Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Silver Jubilee of a Benedictine Monk

by Huong Dinh

On Sunday, Oct. 6th, the Mount Angel community celebrated the 25th anniversary of Father Liem Nguyen’s monastic profession as a Benedictine monk of Mount Angel Abbey. Father Nguyen is not only a monk; he also works closely with the seminary in various ways as a formation director for graduating collegians as well as an advisor for the Vietnamese seminarians.

Because this was Father Liem’s special day, he took the role as the main celebrant of the Eucharist celebration. Co-celebrating with him was a number of priests from Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary. The Abbey Church was filled with Benedictine monks, faculty, staff, seminarians, and Father Liem’s family and friends. They all offered their prayers to thank God with Father Liem.

After Deacon Bernardo Lara finished reading the Gospel, Father Liem preached the homily. His homily was his self-reflection on 25 years of living in God’s love as a priest and within the monastic lifestyle. He said, “God is always with me, and whatever I asked God would answer.”

He was aware that God protected him when he was a child in Vietnam. He shared his journey to come to the United States, during which he believed God saved his life. He left Vietnam with empty hands - without money or food - in a small boat, which also contained many other people. He had to spend several days on the sea and did not have any knowledge about the other side of the shore. 

Finally, he arrived in America safely. He believed that God’s hand had safely guided this boat to a new country. Furthermore, he thankfully believed that after following God for 25 years, he always has the peace of Christ within him.

Following the homily was the renewal profession ceremony. Father Liem professed his renewal vow in front of Abbot Gregory Duerr and the Church. He professed the three vows of Benedictine religious life: obedience, stability and conversion of life. Afterward, he expressed his gratitude to God for the mountain of graces he has received during his 25 years as a monk. He also asked God continue to grant him the peace of Christ and protect him so that he might persevere in his monastic vocation for the rest of his life. The ceremony ended with a peaceful embrace between Abbot Gregory and Father Liem.
He took his novice year in 1988, and Father Paul Thomas was the novice master in the same year. In 1989, he professed his first vows to the hand of Abbot Peter Eberle. After that, he began to study philosophy and theology. In 1994, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Levada.

He shared that in his experience he underwent many ups and downs in monastic life but never had a single idea of leaving the monastery. He said monastic life could produce moments of stress because of his limited English. To overcome the conflict, he asked God’s help to lead him closer to His Son, Jesus Christ. 

As a seminary formation director, he gives seminarians advice, telling them to take a closer look at themselves because God always loves them. God’s call depends on how they open themselves and are aware of this call in their own hearts. He also mentioned that seminarians should fulfill themselves by searching for what they want. In doing so, they will come to know themselves better. 

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