Friday, April 10, 2009
2007 - Fr. Michael Nguyen - Removed from St. Joachim Parish
2008 - Fr. Michael Nguyen - Removed from Vietnamese Catholic Center
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
PURPOSE. I grieve to let you know that I am no longer allowed to be with you, to walk with you in faith, to comfort you during times of sadness, but most importantly to celebrate the Holy Mass and share with you of the goodness of God’s love.
INTRODUCTION. To my surprise, on the eve of Palm Sunday, Father Sera told me that I will be transferred out. He told me in his office, “I do not want any enemy around.” How devastating it was to receive such a disturbing message from my brother priest. I asked why. He replied that I was complaining about reimbursement for my meals, that I was always late at Mass and that the parishioners of this parish did not like me here. I firmly disagree with all these alleged accusations and am obliged to disclose the true facts.
MEAL REIMBURSEMENT. I believe that my complaint regarding meal reimbursement is valid. Father Sera told me that the budget per meal is only five dollars (about the same value to feed one poverty stricken child a day) and that I should sit with the school children and eat their lunch. Five dollars is not enough to buy one decent meal at McDonalds. Since my assignment at St. Joachim on July 2006, I have not received any reimbursement for my meals.
ALWAYS LATE AT MASS. In my term here at St. Joachim, I am known to be punctual at Mass. Those of you, who attended Mass on the Second Sunday of Advent 2006, will remember that I began Mass late on that day to purposely prepare you for the point in my homily about patience and waiting in preparing the way for the Coming of the Lord. Mass ended on time and many of you came to comment on how you were touched by God’s words through me.
PARISHIONERS OF THIS PARISH DID NOT LIKE ME HERE. In regards to Father Sera’s accusation that people here do not like me, please know that if I have wronged you in any way, please forgive me. I would appreciate that you would write to let me know how I have wronged you, what you do not like about me and how can I improve myself to better serve you and all God’s people.
MY PUNISHMENT. Wouldn’t you be doubly upset if you were told that you were not wanted here? It was upsetting for me to hear the sad news of my transfer out of St. Joachim, so I told Father Sera that it would not be right for one to celebrate Mass with an upset heart. He agreed and took over my two Masses the next Sunday. Then two days later he completely removed me from my ministry.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, April 3, 2007, he removed me from all my assigned duties and accused me that I may be dangerous to myself and other parishioners. He immediately stopped payment of my salary and further ordered me to seek psychiatric help. I was banned from celebrating Mass and face uncertain future and homelessness. The Law of Church teaches that only the Bishop, with good cause, has authority to ban priests from celebrating mass. Where did Father Sera get his authority to ban me from celebrating mass at St. Joachim? When St. Paul and St. Mark the Evangelist parted ways because of a disagreement, St. Paul did not ban St. Mark from his vocation. In fact they would meet again in Rome with St. Peter.
WHERE IS THE KINDNESS? God’s Anger and Warning in Micah 6:8 “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” reminds us all, especially priests, Church leaders and pastors to be kind, merciful and just.
How wonderful it would have been if Father Sera showed some kindness and mercy by allowing me to celebrate the Triduum with him at St. Joachim, to recall the story of God’s Love through his Son, Jesus Christ’s passion and resurrection. The Triduum is considered the Holiest Week for all Christians, a time for forgiveness; yet Father Sera gave me the sad news at that moment and destroyed the meaning of that Holy Week for me. It was difficult and painful, but after much reflection, I still thank God for that opportunity to suffer with Him. It was definitely not the Holy Week that I expected.
WHERE IS THE JUSTICE? On Wednesday of Holy Week, I met with His Excellency, Bishop Tod D. Brown and Father Tuan Quoc Pham, his Secretary and Director of Clergy. I thought that meeting would be productive and to give me a chance to respond to the accusation, but to my dismay it turned out to be otherwise. Without having given the opportunity to respond to the accusations, Bishop Brown and Father Tuan Pham were convinced that I was guilty. In fact, they were not interested to learn whether I was wrong or right, but already agreed to pronounce me guilty and accused me of the possibility of being insane, for they ordered me to see a psychiatrist chosen by Bishop Brown.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH TODAY’S PRIESTS AND CHURCH LEADERS? Before I leave, please allow me to share some of my observations, thoughts and farewell feelings with you.
· At my ordination the bishop asked me to promise to obey him, to believe what I read, to preach what I believe, and to practice what I preach. Is this promise practiced by our pastors and priests? In regards to obedience, do we obey blindly and against the teaching of the Gospel?
· Father Sera is upset with me for bringing many things to his attentions, including Church Collection, pastoral services and accountability.
· When I respectfully requested Father Sera to have my misspelled name on the sign in front of the church corrected, he said he will not change the misspelling. He had no intention to correct my name for he was already plotting to get rid of me.
· We have never concelebrated Mass together. In fact, we have never prayed together, not even with Father David. Last Holy Thursday, Father Sera washed the feet of the people in public; but at the same time he hurt and discouraged his brother priest by forbidding me from celebrating Mass and influencing me to leave the priesthood. How can his acts demonstrate a good shepherd, let alone promote vocations to the priesthood?
· We have never eaten a meal together. I have approached Father Sera and asked why we three priests have never eaten a single meal together. Father Sera has never broken bread with me. I have invited Father Sera numerous times to a meal and he always responded, “Ok, we will later on.” Christ broke bread and ate with His disciples. A family that does not pray and eat together will not stay together. We are falling apart. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the priests concelebrate at Masses, especially at Christmas and most importantly this past recent Easter Sunday? Father David does not talk to me because he does not speak English. In our only meeting with Father David, when we three priests came together, I asked him in English, “Why can we brother priests eat a meal together?” Father Sera purposely translated the question to me, “Father Michael wants to know why you are never here?”
· How can we understand and support one another if we do not take the time to eat and pray together? How dare we, who are appointed to be your priests and shepherds at St. Joachim, teach you about the Good News of Jesus Christ and God’s Love, particularly family love and forgiveness, if we do not care for another under the same roof? How can we go on to preach about God’s love and forgiveness if we do not practice what we preach?
· By now, many of you should know from my challenging homilies that I am very outspoken in regards to truth, equality, justice and abuse in the Church. Because of my outspokenness, I am again being badly treated here by your pastor, Father Sera and by all those in power.
· In the Gospel of St. John (chapters 10 & 14), Christ said do not accuse my words but look at what I have been doing for you.
· In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the Good Shepherd and taking care of his sheep. A true shepherd must lay down his life for his sheep. You know that I am laying down my life for you.
NOW HERE IS MY SITUATION.
· I gave up a promising career and went to seminary for 9 years to become a priest. This June will be my fourth year as a priest. God has a plan for everyone. For me I feel that I am compelled by divine providence to stand up against today’s Pharisees – those who live in corruption, greed, pride and who abuse their subordinates. I have been treated unjustly by the pastors of the three parishes where I have been assigned. I was told that they went through it so must I.
I borrowed money to make my living quarters here livable. Now, I have no place to stay. I want you to know that Bishop Brown told me to go and live with my brother for now I no longer have a place to live in the diocese. He further ordered me upon Father Sera’s demand to seek psychiatric help, for as a doctor of psychology, Father Sera has misdiagnosed me in his email, that I am unfit to celebrate Mass because I may hurt myself or hurt the people of the parish.
· I have been deprived of spiritual, physical and emotional nourishment. Eating alone, the only one meal per day, reheated in the microwave, does not hurt me as much as the lack of love and spiritual support from my brother priests, mostly the pastor, who looked down upon me and treated me without any respect.
· As you can see, I have lost a lot of weight after having been cruelly mistreated. I am not fed here, physically and spiritually. I have yet to receive reimbursement for my meal expenses.
According to Father Sera’s speech at the December 5th Priestly Convocation Meeting—many priests who worked with him or under him have left the priesthood except for one.
MY FUTURE IS UNCERTAIN INDEED. Tomorrow, I will be meeting Bishop Tod Brown and his committee in the afternoon. I do not know what the outcome will be. Of course, I am apprehensive but I do believe God’s most wonderful Phrase that is repeated throughout the Old and New Testament … the same message the Late John Paul II repeats over and over and that is “BE NOT AFRAID!”
Please know that I hold each and everyone of you in my heart and in my prayers. Please remember me in your prayers, especially this Monday at 2:30 in the afternoon. Everyday I thank God for all His Blessings and I offer everything to Him; all the good things and yes; all the bad things to Him as well. For Him be Glory forever and ever.
Your friend and servant in Christ,
Rev. Michael Nguyen
St. Joachim Parish
Please email your questions, concerns and comments to me firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also send mail to Rev. Michael Nguyen, Vietnamese Catholic Center, 1538 Century Blvd., Santa Ana, CA 92703
1964 Orange Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Reverend Enrique Sera, Pastor
Father Sera comes to us after a long pastorate in Santa Ana. He was born in Holguin, Cuba, and came to the United States in 1962 as one of the Peter Pan Kids. He is bilingual and bicultural, a requirement for our parish these days. His educational background mixes theology and psychology and he volunteers his
time at Catholic Charities as a counselor. He also served as a Navy chaplain on both, active, and reserve duty, serving during Desert Storm with the Seabees. He follows Navy football and Angels baseball. He hopes to bring together the various communities who worship at St. Joachim.
Reverend Michael Nguyen, Parochial Vicar
Reverend David Vuelvas-Arias, Parochial Vicar
(On vacation in Mexico)
Due to personal differences between the Pastor of St. Joachim (Costa Mesa) and his associate priest, Parochial Vicar, Rev. Nguyen was banned from celebrating mass by the Pastor, Rev. Enrique Sera on the eve of Palm Sunday due to personal differences. Without due process, Bishop Tod Brown again automatically sided with the Pastors.
On Good Shepherd Sunday at St. Joachim Parish in Costa Mesa at the end of the 10 O’Clock Mass, Fr. Michael Nguyen courageously went up the sanctuary area to ask permission from the celebrating Pastor Rev. Enrique Sera for permission to talk to the people to clarify rumors of his termination and to bid farewell to the parishioners. Rev. Sera quickly avoided and passed Fr. Nguyen to process and exit the church.
Monday at around 3PM, how will Bishop Brown crucify Fr. Michael Nguyen?
Bishop Tod Brown