Father Joseph-Quoc Vuong’s journey to St. Mary of Czestochowa, a catholic church just north of Watertown, certainly was a long one.
Just 20 years ago, in 1993, Vuong was immigrating to the United States. He knew no English, and just 3 years earlier, when he was 18, his family had fled Vietnam as refugees.
But after eventually graduating from Fridley High School in his mid 20s, he was accepted to the University of Minnesota. He only spent a year there, though, before transferring to the University of St. Thomas to focus on a career in the clergy.
“I always had, deep down in my heart, a desire to serve God, and the people of God,” Vuong said, adding that coming from an oppressed communist country only fueled his desire to find a way to help other people. “After my first year (of college), I transferred to St. Thomas, and ever since then, I have felt at peace.”
Now, Vuong has become the pastor not only at St. Mary of Czestochowa, but also at St. Boniface in St. Bonifacius. Both churches are a long way from his childhood home in Vietnam, but he said he’s never felt more at home since coming to the United States.
“I had the feeling that I was coming home,” Vuong said of accepting the jobs in St. Bonifacius and rural Delano. “I usually lived in farming communities in Vietnam. This brought me right back to the memories of going home. The people here are so nice and so hospitable.”
Vuong was officially installed at St. Mary of Czestochowa during a ceremony on Oct. 27, but has actually been around since July. He came to these two area churches from Holy Name of Jesus in Wayzata, where he was an associate pastor since 2009. Prior to that, he was an associate pastor at the church of St. Peter in Forest Lake, his first job in the priesthood.
Vuong’s current roles at St. Mary of Czestochowa and St. Boniface are his first as a head pastor, but he said he doesn’t see it as any sort of additional challenge.
“I don’t see any challenges,” he said. “It’s a responsibility I’ve been ordained for, to serve the people of God.”
His dual roles do make for a busy worship schedule on Saturdays and Sundays, though. On Saturdays, he has confession at St. Boniface at 4 p.m. and mass at 5 p.m.. Then he has a short break, but quickly must hit the road to St. Mary of Czestochowa for 7:30 p.m. confession and 8 p.m. mass.
On Sunday, he has confession at 8 a.m. and mass at 8:30 a.m. at St. Mary of Czestochowa, but doesn’t have much time in between before he heads to St. Boniface for 10:30 a.m. mass. Vuong said it can be a hectic schedule, but one he has grown to enjoy.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m on the road a lot,” he said. “It give me time in between to reflect on my call and also see nature. I love to see nature changing in color.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]