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Florida priest, former Vietnamese refugee, named a bishop for Orange, Calif.

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Thanh Thai Nguyen, a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla., to be an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, Calif.

Father Thanh Thai Nguyen, a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis appointed him Oct. 6 to be an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Orange, California. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of St. Augustine)

Born in Vietnam, Bishop-designate Nguyen, 64, fled the country in 1979 by boat with his family and spent 10 months in a refugee camp in the Philippines before arriving in Hartford, Conn., in 1980. After brief studies at Hartford State Technical College, he became a math and science teacher in Hartford public schools.

In 1984, he joined the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, studying at Merrimack College and the Weston School of Theology, both in Massachusetts. He was ordained to the priesthood May 11, 1991.

For the next eight years, he worked in parishes in Georgia and Florida. In 1999, he was incardinated into the Diocese of St. Augustine. He has been pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Jacksonville, Florida, since 2014.

Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of St. Augustine said he learned of Father Thanh’s appointment Sept. 27, the day Pope Francis launched the two-year campaign, “Share the Journey.” The global initiative is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees and migrants who have fled their homeland due to poverty, violence, persecution, and war.

In 1979, Father Thanh and his family escaped Vietnam during the war. They fled 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.

“Father Thanh knows the plight of refugees, and he understands their journey seeking a safe home and the ability to support their families,” Bishop Estevez said in a statement. “He has a genuine gift when it comes to ministering to people of diverse cultures.”

“Now that reality is beginning to set in, I need to start the process of letting go and letting God,” said Bishop-designate Nguyen in a statement about his appointment. “Yes, letting go of familiar places, familiar faces, Bishop Estevez, the presbyterate of the diocese, parishioners, and staff of St. Joseph and Christ the King parishes who have played an important role in my priestly ministry for more than 20 years.”

While he was a Missionary of Our Lady of La Salette serving in the St. Augustine Diocese, Bishop John J. Snyder, then head of the diocese, named the priest parochial vicar at Christ the King Parish in Jacksonville.

In September 2001, Bishop Victor B. Galeone, newly named to head the diocese, appointed him pastor of the parish. Through his leadership and initiative, he brought harmony to the Vietnamese community by celebrating a Sunday Mass in Vietnamese and building a Vietnamese Center where cultural traditions among the youth and elderly are preserved.

As pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Bishop-designate Nguyen has been instrumental in strengthening the faith community by celebrating its cultural diversity through parish events throughout the year. He has also built a social/youth hall and added a youth Mass. The parish is about to launch a $4 million capital campaign for parish improvements.

“Father Thanh has not only promoted unity in the parish, but he has fostered more vocations to the priesthood and religious life than any other parish in the diocese,” said Bishop Estevez.

The Diocese of Orange, headed by Bishop Kevin W. Vann, has a large Vietnamese Catholic community.

The Southern California diocese is the 10th largest in the country and one of the fastest growing in the nation. It has 1.3 million Catholics.

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Sister Teresa Maya, new LCWR president, brings bicultural view

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ORLANDO, Fla. — A familiar Spanish saying defines the experience and worldview of Sister Teresa Maya, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word: “Ni de aqui, ni de alla” (“from neither here nor there”).

Before becoming president-elect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 2016, Sister Maya collaborated with the religious conference in Mexico, an experience that taught her there are “two or three versions of the same story, whether it’s because there’s another language or cultural perspective or geography, and that’s important to keep in mind,” she said.

Sister Teresa Maya, a member of of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and the new president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, began her term as LCWR president Aug. 11, the final night of the conference’s annual assembly in Orlando. (CNS photo/courtesy LCWR)

Sister Maya, who is Mexican-American, made the transition to LCWR president Aug. 11, the final night of the conference’s annual assembly in Orlando. She will lead the organization as the rest of the U.S.Catholic Church starts to tip from a majority-Anglo to a majority-Hispanic congregation.

LCWR is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has about 1350 members, who represent nearly 80 percent of the approximately 48,500 women religious in the United States

Her position goes beyond simply representing Latina and minority sisters or the demographic changes of the U.S. Catholic Church. The perspective and attitude she’ll bring with her, her friends and colleagues say, are unique to a bicultural upbringing and friendly to the concept of change.

Sister Maya, born Dec. 27, 1967, in Mexico City, lived in both Mexico and San Antonio because of her father’s work. Her introduction to religion came from watching her grandmother pray the rosary and accompanying her to church.

As a child, she developed an interest in religious life. But she muffled that thought until she was halfway through working toward her doctorate in Mexico City in 1994.

She told a priest that no one she knew wanted to be a nun and she thought something was wrong with her.

He advised her to try it, which she did.

Sister Maya’s parents were initially disappointed that she wasn’t going to do more with her education, but years later they came to embrace her calling.

Maya graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale in 1989 and became a certified teacher at schools run by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and at the Monterrey Technological and Advanced Studies Institute in Laguna, Mexico.

At Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California, she earned her master’s degree in systematic theology in 1991 and eventually went on to the College of Mexico in Mexico City, where she got her doctorate in Latin American colonial church history in 1997.

“She’s a lifelong learner,” said Sister Glenn Anne McPhee of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, who met Sister Maya in the early 1980s, when she came to the United States as a high school student from Mexico. “She’s a very high-energy person. It’s contagious, and it’s only gotten better over time.”

“She’s just a woman who continues to grow and seize the moment,” she added.

While studying at Yale, Sister Maya was a school volunteer in New Haven, Conn., working in inner-city elementary schools with Latino children. The experience “changed my life forever,” she said.

In 1995, she joined the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Mexico City, where she went through formation and professed her final vows in 2002. Their charism, the Incarnation, the actualizing of God’s love as their mission, sold her, even after a lifelong Dominican education and visits to six congregations.

Once her congregation learned she could speak English and translate, she said, she began traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico frequently. She was elected to her congregation’s leadership in 2008 and in 2016 she was chosen as president-elect of LCWR.

“When I look back on the last few years, I realize my ministry is no longer education. It’s religious life itself: ensuring its viability, ensuring it stays focused on its mission, our own kind of love for our own life,” she said.

Arturo Chavez, president of the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, knows Sister Maya through their common work with the college and the University of the Incarnate Word, as well as programs and associations intended for Latin American sisters in the United States.

“She’s both a bridge-builder and a change agent,” he said, echoing words others have also used to describe her.

While serving as president-elect of LCWR, Sister Maya said, she learned about the “incredible potential” of collaboration between religious institutions and congregations.

Right now, she said, LCWR is “owning its historical moment.”

“The very fact that that this country has gone into this division and fear, I think it’s the world calling religious and our conferences to witness, to the welcoming of the stranger, to the unity of the diversity, to civil discourse, to being respectful even if we disagree,” she said. “I think there’s a mission in the moment that we need to own, and I see that being fundamental to the next few years.”

She believes women religious shouldn’t bemoan their decrease in numbers but instead should be willing to go where they are needed to be bridge-builders.

When asked about being a visible face for religious Latinas, Sister Maya said her call is to just be who she is, “because it witnesses to other Latinas and to other women of color in religious life that we belong, that this is also our life, our church, our time.”

 By Soli Salgado, a staff writer for Global Sisters Report.

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Pope names two auxiliaries for Detroit, one for Orange

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis named three new auxiliary bishops, two for Detroit and one for Orange, Calif. The appointments were announced Nov. 23 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Father Robert J. Fisher, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Mich., is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis named the priest an auxiliary bishop of the Detroit Archdiocese Nov. 23. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit)

Father Robert J. Fisher, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Mich., is seen in this undated photo. Pope Francis named the priest an auxiliary bishop of the Detroit Archdiocese Nov. 23. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Detroit)

For Detroit, Pope Francis named Father Gerard W. Battersby, 56, vice rector and dean of formation at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and Father Robert J. Fisher, 57, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica, Royal Oak, Michigan.

The current episcopal vicar for clergy for the Diocese of Orange, Father Timothy Freyer, 53, was named an auxiliary of that diocese.

Bishop-designate Battersby holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Detroit’s Wayne State University and a master of divinity degree from Sacred Heart seminary. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1998. He received a licentiate in sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, where he is currently pursuing his doctorate in the same topic.

He has served in various Detroit-area parishes as well as at the seminary and as a member of the archdiocesan presbyteral council.

Bishop-designate Fisher earned a bachelor of science in management from the University of Detroit and earned his master of divinity from Sacred Heart. He pursued additional studies in theology and was ordained a priest in 1992.

He, too, served in various Detroit-area parishes and on the presbyteral council. From 1995-2000 he also served as director of vocations for the archdiocese.

Bishop-designate Freyer, who was born in Los Angeles, was ordained a priest in 1989. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from St. John Seminary College in Camarillo, California. He served in various parishes and, since 2012, has served as episcopal vicar for clergy.

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Analysis: Bishops want U.S. budget to protect poor, raise adequate revenue

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The budget debates are just starting on Capitol Hill and in a highly polarized political climate that means they’ll be going right through the Nov. 6 elections, and most likely beyond.

It’s how Washington works these days.

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Bishop: Church has long sought ‘decent health care for all’

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The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee said that “long before the current battles” over health care reform and the federal contraception mandate, “the Catholic Church was persistently and consistently advocating for this overdue national priority” of universal health care.

“Since 1919, the United States Catholic bishops have supported decent health care for all and government and private action to advance this essential goal,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Bishop urges Congress to help jobless and their families

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WASHINGTON — With the median length of unemployment reaching 10 months and more than four job seekers for every opening, Congress must find ways to continue unemployment compensation to protect jobless workers and their families, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“For millions of American workers and their families, economic hardship continues and grows,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., in a Dec. 12 letter to House members.

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Calif. bishop calls for good stewardship of God’s air

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The gift of clean air provided by God to humanity deserves to be protected through strong environmental stewardship by making changes in daily life so that fewer pollutants enter the atmosphere, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice Human Development.

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., urged an audience at the interfaith Festival of Faiths conference Nov. 7 that taking steps to live more simply, use natural resources wisely and reduce personal consumption, air pollution and one’s carbon footprint to ensure clean air for all and to ease the effects of climate change on the world’s poorest people.

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Bishops urge Senators to uphold Defense of Marriage Act

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops have urged the Senate Judiciary Committee not to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, calling it important for human rights and the common good.

“DOMA advances the common good in a manner consistent with the human dignity of all persons,” Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, wrote in a Nov. 2 letter to committee members.

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