Among Catholic priests, Vietnamese are the new Irish

Crossing the Pacific in a dilapidated boat, 10-year-old Bich Vu had a face-off with God. “If you save me and my family,” he promised nearly three decades ago, “my life will be yours.”

The miracle happened, and Vu, now 39, kept his word by becoming a priest.

“My experience on the ocean,” he says, “made my faith grow stronger. It taught me that I was weak. I couldn’t save myself; I had to depend on God.”

Vu, known to parishioners at Anaheim’s St. Boniface Catholic Church as Father Augustine, is part of a wave of immigrant Vietnamese priests helping ease a critical cleric shortage and changing the face of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Vietnamese priests are filling the gap,” said Ryan Lilyengren, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange. “People are calling them the new Irish.”


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