PROVIDENCE — Following a year of great challenges, it was indeed a cathartic moment for the large gathering at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul Saturday for the ordination to the priesthood of Deacons Daniel Mahoney and Doan Nguyen.
After the last in the long line of priests stepped forward to offer each the Fraternal Kiss of Peace at the end of the Rite of Ordination, Father Doan Nguyen turned toward Father Daniel Mahoney with outstretched arms as the two embraced, knowing that not even a global pandemic had deterred them from reaching the goal they both set forth to achieve four years ago.
Sensing the special moment they were witnessing before them, the congregation showed their deep appreciation for their new priests through spontaneous and robust applause.
After the Mass, Father Mahoney felt the power of the day in his emotions as reflected on what that moment meant for him.
“He is such a dear friend, and we’ve lived at the same seminary for the last four years and grown together and laughed together and prayed together,” he said of Father Nguyen.
“In the end, at that moment, after what we’ve been preparing for, we’re now brother priests. It’s not that we’re just friends with the same goal together — this is something that we will share for the rest of our lives.”
In his homily, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, who ordained both men to the priesthood, urged them to have faith and confidence as they endure whatever challenges ahead they may face as God had led them to this point in their lives.
“As you are ordained priests today and look into the future, you are setting sail into uncharted and turbulent seas for our world and our Church. But that’s okay, because here in the Ocean State we know how to handle such things,” Bishop Tobin said, eliciting a chuckle from the congregation.
The bishop placed the Ordination, and the first Masses that each of the newly ordained would celebrate the following day — the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which highlights the holy bond between the Holy Eucharist and the holy priesthood — into context.
He reminded everyone of the words once spoken by Pope Emeritus Benedict of this spiritual bond.
“The ministerial priesthood entails a profound relationship with Christ, who is given to us in the Eucharist. Let the celebration of the Eucharist be the center of your priestly lives. In this way it will also be the center of your ecclesial mission. In the Eucharist, you will find the font of personal spiritual growth and holiness, which is after all your most important task,” Bishop Tobin said, repeating Pope Emeritus Benedict’s teaching on the subject.
The bishop also invoked the teachings of Pope Francis, who has proclaimed this to be a Year of St. Joseph, and encouraged seminarians and priests to find in St. Joseph a role model for fatherhood.
From this day forward in their lives people will continually call the newly ordained Father, the bishop said, exploring the idea of what it means to be a spiritual father.
“Pope Francis, in speaking to priests said, ‘It will do you good to place yourselves and your vocation under St. Joseph’s mantle, to learn from him the art of Fatherhood. As a father, a parish priest must first love his family — the community — to which he is sent. By loving his family — his parish — he will come to know them deeply, and will be able to send them along new paths,’” Bishop Tobin said.
The audience for this year’s ordination extended far beyond the cathedral and even the state of Rhode Island.
Father Nguyen, 36, is a native of Ninh Binh, Vietnam, which is south of Hanoi in the northern part of the country.
Despite the 11-hour time difference, his father, Thuc VanNguyen, and mother, Mo Thi Le, and other relatives gathered at 9 p.m. local time to watch a livestream on YouTube of their son and loved one being ordained to the priesthood. They even set up flowers and candles so they could feel more connected in the Mass at the cathedral.
Bishop Tobin extended a special greeting to all those witnessing the special moment from afar.
“Although dear friends we are separated by many miles, today indeed we feel very close to you. We are united in faith as disciples of Jesus Christ, as members of the same holy Church. So today dear friends in Vietnam we send to you our affection, our prayers and our blessings,” he said.
After the Mass, Bishop Tobin had an opportunity to speak directly with Father Nguyen’s family via Facetime in an exchange translated by Father Hiep Nguyen, who also hails from Vietnam and who was ordained to the priesthood last year in the Diocese of Providence.
“Please offer my congratulations to the whole family and let them know these days we’re very much with them in spirit and prayer and thank them for sharing their son with us,” Bishop Tobin said.
Father Nguyen attended Kim Son A High School in Ninh Binh, Vietnam, and Hanoi University before coming to the United States for priestly formation at St. John Seminary in Boston.
He expressed his appreciation to Bishop Tobin and Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans for accepting him into the diocese, his new home.
“I have appreciated their hospitality, generosity and support,” he said. “It means a lot to me and my family.”
He also credits his parents with giving him a firm foundation for the priesthood.
“By their great examples of praying and worshipping God, they sowed into me a seed of faith, and moreover, a vocation to the priesthood,” Father Nguyen said.
“I never forgot the times when they taught me how to pray and brought me daily to church in the early morning. Physically and spiritually they have sacrificed a lot for me. They worked very hard every day, even throughout the nights, so that my brothers and I could have a better life.”
Father Nguyen has been assigned to serve as assistant pastor of SS. John and Paul Parish in Coventry.
Father Mahoney, 34, is the son of Terrence and Carol Mahoney, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Wakefield. He has three siblings: Patrick, Timothy and Kelly.
He attended South Kingstown High School, CCRI, Rhode Island College and Providence College, and studied for the priesthood at St. John Seminary.
Father Mahoney has been assigned as assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in East Greenwich.
He said he was grateful for his family’s “unwavering support” for him in his pursuit of a vocation to the priesthood.
“It was at home, with my parents, that I first learned the faith. It was through them that I encountered the priest, not as a figurehead, but as a part of the community, set apart, but not above. The thought of being a priest for me was a normal thing, because priests were around frequently,” Father Mahoney said, reflecting on this moment in his life.
“God is relentless in the best way possible. Today is absolutely incredible, overwhelming. God is good. It’s been a long road, but now a new one begins.”