June marks 10 years of priestly service for four diocesan priests
CHARLOTTE — Two brothers from Vietnam and two later-in-life vocations share one thing in common – it has been 10 years since they were ordained priests in the Diocese of Charlotte. Father James Duc Duong, Father Tien Duong, Father Robert Ferris and Father Kurt Fohn were all ordained by then-Bishop William G. Curlin on June 2, 2001.
The paths they have taken over the past decade have taken them around the diocese.
"There is no doubt that my priestly ministry has grown during 10 years as priest," says Father Tien Duong, now pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Franklin. "My first assignment at St. Gabriel Church taught me a lot, not only in offering the sacraments but also in pastoring the needs of God's people."
"The biggest challenge I had to overcome was the language," he explains. "I came to this country when I was 28 years old. We, my brothers and me, spent our whole life in Vietnam learning French. Learning English is a big challenge, and now I have to learn Spanish and the culture, to say Mass for our Hispanic community at St. Francis of Assisi Church."
His younger brother, Father Duc Duong, now pastor of St. Benedict Church in Greensboro, recalls that on the first day of his first assignment at St. Matthew Church in Charlotte, Monsignor John McSweeney, pastor, said, "Now you're a priest, and from now on, learn how to live as a priest."
"I will never forget it and I've taken it seriously," Father Duong says. "For me, my formation is still going on, but in a different way. Patience, openness, listening, compassion and discipline are my developing gifts."
Father Robert Ferris, now pastor of St. Aloysius Church in Hickory, brings a unique perspective to his priesthood, as he is a father and grandfather, whose wife Mary Kay passed away in 1991."I believe that the one thing that I have learned is to let all things reside in the hands of God," he says. "A priest is confronted with many problems of all types – from the financial to administrative issues in a parish; to spiritual direction and consultation; sanctifying, teaching and governing the people of his parish; to bringing multicultural peoples together as one united Church of God. No one person has the answers to all of these issues. They cannot be totally resolved by one person alone."
He credits the Holy Spirit with guiding him.
"Very early in my ministry I learned that I need to rely on the direction of the Holy Spirit to lead me to the answers needed for a particular issue or lead me to people who could assist me in obtaining those answers. For me, that meant that I had to spend time in prayer and listening to that voice that silently spoke to me; and that communication was best realized in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals all truth and knowledge. I realized that I needed to let God take charge and rely heavily on His direction in my ministry."
Father Kurt Fohn, pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Church in Statesville, became a priest in his 60s.
"It took me many years of priesthood to understand some of God's plan," he says. "To be ordained at 66.... 'God has a lot of humor' was my reaction. Only looking back do things make sense. That is why God is God and we are not. God has a plan and we have a plan – thank God they are not the same."
Father Fohn adds a bit of what he has learned, stating, "It is true that we must work at being holy, keeping the commandments, helping those in need, disciplining ourselves. But even this effort is God's gift to us and the more we realize that, the more we will use that gift."
-- SueAnn Howell, staff writer
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy