Interview with a newly ordained Salesian missionary priest,
Fr. Peter Nghia, SDB
Vinh Long, Vietnam, 26 July 2019 -- On 12 July 2019, Deacon Peter Nguyen Trong Nghia, Vietnamese missionary in AFW Province (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia) was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph Obanyi Sagwe of Kakamega diocese. Fr Peter was sent to Africa by the Rector Major in 2013 and both parents were present in the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. He then went to Vietnam for his thanksgiving Mass on 20 July in Vinh Long, Vietnam. We are grateful for his reply to this interview sent from his short stay in his homeland:
You arrived in Africa already 7 years ago; what are the most beautiful gifts you have received so far?
I arrived in Africa already 7 years ago, and have received a lot of great blessings and beautiful gifts. First of all, I think, is the happiness and peace in my heart, this is a great gift from God for me. Through happiness I am able to accept the new cultures and different languages.
The second is I have learned a lot from the new places, new countries. We missionaries do not go to change or renew others but go to live with and accept the others and change ourselves so we can witness to the Gospel. Like Jesus, God Himself become man and lived among sinner to bring them back to God the Father. We leave our country to come there not to change them but to change our selves, so we can be able to live with them and show the love of God to the people wherever we are.
As a young Vietnamese Salesian missionary, how do you remember the birth of your missionary vocation?
I did not want to go on mission (Ad Gentes) and also did not want my companions to do this. But one day I heard God calling me “Why you do not go for mission Ad Gentes?" For more than a week, this question was with me in everything I did and everywhere I was. I was so afraid, I shared this with my Rector, Fr Thomas Long. He advised me to make the Novena to Mary and pray to be able understand the will of God for me. During the novena I prayed: “Dear God, please do not call me to be your missionary Ad Gentes, because I am very weak in language study and I'm afraid to live in a new country, new culture or to be exposed to new food. After the novena I submitted my application for the mission ad gentes because I believed that God called me to become His missionary. So I said Yes to Him. After my Yes I was not afraid about anything! Even during the time of Boko Haram violence in Nigeria or the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leon - nothing disturbed me! I went ahead up to now and I have been in Africa for the past 7 years.
Actually, I am a little bit afraid when I am going to be a Minister of God as a Priest for his People. My worries are returning. But I believe that God will be with me and I will be strong in my vocation with the prayers of the people and with the help of my Salesian confreres.
What did you learn in Utume (Nairobi, Kenya) during your theology studies?
At Utume College in Nairobi, I have learned that the main thing is the theology which will help me understand more about God and his mysteries and his mission. So that I am able to be his minister in the future. On the other hand, I have learned a lot from the community: living together with the international community with 19 nationalities, committed to the community made up of so many confreres.
I had a great chance to exercise my ministry in the Oratory with the poor children and the street children and the children's remand home in Kabete for 3 years. Only last year I was sent to the Salesian parish, it helped me a lot in my study and for my future ministry. In the last three months I was sent to the villages to bless the home of the Christians. It was a good experience for me to be very close to the people and live with them, share life with them… it gave me a wonderful chance to practise my ministry.
African youth are among the most dynamic in the world. What can we learn from them in the EAO region?
Yes, African young people are happy, always willing to change for the better. They find their life very hard, but they are very self-confident in talking, always dynamic, courageous and happy. I think the youth of our EAO region should learn to be more self-confident, more trusting in God and be happy in every situation of their life.
Your personal dream and resolution for this new stage of Salesian life as a priest?
My dream is to be Don Bosco for the poor children wherever I will be sent.
I will be a friend among the young, make myself more approachable for the young to come and share their life.
I will be faithful to my prayer (Divine Office) and daily Eucharist celebration.
I will go to confession every month.
Happiness and gratitude is my solution in everything and everywhere.
Your message to the young Salesians in formation around Vietnam and the other 11 EAO provinces?
My message is simple: 'Be ready to say Yes to God call and do not afraid. If we trust in God, he will do everything for us. Be happy and give thanks in everything'.
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