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On today’s inspiring podcast, host Rick Howick is honored to welcome Auxiliary Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen to our studios. Our topic of discussion today will be on an epic event that is coming to the Christ Cathedral campus. The annual “Marian Days” events have brought in scores of pilgrims to Carthage, Missouri for several years running. Listen as Bishop Nguyen shares how the Diocese of Orange is bringing our own version of Marian Days to Christ Cathedral on July 1-2, 2022.

Tune in to hear all the details. Be sure to share this information with your friends and family!





Originally broadcast on 5/28/22


Today’s podcast session is a very special one. On the campus of Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA, we’ll discuss the “solemn blessing’ for the Our Lady of La Vang shrine. Joining host Rick Howick in the studio today are two honored guests: Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen and project coordinator Elysabeth Nguyen.





Originally broadcast on 7/10/21


This first weekend in October kicks off Respect Life Month in the Diocese of Orange and in dioceses throughout the United States. We respect life because human life is a gift. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI taught us that “Every child….. brings us God’s smile and invites us to recognize that life is his gift, a gift to be welcomed with love and preserved with care always and at every moment.” 

As Christians, we are called to respect human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. The sick, elderly, handicapped and hungry deserve our service and love. More importantly, we need to reach out to the most defenseless and vulnerable. I mean the unborn children. We live in a “throwaway” culture that tempts us to treat the unborn children as dispensable commodities. They deserve our protection, care and respect because they are the guardians of the most precious of gifts. 

So we enter this Respect Life Month with a renewed commitment to be lights as Jesus’s missionary disciples to all persons who are vulnerable in our nation, our world, and in our neighborhoods. As we take up our Pennies from Heaven collections to support women, men, and families facing unexpected pregnancies, we are resolved not simply to support monetarily the clinics, shelters, and centers with which we work, but to ensure that parishes and parish leaders are connected to these centers, as well as the myriad of other local resources to support and advocate for those in need. Whether homeless or undocumented or imprisoned, whether in need of clean air or domestic violence help or diapers, we are there. That’s what the “Walking with Moms in Need” campaign is about.(For more information on how to get involved, go to: ) 

We Catholics honor Mary during this month of October. Two thousand years ago God entrusted to Mary His Son, the source of LIFE. Through our prayers and rosaries, we ask Mary to intercede for us, so we become bold witnesses to the Gospel of Life effectively. 


Viet Love Mission, organized by a group of Vietnamese parishioners from La Purisima Catholic Church in Orange, serves food and drinks to shelter residents on the first Monday of every month.  

On the average, the shelter known as the Orange County Courtyard Shelter and located at the former Santa Ana Transit Terminal, houses 250-300 residents at any given point in time. The menu is different from month to month. On any given day, the group serves fried chicken, steamed rice, salad, cheese sticks, bananas, boiled eggs, potato chips, orange juice and water.  

On Dec. 23, in the spirit of Christmas, each resident also received the service and prayers of Diocese of Orange Auxiliary Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen as he joined the group to serve a holiday meal and to pray with the residents. 


Three nonprofit service organizations that work with low- or no-income populations in Orange County recently were presented with annual local grants by the Most Reverend Thanh Thai Nguyen, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange, in a ceremony at Christ Cathedral Pastoral Center.  Funded by donations from Diocese of Orange parishioners, the annual “November Needs” collection is a nationwide effort by Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) that asks the faithful to donate for both local and national grants that are used to fight poverty. The funds enable those affected to empower themselves through positive social and economic changes. Grants for the 2019 – 2020 fiscal year in Orange County totaled $30,000.00, according to Dr. Greg Walgenbach, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, under which the CCHD local board works.


To apply, organizations are required to have an Internal Revenue Service 501 (c)(3) designation, be located in Orange County, be directed at serving residents of Orange County, and have those affected by poverty in some way be on the decision-making boards. Organizations that benefited from participating in the application process are: 

American Family Housing (a repeat applicant) – Established in 1994, its Self-Help Interfaith Program (SHIP) serves homeless individuals who can obtain permanent, full-time employment within 30 – 60 days of arriving in the program. SHIP’s goals is not to care for guests, but to train them how to take care of themselves and to provide for their basic needs during a four-month transitional living program. Seventy percent of their graduates since 1994 have found employment and housing. 

OBRIA Medical Clinics of Southern California (a new local applicant – strategic grant recipient) – Launched as Birthchoice in 1981 as a faith-based resource center to address gaps in reproductive health services for underserved populations, providing education and counseling to support young pregnant women.  It now offers services to all women and young men. The local grant request is to provide life-affirming healthcare in Anaheim and underserved areas of south Orange County through regular deployment of their Mobile Clinic, added in 2010. 

Thomas House Temporary Shelter, dba Thomas House Family Shelter (Transitional Shelter and Supportive Services and Homeless Prevention Services) – (a repeat applicant) – Opened in 1986 by parishioners of St. Barbara Catholic Church, it was founded to help homeless families in Garden Grove for a transitional period of nine months to one year. With two apartment buildings capable of housing 24 to 40 families, the organization works with low-income, at-risk families annually to avoid homelessness, provide part-time career development assistance for employment opportunities with educational assistance and career path learning and mentor youth sports and enrichment programs to further help youth overcome poverty and prepare for their future. The nonprofit works in tandem with 100 local partners including government, community and nonprofit providers. It accepts families that are large, multi-generation and teenage boys and fathers. 

CCHD was established 49 years ago in 1970 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to fund programs used for the mitigation of poverty, betterment of social and economic conditions and easing of racial and ethnic tensions. The Campaign is based on the Catholic Church’s moral and social teaching traditions and asks organizations requesting funding to respect human dignity, to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first, to acknowledge basic rights, duties and responsibilities, to work for the common good and to build and promote a civilization of love with a goal of peace in mind. 

“Currently, we only offer Community Organizing grants of up to $10,000 on a local level, where the national grants include this, plus Economic Development and Strategic.” Deacon Jim Merle, CCHD Diocesan Coordinator explained. “The Community Organizing works toward the elimination of the root causes of poverty and to enact institutional change. The Economic Development creates income and/or assets for people living in poverty and for their communities and is a dollar-for-dollar match up to $75,000. The Strategic grants are limited to five years and offer a yearly grant of $500,000 toward systemic changes for large groups of marginalized, disenfranchised and impoverished. 

“The local and national Community Organizing grants require that members living in poverty comprise at least 50 of those who plan, implement and make policy, hire and fire staff persons and have a leadership role on the Board of Directors,” Deacon Jim added. Nonprofit organizations receiving grants do not have to be Catholic. 

Each year, millions of dollars are donated and then disbursed through local CCHD diocesan or archdiocesan boards under the auspices of the local bishops.  In the Diocese of Orange California, local grants usually do not exceed $10,000. Twenty-five percent of all received funds are returned for local disbursement. The remaining 75 percent is disbursed by the national CCHD office in an amount not to exceed $75,000 with help of the local boards in reviewing applications, making site visits and providing general input for approval.   

Eighty-nine cents out of every dollar received by CCHD goes directly to community empowerment, economic development and education programs that work to break the cycle of poverty. Each year CCHD distributes national grants to more than 300 projects based in local communities. In addition, hundreds of smaller projects are funded through the 25 percent share of the CCHD collection retained by dioceses. 

“The local board of seven members works very diligently to read each application, schedule a site visit, review our findings, and then recommends which organization receives funds,” Deacon Jim said.  “Each and every organization is worthy. The hardest part is contacting those corporations that did not make it in a given year and encouraging them to return next year for a possible grant.” 

Local CCHD applications are available on the diocesan website under the Department of Life, Justice and Peace heading. Those applying have until Mother’s Day to complete their submission. The remainder of time is used by the local board to go through their review steps. Check disbursements are made after July with the new fiscal year. 

“Presenting a check to a winning organization is what makes this all worthwhile,” Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen commented.  “The recipients’ faces light up and there are big sighs of relief in knowing they have more money to continue their efforts on behalf of assisting those in the grips of poverty. God smiles brightly that day and we hope for many more days to come.”


Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the University of Southern California’s Public Diplomacy Magazine.

The rain began to fall at dawn.

First in small drops, one after the other, pooling in the boat’s hull and filling the thirsty refugees’ cups. Some sipped slowly, cherishing each drop. Others drank as fast as the rain fell.

Then morning broke. The clouds began to darken. Rain came down in sheets, soaking their tattered clothes and sunburnt skin.

The afternoon brought wind. First an initial gust, chilling their tired bodies. Then a gale, sending rain sideways and churning the angry sea. The small boat rose and fell with the swell. Waves as big as buildings. Clouds that blackened the sky.

Together, the refugees huddled together for warmth in their boat. When night came, they could not see the stars, or the moon.

In despair, they began to pray.

Facing persecution for their spiritual beliefs by Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the refugees had narrowly escaped their native home. They were among a great flood of refugees to flee the war-ravaged country in search of freedom. It was 1979.

Now they were in a boat without food in the middle of a tropical storm swirling across the South China Sea. The rain did not stop for 10 days.

They prayed their Rosary each morning and night, asking Mary, the mother of Jesus, to safely guide them to a new home.

Among the refugees was Thanh Thai Nguyen. The young man prayed with the others, and went further. He made a personal vow:

Save us, Blessed Mother, and I will dedicate my life to working in your service.

The refugees – 26 members of the Nguyen family – survived the storm in their 28-foot boat. On their 18th day at sea, they spotted land. Despite their hunger, they rowed, safely reaching the Philippines. After 10 months in a refugee camp, they arrived in Texas. Their new life in the U.S. had begun.

Thanh Thai Nguyen kept good on his word. He became a Catholic priest.

Today, he is the highest-ranking Vietnamese Catholic prelate in the U.S., serving as Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, one of the largest and most diverse faith communities in the U.S. Many refugees who fled their homeland during the Vietnam War settled in Orange County, and today the region is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam.

Among Bishop Thanh Nguyen’s priorities is strengthening ties between Catholics in Orange County and Vietnam, a country with a long and bloody history of religious persecution. Although Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party has appeared to make strides in creating a spiritually-open society, religious persecution – especially against Christians – remains high, according to Open Doors USA, an Orange County-based non-profit tracking religious freedom across the globe. Outspoken Catholics are targeted, arrested and sentenced, and Catholic congregations have had their land taken by the government for development and financial gain, according to the non-profit.

Traveling in the country can be challenging for clerics, who often face questioning and see their passports scrutinized by Customs officials at Vietnamese ports of entry.

This type of persecution does not stop the faithful from attending church, and there are about 4 million Catholics in Vietnam. In December, Hanoi’s new Archbishop, Joseph Vũ Văn Thiên, was formally installed at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in the capital city’s Old Quarter, the celebration attracting high-ranking Catholics and officials from the secular government.

Among the attendees were Bishop Thanh Nguyen and Bishop Kevin Vann, who leads the Diocese of Orange. Their attendance at the ceremony marked a renewed commitment for a historic relationship with their counterparts in Vietnam.  The two Orange County bishops are leading an effort to create a “sister diocese” partnership between the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Hanoi centering on clergy training and opportunities for charitable work among lay Catholics. Priests will have opportunities to gain pastoral experience working in Vietnamese parishes, while Orange County Catholics can participate in outreach with the poor, teach English to students and support schools in northern Vietnam.

The partnership is expected to be officially ratified this summer.

“We may be separated by an ocean, but our Catholic communities share a strong bond,” Bishop Thanh Nguyen said. “We’re excited for this historic opportunity to work together toward common goals – education and spiritual growth. Our sister diocese partnership will create new opportunities to strengthen our communities and further the important work being done globally by the Catholic Church.”

The partnership will build on work already happening in Vietnam by Catholics in California. New schools with curriculum based on Western-style teaching methods are sprouting in rural regions. Among them: a preschool in northern Vietnam’s Thái Bình Province. The newly-built school rises next to a Catholic convent, enrolls about 130 students from mostly low-income households and is supported with funding by an Orange County Catholic nonprofit called Companions in Grace.

Binh Minh Preschool exposes students to Western-style education methods in a Communist-run country experiencing rapid population growth.

About 23 percent of the country’s 97 million inhabitants are under the age of 14, according to United Nations data. Vietnam’s economy is also growing rapidly, but residents often struggle to pay tuition to send their children to good schools. Many families with students at Binh Minh receive financial aid directly through the preschool and Companions in Grace. Students’ parents work as farmers, mechanics and in the nearby factories.

At the school, students learn to read and write in English, are exposed to basic science concepts and encouraged to express themselves through art. Run by the Dominican Sisters of Thái Bình, the school uses curriculum based on Montessori teaching methods and is modeled on St. Columban Catholic School in Garden Grove. The school’s goal is to give Vietnamese students the tools they’ll need to compete in the global marketplace.

“This is a new method of teaching in Vietnam,” Sr. Maria Mai Diep told me as we walked through the school’s hallways, visiting classrooms that were bright, organized and clean. Bookshelves were lined with titles in Vietnamese and English.

“Students are being introduced to English and given opportunities to focus on problem solving – which requires them to pay attention,” Diep added. “We see that students are more focused through the day.”

For Bishop Thanh Nguyen, the trip to Vietnam in December was his third trip back to his native country since he originally fled nearly four decades ago, and his first traveling in the country openly as a priest. Among the stops on his journey was the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang in rural central Vietnam.

The shrine, considered the country’s holiest site, represents an apparition of the Virgin Mary shared by a group of Vietnamese Catholics in the late 18th century fleeing religious persecution.  A shrine dedicated to the apparition is being constructed at the Christ Cathedral Campus in Garden Grove, the seat of the Diocese of Orange.

At a small outdoor chapel next to the shrine in Vietnam, Bishop Thanh Nguyen celebrated Mass – one of the most important and solemn responsibilities of a Catholic priest. His homily focused on suffering and grace.

“Human suffering and divine grace is at the center and the essence of the story of Our Lady of La Vang,” he said. “It’s a story that continues today and why so many people flock here – to seek divine grace so they can rise above their suffering.”

After Mass, Bishop Thanh Nguyen prayed at the base of the shrine and met with pilgrims, many of whom had traveled many miles. Then he reflected on his own journey.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel Vietnam,” he said, “it feels like I have returned home.”


Since October 2017 when Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen was named an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Orange, he has been known for his service to the local Vietnamese-American community, the largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. 

Bishop Nguyen leads fundraising efforts to build the anxiously awaited shrine to Our Lady of La Vang andjoins Bishop Timothy Freyer in assisting Bishop Kevin Vann in ministering to the 1.3 million Catholics in Orange County. 

Yet Bishop Nguyen who escaped war-torn Vietnam by boat and later was ordained to the priesthood by the La Salette Missionaries goes out of his way to serve another, often-overlooked local population. 

Without fanfare, he can be found ministering to prisoners as he visits local jails and Juvenile Hall or feeding the homeless in the Santa Ana Civic Center. 

When I come to see Jesus face-to-face, He is not going to ask me how many churches I built or Masses Ive celebrated,Bishop Nguyen explains. He will want to know if I fed the hungry or provided drink to the thirsty. Having received the gift of the priesthood, I am committed to sacramentally reach out to the needy and to serve the poor. 

At the same time, Bishop Nguyen has a self-deprecating sense of humor and once allowed himself to be dressed as Elvis during a youth retreat. 

He shares that he was considering retirement when he was named auxiliary bishop in Orange County. God has a miraculous way He brought me to Orange County and its large Vietnamese community, people who share my roots,he says. Its Gods plan for my ministry to be productive, successful and rewarding. 

One of 11 children, he was born on April 7, 1953, in Nha Trang, Vietnam. He and members of his family escaped in a 28-foot boat in 1979, spending 18 days at sea before landing on the Philippines. On the eighth day we ran out of food and water,Bishop Nguyen recalls. Three times it rained and each time we saved one cup of rainwater.On the final day, the family rowed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to reach the shore. Four days later, I entered the seminary,having vowed while at sea to dedicate his life to the Lord. 

The family lived in a refugee camp for 10 months before moving to the United States in 1980. 

In the early 1990s, Bishop Nguyen held two pastoral assignments in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, first as parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Smyrna, and then at St. Ann Parish in Marietta. He came to the Diocese of St. Augustine in 1996 and he was incardinated a priest of the diocese in 1999. He served as parochial vicar and administrator at Christ the King Parish, Jacksonville, then was appointed pastor. He served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Jacksonville, the largest parish in the diocese with 4,000 families. While there, he built a strong, faith-filled community, adding a youth Mass and building a social/youth hall and fostering more vocations to the priesthood and religious life than any other parish in the diocese. 

Bishop Nguyen is excited to work with Bishop Kevin Vann on the dioceses new strategic plan for evangelization, leadership, and stewardship. I cant wait to get started,he says. Bishop Vann has a great vision for Christ Cathedral as an ideal community with all the activities that set a good example for all parishes to emulate.He believes the cathedral, with the Our Lady of La Vang shrine and the Tower of Hope, will serve as a landmark for Pope Francisnew evangelization efforts. 

Bishop Nguyen says his maternal grandmother was instrumental in bringing him into religious life and for his dedication to serving the poor and needy. One time we were eating lunch and a beggar came to the door with a bag on his back,he recalls. My grandmother said, why dont you sit down and eat with us?The beggar was amazed. Before he left, she told me to give him one cup of rice and one Vietnamese dollar. 

That act stayed with me as I studied in seminary,he concludes. 

In addition, Bishop Nguyen admires the work of Fr. Richard Ho Lung, founder of the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica, a former Jesuit who keenly felt the call to respond to the desperate poverty he saw in Kingston. 

When he traveled to Kingston to serve with the missionaries, Bishop Nguyen says, he noticed that the poor and the people who serve them were happy. They have nothing, so they rely on God,he muses. When you serve the poor, you receive an inner joy you cant get in any other ministry. The joy I receive from serving the poor is precious. 

When he finally retires, Bishop Nguyen says, he wants to travel to Vietnam for several months a year to help serve the poor with the Vietnamese Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who feed, clothe, and educate children whose parents cant afford to send them to school. Right now he is content to send the sisters donations for their efforts. 


Viet Love Mission, organized by a group of Vietnamese parishioners from La Purisima Catholic Church in Orange, serves food and drinks to shelter residents on the first Monday of every month. 

On the average, the shelter known as the Orange County Courtyard Shelter and located at the former Santa Ana Transit Terminal, houses 250-300 residents at any given point in time. The menu is different from month to month. On this particular day, the group served fried chicken, steam rice, salad, cheese sticks, bananas, boiled eggs, potato chips, orange juice and water. In the spirit of Christmas, each resident also received a hooded sweater and holiday favors such as candy canes and homemade chocolate chip cookies.  

On Monday, Dec. 10, Bishop Nguyen joined the effort. He offered an opening message to everyone present: “I am very happy to be here today. Not as a rookie bishop of Diocese of Orange but as a Catholic who want to share Christ’s love with everyone, especially with those who are facing much difficulty in their life.” 

“Christmas is the time of love, time of sharing,” he continued. “We should be joyful because Jesus is coming to us all, rich and poor alike. I am very happy to be here and see everyone in good spirit. Everybody, the givers and the receivers all have smiles on their faces. May God continue His Blessings upon us all.”   

Bishop Nguyen’s message to the volunteers: “I am proud of all of you. Today you followed Jesus’ teachings: When you feed the hungry and love the poor, you feed Jesus and you love Jesus.“ 

Besides helping in serving the foods and distributing the gifts, Bishop Nguyen also joined in singing the Christmas carols. He walked around the permitted area of the shelter, greeted the residents and gave blessings to those who asked.


Team Call Me Catholic was honored and fascinated by the testimony of Bishop Nguyen on the show today. The newest Auxiliary Bishop appointed to the Diocese of Orange, here today to share the harrowing story of his escape from Vietnam and his eventual road to the priesthood.

In this Easter season, he gave us an “alleluia” story from which we can all draw inspiration and strength on our faith walk. Thank you, Bishop Nguyen, for sharing your birthday with us.







Originally broadcast on 4/07/18


Bishop-elect Thanh Thai Nguyen was born on April 7, 1953, in Nha Trang, Vietnam. In 1979, he and his family escaped war-torn Vietnam by boat, and after 18 days at sea, they landed on the shores of the Philippines. He lived in a refugee camp for 10 months before moving to the United States in 1980. He was ordained to the priesthood for the La Salette Missionaries on May 11, 1991.  

In the early 1990s, Bishop-elect Nguyen held two pastoral assignments in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He served as a parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Smyrna (1991-1994), and at St. Ann Parish in Marietta (1994-1996). Bishop-elect Nguyen came to the Diocese of St. Augustine on June 15, 1996, and he was incardinated a priest of the diocese in 1999. In 1996 he served as parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish, Jacksonville, and in 2001 he was named administrator. A few months later, in September, he was appointed pastor by Bishop Victor Galeone. In 2014, Bishop Felipe J. Estevez appointed Bishop-elect Nguyen pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Jacksonville. It is the largest parish in the diocese, with 4,000 families. During his time at St. Joseph, he has built a strong, faith-filled community, added a youth Mass and built a social/youth hall. He has also fostered more vocations to the priesthood and religious life than any other parish in the diocese. On Oct. 6, 2017, Pope Francis named Father Nguyen an Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Orange in California. 


Symbolism in the achievement of the Most Reverend Thanh Thai Nguyen 

Bishop-elect Nguyen selected Blue Celeste as the main color of his coat of arms. Blue in Catholic heraldry is always symbolic of the Blessed Virgin, and it is so in this coat of arms design, as well, but this hue also is representative of water in Catholic heraldry.  

First and foremost as one studies the bishop’s coat of arms design is the presence of the Catholic heraldic emblem known as the Pelican in Her Pride. This is one of the earliest Christological and Eucharistic emblems of the Catholic Church. Evidence of its use as such has been found in the oldest catacomb churches. The Pelican in Her Pride is a purely Eucharistic theme. It represents the Church feeding the faithful through the Precious Blood of Christ Crucified, as symbolized in the mother pelican striking her breast to feed her children with her own blood.  

In Bishop-elect Nguyen’s coat of arms we find above the Pelican an arch of twelve (12) gold five (5) pointed stars known in heraldry as mullets. These are the stars that appear on the chapeau of Our Lady of La Vang, the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary most important to Bishop-elect Nguyen. They are worked in gold, which represents the wisdom of God who created all persons, including the BVM; the gold also represents the graces that flow through Mary to Her children in the Church. 

The chief of the coat of arms design, or the bar or space that crosses the top of the shield, is intentionally worked in wavy lines alternating bleu celeste and gold. This was the intention of the designer since wavy lines in this design are intended to symbolically represent five important water references in Bishop-elect Nguyen’s life: 


One: The Atlantic Ocean that serves as a border of the bishop’s sending Diocese of Saint Augustine. This inclusion pays homage to both the Diocese of Saint Augustine and the saint himself. 


Two: The Pacific Ocean that serves as a border of Bishop-elect Nguyen’s new Diocese of Orange; thus including a special tribute to his new home church. 


Three: This second representation of the Pacific is symbolic of the historic trek to safety made by the bishop elect and his family when they fled war and persecution in Vietnam. In this instance the water could best be described as Freedom Waters and serve as an homage to the bishop elect’s family’s strength and the challenges that faced them so long ago. 


Four: Water here is also symbolic of the Waters of Baptism, a symbolic reference to the sacramental role of the Office of Bishop.  


Five: Finally, the bishop elect’s strong attachment to Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul…” This reference was uppermost in the bishop elect’s request for the design of his new coat of arms as auxiliary bishop of the Latin Rite. 


Item five’s ‘still waters’ required the heraldic designer to alter the norm in heraldic usage by softening the lines employed to suggest a softer style of line drawing which would immediately suggest the ‘still waters’ spoken about in the Book of Palms. Normally, wavy lines in heraldry, especially those suggesting water, are more fluid or rough looking. To accomplish ‘still waters’ a softer format had to be included for this design. 

And so, upon this chief of wavy lines suggesting still waters appear three charges or emblems. Two of these are reclining lambs, which complete the Psalm reference. Between them is a lily — not a Fleur de lys, which is more symbolic of Our Lady, but a lily which is the main heraldic emblem for Saint Joseph, earthly father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. How appropriate it is as Saint Joseph could be called the first of the faithful that the Good Shepherd led.  



Thus comprises the shield of Bishop-elect Thanh Thai Nguyen. However, there are external elements to every coat of arms design that must also be explained, especially under Catholic heraldic law. Surmounting the episcopal shield is the pilgrim’s hat, the heraldic emblem for all prelates and priests of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. For the rank of bishop, both residential and titular, the pilgrim’s hat is always worked in deep green, the true color of the Office of Bishop. For this rank and office there are six tassels suspended on either side of the hat in a pyramidal style. The interior of the hat is worked in scarlet to represent the martyrdom, real or symbolic, which all bishops, not only cardinals, are called to at the time of consecration to the episcopal dignity. The hat is properly known in the Church as the galero and the tassels take the name fiocchi. These, too, are worked in green for the rank of bishop. Bishop-elect Thanh Thai Nguyen desired homage to the religious order that he had originally been ordained to serve, the La Salette Fathers. This order’s insignia includes a large, wooden pectoral cross worn by each priest of the order. From it are suspended two emblems of the crucifixion, the pinchers or plyers and the hammer. As heraldic law makes it difficult to suspend these emblems from the Cross to be found above and behind the bishop’s shield, the designers have found a home for them within a silver medallion at the Cross’ center. This medallion takes the place of the traditional gemstone – both methods are correct under heraldic law. 

For bishops, this cross above and behind the shield has only one transverse arm. The cross may be jeweled or stylized and might also be depicted as plain and most resembles the processional cross used at Mass. In this design homage falls to the La Salette Fathers as this cross takes its inspiration from that worn by the order’s members.  

Beneath the shield, just as it would appear if worn at the neck of an actual honoree, is the insignia of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a papal order of knighthood awarded to the bishop by the Holy Father. 

Overall, Bishop-elect Nguyen’s episcopal coat of arms has remained faithful to the style of heraldry originally developed by the Church in the Middle Ages. In this the Church continues to demand a quality in the seals of office of each diocesan bishop, the co-adjutore and the titular bishops as well, whose seals traditionally derive from the design of the personal coat of arms. 



In heraldry, a motto has been both a personal philosophy of life and a family dictum, and sometimes even a cry for battle. But in Church heraldry, a prelate’s personal motto has always been intended to represent his personal spirituality and theologically based philosophy of life and is most frequently grounded in Sacred Scripture and spiritual reflection. 

Bishop-elect Nguyen has selected “HE LEADS ME” for his motto, words of profound importance to him both spiritually and familiarly and which come down from the Book of Psalms… “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing that I shall want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters; he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake…” 

The bishop elect’s entire coat of arms is grounded in the spirituality of this beautiful psalm and so it is most appropriate that the motto that he has chosen likewise finds its origins in this psalm.  

And so, with this motto as his guide, Bishop-elect Nguyen undertakes his new episcopal ministry for the Church in Orange, California. May God be praised…  


Ordination Mass 

The Diocese of Orange will on Tuesday celebrate the Episcopal Ordination Mass at which Bishop-elect Thanh Thai Nguyen will be ordained as Auxiliary Bishop. In his new role he will support Bishop Kevin Vann and Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Freyer in ministering to the 1.3 million Catholics in Orange County. 

The ordination Mass will take place at St. Columban Church in Garden Grove on Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. Many government and community leaders are expected to be in attendance.