Bishop-elect Joseph Phuong Nguyen

Bishop-elect Joseph Phuong Nguyen

June 13, 2016

VANCOUVER - Pope Francis has named Father Joseph Phuong Nguyen, vicar general of the Vancouver Archdiocese, as the new bishop of Kamloops, B.C.

Nguyen will take over from Bishop David Monroe, who retires having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. Monroe has served Kamloops since 2002 and, like his successor, was vicar general in Vancouver.

Prior to Nguyen's appointment as vicar general in 2013, he served at five parishes in the Vancouver area.

Nguyen is the eldest of 10 children and was born in Vietnam. One brother is a priest in the Hamilton, Ont. Diocese, and two of his sisters are religious. He has spoken about growing up in a communist country and having a deep love of God at an early age.

He began minor seminary at 11 where he studied in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. When Catholic institutions were taken over by the communist government, he was repeatedly imprisoned for training catechists.

With no hope of becoming a priest in Vietnam, he secretly planned to flee the country by boat. He nearly lost his life in the attempt and was arrested and imprisoned, suffering torture and malnutrition.

Working in prison ministry in Vancouver he would say, "I know how they feel. I was there."

He escaped Vietnam but was injured in an auto accident, which left him in a coma and recovering for several months in a Philippines refugee camp.

He arrived in Canada unable to speak a word of English, studied English as a second language and was accepted at the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission. He was ordained a priest in 1992.

Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller congratulated the Catholic community in Kamloops, saying the diocese is getting a bishop who is an engaging homilist, quick to serve, and a strong proponent of priestly and religious vocations.

"His dedication to the priesthood is abundantly apparent," said Miller.

"From opening Vianney House in Vancouver (a home for men discerning a call to the priesthood), to starting a newsletter on the priesthood and religious life, to his launching a vocations career fair, he is truly committed to encouraging vocations to the priesthood."

Miller said he was sorry to lose his friend and colleague, but that "Kamloops will benefit from this hard-working, compassionate and prayerful priest.

"As someone who has suffered real persecution for his faith, Father Joseph is an inspiring example of courageous Christian witness in our world."

The date of Nguyen's ordination and installation in Kamloops has not been set.