Dcn. Ky Nguyen, SDB
1. Will you be helping with summer camp in Marrero?
No, I will not. I am going to Vietnam to celebrate thanksgiving Mass in my hometown.
2. Do you know what you'll be teaching at Shaw?
I do not know exactly what I am going to teach at Shaw. I know that I will teach religion, but I am not sure for what grade.
3. Do you have any extracurricular activities in mind?
No, I don’t have any extracurricular activities in my mind now. I think I will just focus on settling down and getting to know students more since this will be my first teaching experience in the U.S.
4. During your diaconal year, where did you serve? What sacramental and instructional experiences did you have?
I served at St. John Bosco and St. Rosalie in Harvey, LA, during the summer of 2021. During the school year, I served at Our Lady of the Valley in Orange, NJ, and two Vietnamese communities (Our Lady of Czestochowa Church in South Plainfield, and at St. Cecilia Church in Rockaway, NJ). Thank God for the chances to serve people as a deacon, and thank formators and priests, especially Fr. Mark Hyde and Fr. Peter Tran. Through their instructions and mentorship, I have had chances to do all the things that a deacon can do (serving at Mass, preaching, baptizing babies, burying the dead, visiting the sick in hospitals, etc.).
5. How did your program at Immaculate Conception Sem and your formation in the SDB community help you prepare for the priesthood?
The ICS has offered me good intellectual formation in terms of theology. They have a good theological program. The community also helped me to discern my vocation as well as nourish it. Especially, during the year of the diaconate, the community has helped me to practice my diaconate role (preaching weekly, serving at Mass every other day). Fr. John Nazzaro (the director) and Fr. Tom Ruekert (the vice director) have offered excellent accompaniment.
6. How did your diaconal ministry help you prepare for the priesthood?
Through serving people as a deacon, I have experienced how God uses me as an instrument to help his people. Through this service, I also experience God’s graces in my life.
7. You've been in formation toward the priesthood for more than a decade. What are your thoughts on the eve of your ordination?
Vocation is a journey of faith. Our Blessed Mother Mary did not understand what it meant to be the mother of God. She did not feel worthy either. But she trusted in God and allowed God’s plan to be carried out in her life. This does not mean that her life would be easy, but she was able to go through it with God’s help. This will be also my journey. I will have to continue to say “Yes” to God as Mary once did. And I will have to rely on God’s help through the intercessions of Mary, of St. John Bosco, of St. John Vianney, of Padre Pio, and of all faithful people who have been praying and supporting me on my vocation.
St. Francis de Sales’s recommendation is the best for me at this moment:
“Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in his arms.
Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations. Amen.”
8. What part of priestly ministry do you most look forward to?
I’m looking forward to encountering God in celebrating Mass with the people.
Br. Branden Gordon, SDB
1. How’s your French coming along? Are you a little disappointed not to be going to Canada for summer apostolate this year?
I think that I’ve made good progress in French over the past five years. This formation year, I took a 3000 level French course at Seton Hall University. It helped me to review some grammar concepts and expand my vocabulary. With that being said, I think that I’ll be able to achieve my goal of complete fluency only after one or two years of uninterrupted immersion in a French-speaking environment.
As for summer apostolate, being assigned to Canada almost every summer of initial formation has been a great blessing. I’ve had some amazing experiences in Sherbrooke, Montreal, and Toronto. I’ve cherished the opportunity to develop friendships with the confreres in Canada, who’ve always treated me with the utmost love and appreciation. Although I’ve enjoyed my many years of initial formation in the United States, Canada will always be home to me. However, the excitement I feel about serving as a deacon in a Salesian presence as active and life-filled as Port Chester precludes any feelings of disappointment. I’m sure that many opportunities to learn and grow in my vocation as an ordained Salesian await me there.
2. Has Fr. Pat given you indications about your diaconal duties this summer? When will you “report” to Port Chester, and when will you be done there (and heading to vacation or back to Orange)?
Fr. Pat and I have discussed my summer ministry on a couple of occasions. He’s made it clear to me that I’ll have many opportunities to preach and baptize infants. It would be difficult to express how excited and blessed I feel about carrying out these acts. Naturally, there is also a bit of nervousness. I trust, however, that the grace of God and the guidance of Fr. Pat and the Port Chester community will help me get through.
Fr. Provincial has communicated to me the centrality of service to the poor in the life of the deacon. So, I’ll also be spending time in the soup kitchen at Don Bosco Community Center, helping to serve food and interacting with the people.
I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with Irma Austin, the director of religious education in Port Chester. She and Fr. Pat have asked me to help coordinate and animate the Bible and First Communion camps throughout the month of July. I’ll be reporting to Port Chester on June 14, and I’ll remain there until August 22, when the formation year begins in Orange.
3. How did your program at Immaculate Conception Sem and your formation in the SDB community help you prepare for diaconate?
I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by good examples in the Orange community. Fr. John Nazzaro has been an example of generous self-giving and unflagging cheerfulness, while in Br. Sal Sammarco I see an example of humble service and joyful presence to the confreres. I’ve also been blessed to receive conferences from Fr. Tom Ruekert, as well as serve as acolyte at the Sunday evening Masses he’s celebrated at Felician University. His conferences were very formative, with a good variety of topics and ample opportunity for reflection and discussion. I would say that I learned just as much from observing him interact with the people at Felician University as I did from his conferences. It was at Felician where I was able to see him live out what he shared with Dcn. Ky and me in our weekly conferences: pastoral charity, a welcoming attitude, and personal warmth toward all. I hope to imitate the qualities of these confreres in my service as a deacon.
I’ve also been blessed to receive a solid theological formation at Immaculate Conception Seminary. I think that the courses I’ve taken in Scripture and preaching have prepared me well for the diaconate. Now it is a matter of putting theory into practice, which is never easy! I know that I need to continue growing in the life of prayer and the virtues if my studies are to bear fruit in my ministry as a deacon.
4. What part of diaconal service do you look forward to the most?
I’m most excited about baptizing infants. What a privilege it will be to act as God’s instrument in the imparting of sanctifying grace to souls! It will be a concrete living out of St. John Bosco’s Da mihi animas.
5. Do you know where you’ll minister as a deacon in the coming year? Will you have a particular pastoral mentor?
The plan is for me to continue serving as a deacon in Port Chester on weekends. My pastoral mentor will be Fr. Pat, while Fr. Tim Ploch has graciously accepted to offer me conferences on what it means to be a Salesian ordained minister.
6. You’ve been in formation toward the priesthood for almost a decade. What are your thoughts on the eve of your diaconal ordination?
On the eve of my diaconal ordination—and entering my 10th year of formation for the priesthood—my thoughts gravitate toward St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (1:6).” I trust that, despite my weaknesses and shortcomings, the good Lord will continue to be with me on this journey toward the priesthood and that He will help me to persevere in fidelity until the end of my days.