed for the Philippines and safety. The family was soon engulfed by a tropical storm and spent 18 days at sea, several with no food or water. The family prayed the Rosary together each morning and evening. All 26 of them, through the Grace of God, arrived safely in the Philippines. After 10 months in a refugee camp, the family left Manila in June of 1980 for their new life in Beaumont, Texas.
Upon arriving in the United States, Bishop-Elect Nguyen’s vocational calling continued to draw him toward God. He worked at Catholic Charities in Hartford, Connecticut before returning to his priestly formation at Merrimack College in N. Andover, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. After two years of study he graduated Cum Laude and immediately began his novitiate year in Washington D.C. and took his first vows with the La Salette Order in 1987. Bishop-Elect Nguyen graduated from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts in May 1990 and was ordained on May 11, 1991.
Bishop-Elect Nguyen was later incardinated into the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida where he currently serves at St. Joseph parish, where he was appointed pastor in 2013. Bishop-elect Nguyen is well known by parishioners for his love of music and skill in playing the guitar. He is also an avid tennis player.