By David R. Aquije
Photos by Octavio Duran
Maryknoll’s newest priest shares good news in modern ways
That is what Lam Hua posted on his Facebook page on May 1, 2014.
The 28-year-old man born in Vietnam wanted to use the modern marvel of social media to share with family and friends the expectation he had for the long-awaited moment when he would be ordained a missionary priest at the Maryknoll Society’s headquarters in Ossining, N.Y.
Thirty days later he posted: “This is the day the Lord has made.”
Immediately, his post received many “likes” and comments from different parts of the United States and the world.
The excitement felt through the Internet’s social media was matched by a beautiful ordination liturgy at Maryknoll’s Queen of Apostles Chapel on May 31, 2014.
“The day is perfect for the ordination as we celebrate the feast of the Ascension and the solemnity of Pentecost,” said Archbishop Bernard Anthony Hebda, coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, N. J., the ordaining prelate. The archbishop, who praised the importance of Maryknoll for the Catholic Church in the United States and the world, said Father Lam’s ordination was a sign of God’s love for Maryknoll.
For Maryknoll Father Edward Dougherty, Father Lam’s ordination was also a special moment. He said he was proud of the four ordinations of Maryknoll priests during his six-year term as head of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, better known as the Maryknoll Society.
The Society has seen a dwindling number of vocations in recent years. However, Father Dougherty is hopeful that the ordinations of young priests like Lam Hua represent the future of a small but vital mission society that is becoming as diverse as the Catholic Church in the United States. The last four men to join Maryknoll, including Father Hua, are U.S. citizens with immigrant backgrounds from India, Korea, Guatemala and Vietnam.
Inside the Queen of Apostles Chapel, the significance of the ordination was felt through the smell of incense, the words of the Scripture readings, the singing of the Maryknoll choir, and the colorful traditional Vietnamese attire of many of Father Hua’s guests.
More than 50 priests, most of them Maryknollers and a handful of other priests who came to accompany Lam Hua, concelebrated the Mass of Ordination. During the ordination rite, the bishop prayed and recalled the Old Testament story of Moses calling Aaron and 70 elders to serve the people.
Father Hua says he connected with that biblical experience when Archbishop Hebda and the concelebrating priests imposed hands on him during his ordination to bless him for his role of service.
“It was a wonderful experience to have them lay their hands on my head,” says Father Hua. He felt the priests were “transferring their wisdom, their graces and experiences to me to help me in my future ministry… giving their brotherly and priestly support to me.”
Other highlights for Father Hua were his investiture with stole and chasuble, the anointing of his hands and the presentation of the bread and wine by his mother Tu Doan and aunt Nhi Nguyen. Laying prostrate on the floor during the Litany of the Saints, he felt honored to have the community of faithful asking the saints to pray for him.
Meanwhile, the down-to-earth young priest admits he was trying to figure out how to move his arms, which were getting numb.
“It was sort of a sign; while I was getting numb, it felt like I was being blessed by God,” he says. “My mind was clear, empty. I was just feeling the grace of God on me.”
Father Hua’s parents, brother, relatives and friends who came to the ordination were filled with joy.
“Very proud of my son and very happy,” said his mother.
“First, I want to thank God. If we stayed in Vietnam, Lam could not have entered the seminary,” said Lam’s father, Hung Minh Hua.
Father Hua says his parents were strong role models for his faith (see May/June 2014 Maryknoll magazine, page 18). His father himself was in the seminary but had to end his vocation journey for health reasons before being dragged into the Vietnam War. He later became a catechist who prepared his son Lam and Lam’s younger brother, Vien, for their first Communions.
“My family is very proud of my brother,” said Vien Hua, 25, a computer support specialist and a devout Catholic involved in the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement in Seattle, Wash. “It’s definitely very exciting and humbling having a priest in the family.”
Father Hua’s ordination was a pivotal moment in his call to serve the Church, which was present throughout his life.
“As soon as I received first Communion, I started serving the Church as an altar server,” he says. “As I grew, I served the Church in different ways, and that has become part of my life, part of my love for my faith, and God has blessed me with the gift of finding out about mission work, and once I found out about mission work, I thought, ‘That’s what I really want to do.’ ”
While at Maryknoll, Father Hua’s friends and relatives enjoyed themselves and took many pictures that were immediately shared through social media.
“I am a man of my generation,” says Father Hua, explaining that he would use the tools of modern communication to proclaim the Gospel. “Where I’ll be working in Africa, there’s a lack of modern communication, but when I’m back here in the States, I can certainly use modern communication to spread the Word of God or to spread the joy of my life, the life of a Christian and a life blessed by God.”
After a long journey of preparation for the priesthood, Lam Hua shared the excitement of the countdown to his ordination via social networking.
As a man of his generation, Father Hua says his reason for becoming a priest is simple: “Serving God is an incredible adventure.”