Fr Huy Nguyen is one of three newly ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Melbourne. In his first official appointment as a priest, he spent two weeks as a chaplain within the Parkville hospital precinct, serving the Royal Melbourne, Royal Women’s and Children’s hospitals, and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. It was a ministry that he found both confronting and enriching, and all part of his call to serve those in need. As he commences his priestly ministry at St Andrew’s parish in Werribee, the 30-year-old is looking forward to sharing the love he’s received from God with others.

Journey to priesthood

The Catholic faith has always been an integral part of Fr Huy’s life. Through the support and encouragement of his mother, he became an altar server at a young age and was always involved in the ‘vibrant’ local parish that his family were part of back home in Vietnam—he was born in the small coastal town of Nha Trang, which means ‘white house’ in English, 300 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh City.

It wasn’t until the end of Year 12, however, that he seriously contemplated becoming a priest. He had completed some university entrance exams when his father suffered a stroke. This tragic event prompted Fr Huy to ask deeper questions about the meaning of life and what he was going to do in the future.

I was discerning a lot at this particular time about God’s will for my life. And this sad event of my dad’s stroke influenced me to do something bigger, more meaningful for my vocation. And I think after this, I decided to commit my life to the process of discernment.

Fr Huy entered the minor seminary in Vietnam, where he spent four years doing studies in English, Latin, music and liturgy in preparation for theology and philosophy studies later in the major seminary. While there, the vocations director of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne at the time, Fr Binh Le, visited Fr Huy’s seminary, inviting students to attend Corpus Christi College, the regional seminary for Victoria and Tasmania located in Carlton, in Melbourne’s inner north.

‘I thought, “Okay, after four years in minor seminary, I want to take a risky adventure.” So after the interviews with Fr Binh, I was chosen, and Archbishop Denis Hart sent an invitation letter, which I accepted.’ Fr Huy was 23 years old when he came to Australian in 2015; he started his studies at Corpus Christi College in 2016. ‘And seven years later, here I am, a priest!’

Fr Huy says that throughout his studies, and now as he prepares to enter into parish life, he has carried with him the inspiration of his parish priest and the vibrant experiences of his own parish life. ‘There was always that sense of fatherhood in the priests—both my parish priest back home and in the priests of different parishes I visited on holidays during my seminary time here in Melbourne—and their sense of looking after the people, their friendliness, openness and hospitality. Those experiences have been a significant influence on my vocation and for my future ministry as well,’ he says.

A ministry centred in Christ

Fr Huy is looking forward to sharing the love he’s received from God with others, and believes in the importance of listening and sharing stories. ‘Through all the different incidents that have happened to me in my life, I feel that God still loves me,’ he says. ‘And drawing from my own personal experience, I want to send a message to the people I minister to, that regardless of who you are and what you are going through in life, especially the difficult or the sad moments, God is still there with you, and he accompanies you through to a bright future if we trust in him and let him do the work.

From my personal experience, I want to say to people, we don't plan life, but when we accept life, with all the sorrows and all the difficulties, God will transform it and give fruit for others. This is my central pastoral inspiration.

Fr Huy says his own faith has been nourished by ‘the very normal people who have lived their faith in their day-to-day life’. ‘I love listening to peoples’ stories, and sometimes their stories affirm my own faith even more.

‘You don’t just teach by giving homilies and doing pastoral work; it’s the people, their stories and their experiences, that give meat for reflections and teachings.’

For his priestly motto, Fr Huy chose the inspiring words of St John the Baptist, who said, ‘He must increase, and I must decrease’ (John 3:30). ‘He had courage to tell people the truth but was also humble and stepped aside to put Jesus at the centre,’ says Fr Huy. ‘I will try to focus and anchor my priestly ministry on this main principal.’

Vocation: becoming the person God wants you to be

Reflecting on his vocation to priesthood and what vocation means, Fr Huy says, ‘Vocation means to become the person God wants you to be. In what way can you best serve God? And I believe God will send the people and the events in your life to help you realise what that is.’

For those wondering or asking questions about their personal vocation, he recommends seeking the counsel of a wise person—a priest, religious or spiritual director—who can help guide them on their journey.

‘Discernment needs someone to accompany you and to help you to discover firstly about yourself. And then later when you know who you are—you know your strengths and weaknesses—you can choose. And prayer is very important for discernment. Sit silently and just keep listening.’ He suggests taking time to read the Scriptures or spiritual books, and going with the method that feels most comforting and consoling.

There are many different ways to discern God’s will for your life. For one person, it might be through their personal experience of family life, or through the Scriptures, or through a particular devotion. For me, it was my altar serving and having been involved in the parish community and wider community. These experiences allowed me to be outward looking and I’ve been capable of working with other people.

Fr Huy is grateful that he had such positive experiences of faith in his family and parish, and hopes that he can foster good relations and a sense of community in his own parish. ‘We had a very simple faith in our family, where God was just a part of life,’ he says. ‘I think it’s important to nourish that sort of faith life in our families so that new vocations would emerge naturally and authentically. God will provide us abundantly when we are generously open to his plan in our lives.

Fr Huy Nguyen is now serving at St Andrew’s Parish, 105 Greaves St N, Werribee.