Thornlie Parish Priest Fr Minh Thuy has been announced as the new Episcopal Vicar for Clergy.
In making the announcement, Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said he is excited about this new chapter in the life of the Archdiocese.
“Providing a high level of support to our priests is a key element in the passing on of the faith to our people, and with Fr Minh-Thuy as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy I am confident we will be able to continue and strengthen our efforts in supporting our clergy across the Archdiocese in their life and mission of service to the Church,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“This is a pivotal moment in the life of the Archdiocese, and I am very pleased Fr Minh-Thuy has accepted to take on this very important ministry.
“I invite all our priests and the Archdiocese to welcome him and support him in his new ministry,” he said.
Fr Minh-Thuy’s appointment comes following the retirement of former Vicar for Clergy Fr Brian McKenna.
The role of the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy is central to supporting clergy practically as well as spiritually.
Born in Saigon, South Vietnam, 4 December 1958, Fr Minh Thuy is the middle child of five children to Nghiem Nguyen and Tuoi Nguyen (nee Nguyen).
After commencing his study at La Salle Brothers College in Saigon, Fr Minh Thuy continued his secondary education at St Phillip Minh College, which was also a minor seminary where he undertook seven years of formation towards the priesthood aged 19.
However, in 1979, Fr Minh Thuy was forced underground – including being chased and shot at – by the Communists who were determined to make him join the army to invade Cambodia and Laos.
His father, who was in the army of the previous government and the director of a bank before 1975, had already been imprisoned in 1977 and his two older brothers had been recruited to the army prior to the Communists took control of South Vietnam in April 1975.
The next two years were spent living without any identification, constantly trying to avoid being captured, moving from house to house.
In April 1981, a 22-year-old Minh Thuy made the decision to flee Vietnam by boat in a vessel which was only 13 metres long, together with another 78 people, including some 30 young children.
They spent the next five days and five nights drifting on the Pacific Ocean until they were rescued by a German supply ship.
Fr Minh-Thuy says he remembers feeling scared and hopeless.
“Even after I escaped, I wondered if I would die,” he recalled.
“Those five days and five nights in the Pacific Ocean were the longest of my life,” he said.
The boat was brought to Pulau Bidong Island in Malaysia where Fr Minh Thuy stayed for one month before being accepted to go to Australia.
It was Holy Week, and Fr Minh Thuy says arriving in Pulau Bidong gave him hope for the beginning of a new life.
Arriving in Perth at the end of 29 August 1981, Minh Thuy commenced a course to learn English, while working part-time as a gardener and cleaner.
It was a time of searching for his vocation.
From 1982 to 1983, Minh-Thuy commenced a period of vocational discernment at St Charles Seminary – then known as Vocation Place – under the spiritual direction of then Rector Fr Brian Rosling.
Fr Minh-Thuy says he remembers during that time, feeling at peace, giving thanks to God for the many blessings, firstly for being accepted into Australia and also for his freedom.
He commenced his official training to the priesthood in 1984 at St Francis Xavier Seminary, Adelaide, for the next six years, being ordained to the Diaconate on 18 August 1990 by Archbishop Leonard Faulkner at Sacred Heart Church Hindmarsh, Adelaide.
“It was a happy day because, luckily, one year before my ordination, I was reunited with my whole family,” he said.
“I think that was a big gift from God for me. I was able to concentrate on my vocation to serve people as a priest.”
He was ordained a priest on 6 July 1991 by then Perth Apostolic Administrator Bishop Robert Healy, following the death of Archbishop Foley, having spent the past 11 months in the parish of Spearwood.
His first appointment, as Assistant Parish Priest, saw him return to Spearwood, then onto Kalgoorlie in 1993, Mirrabooka in 1994 and then as Parish Priest at Southern Cross in 1998.
“I really enjoyed every parish I served. I was lucky to have great mentors,” he said.
“I’m a social person and I enjoy venturing out to meet the people and hear their story.
“Through my suffering, I found it was easy to understand and help people in difficult situations.”
In February 2001, he was appointed to a growing Vietnamese Catholic Community, co-ordinating the purchase of the former Macedonian Community Centre building on Wanneroo Road as the new Mass and multicultural centre in 2005.
This bold decision has seen the Vietnamese Catholic Community grow to more than 3000 members across the Archdiocese, with some 200 young people who regularly attend the Vietnamese language school and Eucharistic Youth Movement celebrations.
“I’m very happy because I built a bridge between two cultures, helping them to integrate into a new society,” he said.
“I could especially understand the young people who were born in Australia and the older people who kept their own culture. It was a blessing for me to work with my own people.”
This was followed by appointments as Parish Priest at Bayswater for nine years in 2009 and most recently at Thornlie from 2018, where he will continue until April this year.
Fr Minh-Thuy says that while he is somewhat surprised by his new appointment as Vicar for Clergy, he is humbled by the appointment and with God’s grace, is keen to be a support to his brother priests and clergy.
“After 32 years of priesthood, I am confident the many experiences of the communities at Spearwood, Mirrabooka, Bayswater and Thornlie, especially with the multicultural communities, will help me,” Fr Minh-Thuy said.
“To look after their physical and spiritual well-being, to listen and care for them, will be a life-changing experience,” he said.