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A Few Minutes with Father Hao Dinh, New Vicar General for the Diocese of San José

Father Hao Dinh, Vicar General

Last Spring, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, along with Co-adjutor Bishop Oscar Cantú, appointed Father Hao Dinh Pastor of the Church of the Ascension in Saratoga and Vicar General for the Diocese of San José.

Father Dinh took some time to answer some questions about both of his new positions.

On the list of clergy appointments this year, there are some priests holding positions in the Diocesan Curia. What is the Diocesan Curia?

In plain language, it’s the Central Administrative Offices of the Diocese. It is composed of departments and persons who assist the Diocesan Bishop in governing and caring for the entire Diocese. On a higher level, the Roman Curia assists the Pope in the exercise of his jurisdiction over the Roman Catholic Church. There are about ninety people working in our Diocesan Curia, commonly known as the Chancery. Their work, largely behind the scenes, supports the ministry in parishes and schools across the Diocese. The Diocesan Curia in many mission countries today, or in most of the world prior to the Second Vatican Council, simply consists of a Bishop and a handful of priests: vicar general, chancellor, judicial vicar, secretary, treasurer.

What are the roles of the Vicars?

The Diocesan Bishop is assisted by many vicars or deputies, whose services are limited to a region of the diocese (vicar forane or dean), or to a type of activity (vicar for evangelization, vicar for interreligious affairs). There are also vicars serving the faithful of a particular rite (in India there may be three rituals in one diocese), or certain groups of people (vicar for clergy, vicar for ethnic ministries). The vicar general is the Diocesan Bishop’s principal deputy, assisting the Bishop in the governance of the entire diocese and acting on his behalf when needed. Many vicars general also serve as moderator of the Curia, supervising the day-to-day work of the Curia and coordinating the ministries and services of the Diocese. In some dioceses, including our own, the chief operations officer or equivalent oversees the administrative and operational functions of the diocesan offices.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role as Vicar General?

When I was a seminarian and then a deacon at Saint Christopher Parish in 1992-1993, I regularly saw Monsignor Norman Allen, the parish’s retired pastor. At the time I did not know he was the first vicar general of our Diocese while serving as pastor of that parish. I was impressed by his kindness and pastoral sensitivity. Now I am called to serve at both the diocesan and parish levels like him. It’s a dual assignment demanding full, not fifty-fifty, dedication to both. It’s possible, thanks to modern communication means. From this vantage point I have come to appreciate the scope of our Bishop’s responsibilities and at the same time live in the reality of parish life.

I hope that, besides my duties in the Diocesan offices, I will have several chances to connect with parishes and schools and provide helpful input to decisions made at the Diocesan level. A key part of this Diocese-parish connection is to listen attentively, to be aware of what’s going on in our communities of faith, education institutions, and agencies. I have more to say about what I hope to achieve, especially in faith formation and evangelization, but it will be for another occasion.

What has it been like working with Bishop Cantú so far?

I am still new in my Diocesan position and in my working relationship with him, yet I am impressed by his amazing ability to listen attentively and patiently. He did it even at parish receptions where he at times stayed to the end. It’s gratifying to know that you are listened to, which seems to be rare these days when a lot of people have no patience in listening – even for one minute-without being distracted or interrupting the one who speaks. Listening is only the beginning; the Bishop is open to different ideas, to input that may differ from his own opinion. He values what others have to say or to offer, and seeks to come up with the optimal or the best possible solution under the circumstances. I’m honored to work with him for the mission of our local Church.

Do you have a favorite Saint or Scripture reading that you often refer to?

In my youth I read several stories of saints and admired many among them, for example, Dominic Savio, who desired to become a priest but lived and died as a saint at the age of 14. Saint Joseph, my patron saint from baptism, is another. What he left behind is not words, but deeds, yet his deeds speak volumes about him. He listened to what God had to say and put it into practice (obedience literally means to listen). I was surprised that Bishop Cantú picked me to be his vicar general. He said to me that ours is the God of surprises. I hope I am open to God every day, ready to be surprised by his holy will, to be enriched by his presence in all persons and all things. I look to Saint Joseph as a role model in this regard, asking him to intercede for me every day.

One quote from Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” and the story of the two disciples encountering the risen Lord on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), resonate with me. They describe my experience in a long and at times dark (because of the upheaval in Vietnam) but rewarding journey to the priesthood that began 50 years ago. My journey continues, and the Light is still on!