By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – Eight-year-old Alphonsus Nguyen says God called him to be a priest a few years ago. He has answers for what he – and his younger brother – should do about that.
Before Alphonsus was born, medical professionals proposed an answer for his life: end it.
His parents – Deacon Peter Nguyen and June Phan – refused to follow their advice to abort him. The husband and wife turned to Christ and the Blessed Mother.
Ms. Phan says she knows just when their son was cured.
“When I was still in my mom’s belly, someone wanted her to kill me,” Alphonsus said. “I wasn’t doing well in her body.”
What does he think of that?
“I would be thinking, ‘What are they saying?’”
His parents said that when they were expecting him, they were told he had water in his brain, and, later, that he lacked a nerve connecting the left and right parts of his brain. They were told he could be paralyzed, mute or mentally retarded. Abortion was recommended. They said they would keep him no matter what.
Ms. Phan said only God could fix the situation; the
doctors said they couldn’t do anything.
Deacon Nguyen is stationed at St. Peter Parish and St. Andrew the Apostle Mission, but they’re both still involved with the Vietnamese community at Our Lady of Vilna Parish.
The deacon said when they were participating in the 9 Days for Life novena, he emailed part of their family story to others nationwide.
The United States Bishops encourage people to use the novena to pray for respect for life, to gather in prayer and action, and to share their experiences online. The Jan. 16-24 novena marks the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy.
Teresa Nguyen, the couple’s 10-year-old, said her parents attended Mass to pray for people on the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which annually protests the Jan. 22, 1973 Supreme Court decision. And last year she prayed with her American Heritage Girls group outside an abortion facility here.
Their family, which also includes Daniel, 4, and Andrew, 1, has special reason to do such things.
In his email Deacon Nguyen wrote that, after learning of Alphonsus’ problems, each morning he knelt before the crucifix and cried and each night they prayed the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet.
“God, please let me see a smile on the face of my baby,” he prayed.
Though they were expecting a disabled baby, he felt inner peace, he wrote. He became sensitive to disabled children, realizing their caregivers need tremendous love, and he felt he himself was a disabled child cared for by God.
Ms. Phan said she lacked peace about the way medical professionals seemed to be treating them for their refusal of abortion – as if they were not in their right minds and needed help to make the right decision. She figured these people feared being sued for the birth of a disabled child.
She and her husband didn’t tell others their child had problems, except for family members, who prayed and supported them, she said.
“When we get stuck, a miracle happens,” she said, likening her experience with her son to Jesus turning water into wine. “I remember the exact moment when he got cured.”
In July 2007 she and her husband joined a pilgrimage at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro.
“How would you raise a child with disabilities?” she asked the Blessed Mother. “Please give me the strength to love him,” to raise him according to God’s will. Or cure him.
“I heard in my soul that he is cured at this moment,” she said. “I remember the exact place.” She said she was facing a statue of the Blessed Mother, whose arms were outstretched.
Two months later, when Alphonsus was born at UMass-Memorial Hospital, he was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit, Deacon Nguyen said.
“In about two hours, the doctor gave our baby back and told us, ‘Congratulations! Your baby is perfectly normal.’ I took a deep breath and felt so peaceful. … Thanks be to God!” He said the doctors said they didn’t know what happened.
“Life is up and down, and sometimes we cannot do anything except pray and hope,” the deacon wrote. “Because of praying, we have the hope. And because of hope, we have the energy to pray non-stop.” He said when one surrenders to God, miracles will happen, miracles in the sense that one will have the peace to endure suffering.
Ms. Phan said this experience helped them mature spiritually and led her to attend weekday Masses and fast on Fridays.
The experience confirmed his call to be a permanent deacon, said her husband, who become a Catholic after meeting her. He started diaconate classes two years after Alphonsus was born. He was ordained May 31, 2014.
“My dad is the deacon and I thought maybe I could be a priest,” Alphonsus said, when asked how he first thought about this vocation. “I had a dream. It was God calling me” – three times – to be a priest.
He and his mother said Daniel, 4, asked why God hadn’t spoken to him too. Alphonsus told his brother, “Examine your conscience.”
The third-grader told about a recent assignment he had at Our Lady of the Angels Elementary School: to write about his hopes and dreams. He said his is being a priest.
“I want to teach people about God,” he explained. “And I also want to learn more about God.”
“He is who he is.”
Who is he?
“He’s our Creator.”
What should he do to prepare for priesthood?
“Be a good brother. Be a good son. Try to be ordained.”
His mother said they will see what he becomes, and that she’s praying for him.