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WALTHAM -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley ordained Father Francis Huy Duc Pham to the priesthood on Nov. 30 in a Mass at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham.
Father Pham is the 14th priest ordained for Boston this year. He was not ordained with the other 13 candidates last May because he was required to spend a year outside the United States in order to renew his religious worker visa.
In a statement shared with the Pilot, Father Pham said he has been waiting 21 years to be ordained.
"I am overwhelmed by the many blessings that have come to me this day. I must first give thanks to God for the gift of faith and his loving invitation to share in his divine life. For calling me to the Catholic faith, for helping me keep and grow in that faith, and for calling me to the sacred priesthood to serve His people in this, the Archdiocese of Boston," Father Pham said.
Father Pham grew up in a Catholic family in Vietnam. He first thought about being a priest in the fifth grade, when he became an altar server in his parish, and he began to seriously consider a priestly vocation when he was 17.
"My parents, my catechists, and the priests I knew, were all very supportive of my vocation. They encouraged me to offer my life to God, and so I always thought about a vocation to the priesthood," Father Pham said.
But first, he was introduced to monastic life during a visit to a Cistercian monastery. In 1998, at the age of 18, Father Pham was accepted into Our Lady of Grace Cistercian Monastery in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
"I enjoyed the communal life of prayer in the monastery with 80 monks but from time to time, still (felt) the Lord calling me to consider life as a diocesan priest," Father Pham said.
In 2006, his abbot sent him to live at St. Joseph Trappist Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, for two years to study English and experience Trappist life. From 2008 to 2014, he studied for the priesthood at Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary.
In 2013, he asked to be released from his vows in order to answer the call he felt to diocesan priesthood. He was released from his vows in 2016.
From 2014 to 2017, Father Pham served as a pastoral associate in the Lynnfield Catholic Collaborative. In July 2017, he was assigned to Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury. Following his ordination as a transitional deacon in 2018, he was assigned to St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. In 2019, he was assigned to Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish in Waltham, where he will now serve as a priest.
Father Pham said his experience helped to "validate" his call to the diocesan priesthood.
"I see in this ministry how I might be able to share in the lives of the people the Lord has called me to share. This is my desire for my priesthood. It is the desire I have hoped for and held since I was of a very young age. I want to be a good priest, a holy priest to serve the people of the Church and bring them closer to God," Father Pham said.
Dozens of people attended the ordination Mass on Nov. 30, including many Vietnamese religious sisters, monks from St. Joseph Abbey, and a contingent from Nova Scotia. The Mass was also recorded so Father Pham's mother would be able to see it in Vietnam.
The gospel reading in the liturgy was St. John's account of Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel meeting Jesus and deciding to follow him. In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley said that St. John, the unnamed "beloved disciple," is portrayed as a "seeker."
"Like the apostles in today's gospel, you too, Francis, are a seeker and have found the one who is seeking you and inviting you to follow him," Cardinal O'Malley said, addressing the candidate.
After the homily, the deacon promised respect and obedience to the cardinal and his successors. He then lay prostrate before the altar while the assembly prayed the Litany of Supplication.
The choir and assembly sang "Veni Sancte Spiritus" ("come Holy Spirit") as the cardinal and the many priests present laid their hands on Father Pham as a sign of ordination and invocation of the Holy Spirit. Father Pham was then vested with a stole and chasuble, which signify the office of the priesthood. His hands were anointed with the Oil of Chrism, and he subsequently concelebrated the Mass, participating in the Sacrament of the Eucharist as a priest for the first time.
Following the ordination Mass, a reception was held in the parish hall across from the church.
Speaking to the Pilot during the reception, Capuchin Brother James "Jim" Peterson noted that the large number of people present from the communities Father Pham has served reflected the words spoken during the rite of ordination, when it is said that the community has found the candidate to be worthy of the priesthood.
Father James DiPerri, the pastor of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, said it was a "blessed day" for the archdiocese, the parish, and all the places where Father Pham has served.
"We give thanks to God for his vocation, the family that nurtured it, and for his pastoral assignments. And we look forward to his assignment here, and we look forward to a successful priesthood for him in the name of Jesus," Father DiPerri said.