Fr Trac celebrates his First Anniversary

It has been a year since my ordination.  This limited time of ministry is nothing compared to many priests in the Archdiocese.  In other words, more than 365 days seems a very little time or a short journey of pastoral experience and personal encounter with the many things that happen in parish life, but it has been a fruitful, wonderful and blessed time.

After 6 months of deaconate placement at Camberwell, Balwyn and Deepdene Parishes (CBD), immediately after my ordination, I was appointed as an Assistant Priest of CBD Parishes: a community of over 10,000 Catholics across two Parishes, three Churches, a Parish Primary School and a Retirement Village.  There are also eight aged care facilities and a hospital in the boundary of the Parish.

  • Deepdene Parish (Our Lady of Good Counsel Church)

In 1889, the parishes of Kew, Camberwell and Hawthorn were established.  The area which the Deepdene Parish encompasses was, at this time, part of the Parishes of Camberwell and Kew.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Church is located on the corner of Whitehorse Road and Burke Road.  The Church has undergone several refurbishments over the years, the most recent being to the internal structure, throughout 2016–2017.  It carries in its own identity with modern design.

  • Balwyn Parish (All Hallows Church)

All Hallows was originally part of Our Holy Redeemer Parish, Surrey Hills.  To serve the needs of the Balwyn section of his Parish, Fr David Gleeson, Parish Priest of Surrey Hills (1922–33), negotiated the purchase of land in Brenbeal Street and the construction of a church and school.

Balwyn Parish consists of many senior parishioners with an endless love of the parish community and also a few younger families who support and value the local church of Balwyn.

  • Camberwell Parish (Our Lady of Victories Basilica)

Camberwell with Our Lady of Victories Basilica was initially part of the Hawthorn Parish and was administered by the Jesuit fathers from their mission in Richmond.

Our Lady of Victories Basilica is located in the heart of Camberwell where it can be seen easily along Burke Road. The Basilica is a magnificent building with a rich history, it is a famous place for weddings and baptisms.  The community is quite different to Balwyn and Deepdene.

My first challenge coming to these parishes was that the three communities are quite unique and different in living their faith.  It includes the weekend congregations across three churches.  They are quite educated parishioners including many successful business men and women, lawyers, judges, doctors, priests, senior lecturers at CTC and YTU who join the various communities as parishioners each weekend.  It puts enormous pressure on my weekend homilies and the way that I relate to them.  Fortunately, they are very supportive and began with positive feedback and unceasing encouragement from the very first day.

Not many months into the ministry, the Covid-19 Pandemic hit our parishes in particular and the universal church in general.  Similar to all parishes of the Archdiocese, our staff, Fr Brendan and I went through the tough time of finding ways to keep a spiritual and pastoral connection with the parishioners.  The Parish Priest encouraged the parish to “stay connected while socially distancing”.  We soon realised that social media, including websites, weekend newsletters, videos messages, and Mass online were the key elements in keeping connected with all parishioners.

At a personal level, not having very much experience in pastoral skills, but having some limited skills with IT, especially in websites and software prior to training for the priesthood, I was able to offer assistance as much as I could.  So the first lockdown of the pandemic seemed busier than we expected with many projects on websites and social communications.  Including the Clergy Life and Ministry website that I worked on with Fr Brendan, in order to support our brother priests.

Just as the first lockdown was finishing, our neighbour at Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish, Fr Mark Reynolds was announced as the new Parish Priest at St Jude’s, Scoresby.  And so with the departure of Fr Mark Reynolds as Parish Priest, my second appointment came through as the Assistant Priest of Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish with two more churches and two more schools, in addition to Camberwell, Deepdene and Balwyn.

Learning from our earlier experience, we took the same technique, same spirit and the same mindset that communication is key during this time of crisis.  Once again, we began the process of building up the communication channels with Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish.  It also comes with its own challenges because we have had no chance to see the parishioners and to introduce ourselves.  So we introduced ourselves with a video message.

Together with normal pastoral activities, the pandemic invites us to find new ways to connect with our parishioners:  I took the initiative of ‘Calling/Telephone Ministry’ in order to ensure parishioners that while the Church doors may be closed their parishes are still open for them.  In addition, Social Justice Groups, Virtual Choirs, video calls with the residents at aged care facilities become a new playground of pastoral activity for our parishioners.

Another interesting experience that I encountered during this time, was the opportunity of giving the Last Rites and anointing for a Covid-19 patient at the Austin Hospital.  It was quite a unique experience as I entered into the Quarantine Ward where no visitors or family have been allowed since March.  Entering into the Covid-19 area, I kept reminding myself, despite the extreme emphasis on protection and personal hygiene, that I was giving the Sacrament of Anointing to a person, a human being; not treating a patient as a dangerous virus.  According to the nurses and doctor, 10 minutes after the anointing and my departure, the patient died peacefully.  The family was quite touched that in the last moments of their father’s life, he was able to be visited by a priest on behalf of the whole family who could not be there because of the restrictions.

During this time, Fr Brendan had an idea that he would be the Parish Priest from Tuesday to Friday and I would be the Rector of the house from Friday to Tuesday.  It worked out quite well that on the weekends, apart from celebrating the Eucharist, we researched and learnt how to build a deck in the backyard, also building a new garden.  It has given us a chance to be active and creative with abnormal weekends.  At the same time it provided us with the opportunity to do some extra physical exercise in addition to walking and gym work during the week.

This is an extraordinary year with many external challenges for everyone, myself included, but it is a great chance to reflect on how I live my ministry as a newly ordained priest.

 

Fr Trac Nguyen
Archdiocese of Melbourne My Daily Bread Sacramental Life

Comments

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JOAN MACK

Dear Trac, Congratulations. It is so good to have you in our Parish, and it will be great when we are able to celebrate again - in the 'flesh'.

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Trac

Hi Joan,
Thank you for your kind words.
As I often say that this is my honour to be around in these parishes where I am surrounded by many faithful parishioners.
Indeed, looking forwards to see you in person asap.
Please keep well.

Trac

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Anne Morrison

Thank-you Trac, Congratulations and blessings as you continue to minister during this difficult time. Anne FCJ

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Trac

Hi Anne.
thank you for your words and prayers.
hoping you are well and safe.
God Bless.
Trac

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Marie Thornton-Smith

Congratulations on completing your first year of priesthood, Trac!

We are so fortunate to have you assisting Brendan in our combined parishes.

My husband, Paul, and I appreciate Brendan and your thoughtful homilies during Sunday Mass each week on YouTube!

Thank you both for keeping in touch with us in the parish.

!

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Trac

Hi Marie and Paul.
I should be the one who is so lucky to be here in these parishes and fortunate to look, to listen and to learn from these parishes.
Please keep us in your prayers,
Also, accept our prayers and thoughts to you and your family at this time.

Trac

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Marea Richardson

Hello Trac,
What a year it has been for your first year as an Ordained Priest....different to what you would have expected, yet so fruitful. It was a joy to read your reflection. I pray that you will continue to be blessed in all you do.
Marea

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Trac

Hi Marea.
It is wonderful to receive your note on this blog.
Have not seen you for a while now, I hope you are finding yourselves as home while you are joining our parishes.
Hope to see you around when this lockdown is over.
Trac

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Yolanda Torrisi

Thank you Fr Trac for taking us through your journey of your first year in our parish. It's lovely to read these insights that bring us closer to understanding each other. Well done and thank you for all you do in our parish.

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Trac

Hi Yolanda.
Thank you.
We also appreciate your thoughts and reflections with the parish news and activities too.
With many blessings.
Trac

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Anne and Ken Hanlon

What a year and what wonderful achievements. We are very glad to have you in CBD Parishes and wish you many fruitful and rewarding years ahead. We look forward to seeing you soon. Kind regards,
Anne and Ken

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Trac

Hi Anne and Ken.
Thank you for your words and friendship around the parish.
for sure, there would be many great things ahead of me when I am slowly unveiling future.
Please stay well and looking forward to seeing you sitting in the Church soon.

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Brian Hickey

Well done Trac this last year. We are very happy joining you & Fr Brendan with Mass on Saturday afternoons, and appreciate the few thoughts you give with your sermons. We wish you all the best with your vocation. Cheers Brian & Anna H

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Trac

Hi Brian.
Thank you every much for being around me last year with Eucharist Celebration too.
Hope to see you and Anna back into Church soon. enjoy the sunshine and see you in Zoom sometimes.

Trac

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Tony Mcilroy

The track if you know what I mean.

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Tony Mcilroy

Good work Trac

Look forward to getting back on track with you and the team.

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trac

HI Tony.
Thank you for your support.
I do understand fully what you mean by "on track". Surely, looking forwards to get back 'new parish live'
Keep well and enjoy the beautiful weekend.
Trac

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Lyn Kane

Congratulations on your first year of priesthood Trac. We are blessed to have you as our assistant priest and wish you happiness and fulfilment in the coming year.

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Trac

HI Lyn.
Thank you. I should be the one who is blessed to be here for my first year as a priest.
Indeed, there are many things to learn and to keep in mind in the parish setting that you have not been taught at the seminary.
please stay well too.

Trac

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Mary Barbuto

Hello Trac,
Thank you for sharing your journey over the past year - a year like no other!
I look forward to the time when we will be able to gather again as a parish community,
Blessings of wisdom, courage and hope,
Mary Barbuto

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Trac

Hi Mary.
Thank you for your words.
I believe we could do 2020 again next year, instead of going to 2021, we can call next again 2020.
much appreciated your blessings.
please keep well and see you back in person soon.
Trac

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David Rush

A great 12 months God be with you for the years ahead

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Trac

Hi David.
Thank you for your message.
Indeed, it was a great 365 days. I have been learned so much of things.
please have a nice day.
God Bless.
Trac

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John and Chris Sartori

Trac, congratulations on your first 365 days of Priesthood. We are blessed to have you in our Parishes. Looking forward to gathering for Eucharist again and offering our best wishes in person. John and Chris Sartori

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Trac

Hi John and Chris,
thank you for your message.
i hope you are doing well too. please keep me in your prayers.
also, can not wait to see you in the church.
Please keep well.

Trac

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Kate

A lovely reflection on your first year - what a memorable year it has been!

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Kate

Lovely reflection on your first year - what a memorable year it has been!

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Trac

Thanks Kate.
thanks for the friendship and support.
Many blessings.
Trac

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Frank Mendonca

Congratulations on your first anniversary. Thank you for you care and warm nature.

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Trac

Thanks Frank.
Please keep me in your prayers.
Stay well and see you in Church very soon,
Trac

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John Zubrinich

Dr Trac, lovely summary of your first year. The good Lord gives us so much to experience and love about life. I married Julienne in 1970, and I remember with joy our first anniversary. We are now 50 years married, still in love, and have 4 children and 12 grandchildren (so far) and thank God every day for all He gives us.... John Zubrinich

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Trac

Hi John.
thank you very much.
It is also great to hear about your 50 years married. i believe that would be a wonderful journey of love, care and support for between you and Julienne. i hope to see another 50 years from you.

Many thanks and keep well.

Trac

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