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Cannonball decision the will of God


Jesuit priest Fr Thang Bui recently spent six weeks in the Glenelg parish running an Ignatian spirituality retreat and supporting parish priest Fr John Herd as part of his tertianship.

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Tertianship is the final period of formal religious formation for Jesuit priests and brothers.

Before heading to Melbourne for the remainder of his tertianship, Fr Thang, 51, told The Southern Cross he was overwhelmed by the warm welcome he received from parishioners and school children during his stay in Glenelg.

The Vietnamese priest has been living in Taiwan for 10 years, after being ordained in Vietnam in 2013.

He grew up in Danang City in a devout Catholic family with his eight siblings, two of whom also entered religious life.

Fr Thang said he “didn’t always do what the Lord was asking me” and had to “search out” his vocation.

“When I was in high school and university I had a girlfriend,” he said.

“I noticed that when we talked, we often talked about religious life. I started thinking, ‘is Jesus calling me to religious life?’

“So in the beginning of 1992 I could not hesitate (sic) his call and I left my family to follow Him. I took a bus far from my hometown to Saigon city about 1000km away.

“This is my cannonball decision in finding my Jesuit vocation.”

It’s a decision that required a great deal of courage and determination as at that time the Communist Government did not support religious freedom and public religious life was prohibited.

“Secretly I was accepted into the Jesuit candidate house and during my candidate period I continued to study in a university,” Fr Thang said.

On September 9 1997 he was accepted to enter the novitiate in Thu Duc and after two years he made his first vows “in secret” in a small chapel.

In 2002 he was sent to Taiwan to study the Chinese language as well as philosophy and theology.

Fr Thang with his family in Vietnam.

After completing his studies, he was ordained on March 19 2013 in Vietnam “without my family and relatives, only Jesuits”.

He said he chose the following biblical verse for his ordination: ‘my grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Cor 12.9).

“From my application and waiting for accepting, I confirmed that if it is the will of God, He will give me enough grace for patience and perseverance of a Jesuit priest vocation,” Fr Thang said.

Since his ordination he has been a member of the Jesuits’ Chinese Province, based in Taiwan, and is currently a parish priest in the Tapei Archdiocese.

Fr Thang said he was happy serving God and “without Him my life has no meaning”.

With only about 1 per cent of the Taiwan population Christian, he said there was not the connection between parish and school as there was at Glenelg.

He was “deeply moved” when he had the opportunity to celebrate Mass with more than 400 children from St Mary’s Memorial School.

Similarly, he was heartened by the number of Christians, both young and old, that came to the retreat with a group of 50 parishioners participating in the First Spiritual Exercises (FSE) every Monday night and Tuesday morning.

He even received an invitation from a local Vietnamese family to guide them through their first spiritual exercises.

“I thank God that I came here, I have learnt a lot from Fr John and from the parishioners and school children,” Fr Thang said.

“To be honest, before I came to this church, I was worried that I do not know what can I do and how can I share and guide some people who desire to attend the course of the FSE. I feel my English is not good enough to communicate and share with people.

“But I just bring my faith and trust in Jesus on my journey of experiment.”

Before he left the parish, the school community gathered in the church to farewell Fr Thang and to thank him for “being our friend” for the past six weeks.

“We pray that you are happy and feel loved, and that God blesses you in all that you do,” the staff and students wrote in a card that accompanied their many gifts.

Fr Thang thanked Fr John and “all the parishioners who warmly welcomed me to be with you and let me feel that it is my family also”.

“How grateful I am!”

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