On Friday, June 24, on the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the U.S. Supreme Court announced the overturning of Roe V. Wade. Among the first reactions was the outcry of a threat to freedom.
People want the freedom to choose to abort a child. Incidentally, the etymology of “free” comes from the root “pri” meaning “to love.”
Freedom to abort a child is in direct opposition to the word free itself, and is a relative concept, as exemplified by Father Joseph Truong Vu.
Father Vu is retiring after 17 years of service at St. Fidelis in College Point, and 33 years as a priest. In the year that I’ve known Father Vu, he’s made an indelible impression. Gently and unassumingly, he brings people to Jesus. He told me, “I became a priest to help people.” He practices his vocation with such joy that I was quite surprised to hear how he arrived in the U.S.
He escaped from Vietnam, leaving everything behind — including his family, whom he did not see again for 19 years. Running to a boat, he lost his sandals, and so traveled in his bare feet.
He remembers being on the ocean not knowing where he would end up, drinking water and eating sugar for survival. But he was free from communism. He was so grateful, he remembers “praising God and putting my entire trust in Him.”
When the boat engine stopped working and women and babies started crying, Father Vu said loudly, “Pray to St. Joseph.” There was absolute silence to be interrupted shortly by the chugging of the engine coming back to life. “It was a miracle,” said Father Vu. Then one night in the midst of utter darkness, he saw a light, which he calls “The Light of Jesus.” It was a U.S. commercial ship, which rescued him and 5,000 Vietnamese people wandering the ocean.
He was brought to a military camp in Arkansas and later, through a friend, began the journey to becoming a priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Father Vu is free to practice his religion, which is currently censored in Vietnam.
“Having grown up in a communist country, I deeply appreciate the freedom in America, especially the freedom to choose to be a priest,” said Father Vu.
Prayerfully, more babies will see the light outside of their mothers’ wombs and perhaps one day choose to become a priest. Like Father Vu, may they be kind and compassionate to all, and may they be a light of Jesus.
Faria Sookdeo is a parishioner at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica.