Friday, January 27, 2023

Great story about Bishop John Tran, recently pastor at MQP in Mandeville


Priest from Mandeville elevated to auxiliary bishop of 1.2 million Catholics

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Amid the sacred grandeur of a soaring orchestra-backed choir in a majestic church packed with Roman Catholic hierarchy and lay people of faith, a “simple priest” from a parish in Mandeville humbly accepted the call of Pope Francis in being ordained as auxiliary bishop of Atlanta on Jan. 23.

Bishop John Nhan Tran, who most recently served as pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace Church, became the second Vietnamese bishop in the U.S. during a two-and-half hour ceremony at St. Peter Chanel Church in Roswell, Georgia, a community about 20 miles outside Atlanta.

In his new role, the 56-year-old Tran will assist the diocesan bishop in meeting the pastoral and administrative needs of about 1.2 million Catholics who make up the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which is considered the fastest growing flock of its kind in the U.S.

His ordination culminates a spiritual odyssey for Tran, who at age 9 fled Saigon who at age 9 fled Saigon on a barge after his mother was shot and killed during the tyrannical oppression that gripped Vietnam at the time. His older brother also had been killed after stepping on a land mine.

“Father John, what you experienced in your first years of life, most people would not experience in the course of a lifetime,” Atlanta Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer said in his ordination homily. “Yet, it was these experiences that formed you into the priest that you are today and the bishop you are about to become. You have the heart of the Good Shepherd. Your faith in the midst of such great suffering will bring hope to our people.”

During his 30 years as a priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Tran carved out a reputation as a humble, caring cleric possessed of a servant’s heart and a penchant for expressing gratitude for what his piety has offered him.

He spent the past eight years as pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace Church, a parish of about 1,800 registered parishioners who gravitated toward Tran’s unpretentious demeanor, worker bee ethic and self-deprecating quips.

At a reception following the ordination ceremony, dozens of parishioners from the church on the West Approach who made the trip to Georgia told stories of his selfless dedication to the local community and its needs.

Whether it was rolling up his sleeves to repair vehicles of those who could not afford a mechanic’s bill, climbing onto the school’s roof to patch a hole or breaking out a chain saw to help clear away storm debris, Tran operated as a behind-the-scenes goodwill ambassador to those he served, they said.

They also recounted Tran’s selfless decision in 2015 to donate a kidney to an Oklahoma City priest.

In addition to the Mary, Queen of Peace contingent, many members of Georgia's Vietnamese community and a group from St. Joan of Arc Parish in LaPlace, where Tran served before his years in Mandeville, also trekked to Atlanta for the event.

“I can remember the first time I met him that there was something special about him,” said Leslie Madere, a staff member at St. Joan of Arc who was part of the LaPlace contingent. “I’m a better person because of him.”

News that Tran was to be made an auxiliary bishop surfaced in October, eliciting bittersweet feelings from Mandeville Catholics who lamented parting with their pastor while acknowledging his worthiness to become a bishop.

Parishioner Steve Fradella, a recently retired Mary, Queen of Peace staff member, said the exhilarating ordination Mass was a fitting tribute for a pastor who has humbled himself in service to God and his followers.

“It was beyond magnificent for me to witness this,” said Fradella, a parish member since 2007. “I’ve seen other events like this, but nothing else compares.”

Co-consecrators of the ordination were New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Archbishop-emeritus Alfred Hughes.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States and central government diplomat of the Catholic Church, touted Tran’s track record and read a letter from Pope Francis naming him auxiliary bishop.

“Throughout his life and ministry, he (Tran) has shown remarkable patience and perseverance, and maintained his faith in God,” Pierre said. “His life experience has prepared him for this point, and the Divine Master has been shaping and forming him, even through suffering, into a masterpiece.”

During the ceremony, Tran was anointed with oils and presented with a ring, miter and crosier, often referred to as “tools” of a bishop.

Near the ceremony’s conclusion, Tran addressed the those packed into the 918-seat church with his trademark humor and humility. After thanking those who supported him during his priesthood, he noted he was not prompt when Pierre, the Vatican diplomat, first reached out to him about becoming a bishop.

“Thank you, archbishop, for your patience, especially for those first five phone calls I did not answer,” Tran said, eliciting a roar of laughter from the audience.

“To the priests, deacons, religious and the people of God here in this (Atlanta) Archdiocese, your days of penance are at hand,” he said, again to laughter. “Seriously, I will do my best to serve you … Please pray for me that what I lack, God will indeed provide. I am humbled and deeply grateful to every one of you for your prayers and support today. May God bless each of you as you have blessed me today.”

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