Bishop Potocnak’s ordination homily for Fr. Duy Nguyen

Bishop Joseph Potocnak, SCJ, retired bishop of De Aar, South Africa, was the ordaining bishop and gave the homily at Fr. Duy Nguyen's ordination.

Receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit

The homily given by Bishop Joseph Potocnak, SCJ, at the ordination of Fr. Duy Nguyen, SCJ

Greetings in the name of Jesus to the family and friends of Duy, the Priests of the Sacred Heart, and all others who are with us.  Welcome to the ordination of Duy, our brother, our priest-to-be.

As Saint Paul said, “whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” Today is a special and holy day. Duy will become an ambassador of Jesus, a new creation. It is a holy day of joy.

When the Jewish nation returned to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon they came together to see the temple restored. On a special holy day, like today, they heard Ezra read plainly from the book of the Law and this is what he said: “Today is holy to the Lord, your God. Do not be sad and do not weep.”   For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of scripture. He continued “Today is Holy to our Lord… for rejoicing in the Lord must be our strength.”

So today is a holy day of the Lord to see our brother ordained as a priest. Rejoicing in the Lord is our joy.

In the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace be with you, as the Father sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” So today Duy, you will receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

The Grace to be a good shepherd.

The Grace to be a man of prayer who has Jesus as his personal savior.

The Grace to be a priest of and for the people. Father Dehon told us, “Go to the people.” He wanted his priests to be the Christ of the workers, the Christ who was an apostle among sinners, the outcasts, the poor and the men of the world.

The Grace to be kind.  People overlook our faults if we are gentle and kind, especially to sinners, the downtrodden, the poor, and those shunned by society.

The Grace to heal broken hearts.

The Grace to live in the present moment of Grace.

There will be times when you have an agenda to fulfill, or paperwork to do and someone calls.  You must remember that that person is Christ. Treat him or her with respect and love. Ask “How can I help you?” If you can’t help him then and there because you are busy or sick or it’s the wrong time or the wrong situation – be honest and tell him so – and then make an appointment.  Tell him that you want to help him and then do so.

You will have the Grace to hear the confession of a man who has stayed away for 30 years, to hear the sigh of relief and peace as you forgive his sins.

You will have the Grace to hold the hand and pray with a poor old woman as she passes into eternity to Jesus.

People love and trust their priests, and rightly so; we have a great responsibility. We are called to be faithful. Jesus asks us to be faithful.

My first assignment in South Africa was to a town called Noupoort. There, I learned about “African time.”

At Mass, the Church was still pretty empty during the first reading. I thought to myself, “perhaps I’m wasting my time – in America, many more people were coming to church.”

But when I finished reading the Gospel, I looked up and the church was full. It was as if God was telling me “Father Joe, you just be faithful. If I want to fill the church, I can do so. If I want to keep it empty, it will be empty. It’s my kingdom, not yours.”

Let Jesus and the daily Eucharist be the center of your priesthood.

At Vatican II we were told that “Priests fulfill their chief duty in the mystery of the Eucharistic sacrifice. Priests are strongly urged to celebrate Mass every day, for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church.”

If you are a man of prayer, I guarantee you that you will have more than enough time to serve the people under your care.

Your prayer life, your time with Jesus, will set the tone for your whole day.  It will help you treat people with the same love and respect that Jesus had for the people of his time.

There will be crosses and trials and difficulties.  But Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust in me.” Saint Paul, in his difficulties, heard the words, “My grace is sufficient for you.” It’s true his Grace will always be sufficient for us.

Before Joshua led the people to the promised land God said to Joshua and to us priests, “I will be with you, I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and take courage. Be a man, do not fear nor be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

“The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Similar words are in the first reading from Jeremiah: “Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

In the Gospel we hear Jesus saying to his disciples, to Duy, and to all priests, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

As we continue with the ordination, my prayer is that Father Duy will find as much satisfaction and joy in his priesthood as I have.