Melbourne News

A new bishop from the ’new Irish’

Friday 24 June 2011

By Catherine Sheehan

"I have taken many leaps of faith before, but perhaps none as profoundly life changing as this one. Nevertheless, I make bold to venture ahead, trusting in the sustaining power of God and the support of many."

[View gallery] To read Bishop Long's address at his episcopal ordination, click here.

These words of conviction were spoken by Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv, a former refugee from communist Vietnam, on the evening of Thursday, 23rd June at St Patrick's Cathedral, when he was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne and Titular Bishop of Thala.

Thousands filled St Patrick's Cathedral to witness the historic and joyful occasion as Australia received its first Asian-born bishop. Many were from the Vietnamese community in Australia and the ceremony was streamed live online around Australia and overseas.

The atmosphere during the ordination, which commenced at 7.30pm, was one of both solemnity and celebration. The Vietnamese Choir from St Joseph's in Springvale, where Bishop Long was parish priest from 2002 to 2008, sang beautiful, uplifting hymns and many in the congregation wore colorful and traditional Vietnamese dress.

Bishop Long fled Vietnam as a boat person in 1980 and arrived in Australia in 1981. He became a Conventual Franciscan friar in 1983 and was ordained a priest in 1989. Since 2008 he has been in Rome serving as Assistant General of his order and on May 20th this year Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop to the Archdiocese of Melbourne and assigned him the Episcopal see of Tala.

The ordination was attended by around 200 diocesan priests, 16 bishops, five archbishops, seminarians from Corpus Christi Seminary and a number of Vietnamese priests from around Australia.

The Most Reverend Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne was the principal consecrator and Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia and Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, were co-consecrators. Assisting the Bishop-elect were Very Reverend Fr Marco Tasca OFM Conv, Superior General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, who travelled from Rome for the occasion, and Reverend Fr Martin Ashe.

Concelebrating the Mass with the Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops, were Very Reverend Fr John Salvano, Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, who also read the Papal Bull and Reverend Fr Michael Kalka PP, Chair of Council of Priests.

Bishop Long's parents, Mr and Mrs Van Quang, assisted with the Offertory Procession and his four brothers and two sisters were present, some having arrived from Holland and Vietnam for the occasion.

Also in attendance were Senator Scott Ryan (Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Fair competition, representing the Leader of the Federal Opposition), the Honourable Daniel Andrews (Leader of the Opposition in Victoria), the Honourable Martin Dixon (Minister for Education representing the Premier of Victoria) and James Merlino MP (State Shadow Minister for Police).

Archbishop Hart welcomed those present saying, "Together with his parents Quang and Mung, his brothers and sisters, and so many friends, we stand in the presence of the Lord who has called Bishop Vincent to be a successor of the Apostles."

In his homily Archbishop Hart referred to Bishop Long's life journey and spiritual growth. "From his birth forty-nine and a half years ago in Gia-Kiem, Vietnam, the love of Jesus Christ has always filled Bishop Vincent with hope. The Spirit of Christ and attendant sufferings accompanied him as he entered the Minor Seminary, faced its closure and escaped to Australia."

He assured Bishop Long of "the love and support of the bishops, priests and people of Melbourne and of the Church" and expressed confidence in Bishop Long's vocation saying, "Like the great Saint John the Baptist, whose feast we celebrate today, you are chosen, as he was."

Bishop Long's final address, which was partially in Vietnamese, was punctuated throughout by spontaneous applause from the congregation. The newly ordained Bishop expressed both a sense of personal inadequacy and yet a profound confidence in his new role. "I feel small above all before the enormous task that lies ahead of me, the obligations that are part of the Episcopal ministry... Yet in the midst of these uncertainties, I am at peace knowing that no one else is more responsible for me being a bishop than the One who formed me in my mother's womb."

He thanked all those who had been part of his formation including the Vietnamese community of Melbourne saying, "It has been remarked that we are the new Irish of the Catholic Church in Australia."

He thanked the civic leaders present saying "In a way, I – a former refugee – stand before you as a testament to the fair go mentality that has shaped this great nation."

Bishop Long referred to his ordination as "a call to risk all for Christ" and "a new way of giving myself" and asked for prayers as he undertakes his new role.

"A bishop must not be afraid to walk with his people in the new exodus to the fullness of life and love. It's the place we can only reach with unwavering conviction and undying love for Christ and his people. I humbly ask you to pray for me your newly ordained bishop and all bishops to walk this path with fidelity and perseverance."

To read Bishop Long's address at his episcopal ordination, click here.

To read more about Bishop Long's personal story, click here.

Photos by Casamento Photography

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