Diocesan News

Transitional Deacons Move One Step Closer to Priesthood

The transitional deacons – Alex Olszewski, Vincent Vu and Andrew Tsui – all came to their vocations in different ways. (Photos: Paula Katinas)

‘Be Courageous My Brothers. The Lord is With You’

WHITESTONE — Three men who heard God’s calling to the priesthood moved one step closer to their goal when they were ordained as transitional deacons in a July 10 Mass at St. Luke’s Church.

Deacons Alex Olszewski, Vincent Vu, and Andrew Tsui were ordained by Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, who told them, “Be courageous, my brothers. The Lord is with you.”

Each of the three men ordained Saturday came to his decision to enter the priesthood in different but equally compelling ways. They all have something in common — all three are studying at the Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary.

“We’re classmates. It’s great to have these guys with me,” said Deacon Olszewski, who worked in the finance and banking industries before beginning his studies for the priesthood.

It was the time during his mother’s terminal illness that solidified his decision to become a priest. He was gratified by the care the doctors and nurses gave his mother. When a priest arrived to give her the last rites, Deacon Olszewski realized that while healing the body is important, healing the soul is vital.

Deacon Tsui, a fourth-generation Chinese Catholic, was an active member of the Legion of Mary and served as a missionary in China. He also joined a monastic community in France. 

After spending several years in the monastic community, he returned home to take care of his terminally ill mother.  A few years later, he took care of his dying father. After his father passed away, he went abroad to discern Gods will. After a period of prayer and discernment, he believed God was calling him to serve in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Prior to the Mass, Deacon Tsui said he was looking forward to the big day: “I’m extremely humbled by being called to Holy Orders.”

Deacon Vu comes to the diocese by way of Gia Kiem in Vietnam’s Dong Nai Province. Throughout his childhood, he was active in his parish community, which was located in a predominantly Catholic area of the province. When he was a teenager, his parents made a sacrifice by sending him away to a college in Sai Gon City so that he could receive a good education.

Years later, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio admitted him into the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, starting him on the road to the priesthood.

“I am very happy today because today it’s a big change in my life,” he said.

In a moving moment, the new deacons and Auxiliary Bishop James Massa pause during the Litany of Supplication.

Bishop DiMarzio asked Auxiliary Bishop Massa to ordain the deacons because of their common connection to Pope Saint John XXIII National Seminary — a connection Bishop Massa shares because he is a member of its board.

The seminary specializes in second career vocations — men who have come to the priesthood after working in other careers. 

They’ve had a journey prior to entering seminary and formation,” Auxiliary Bishop Massa said.

Bishop Massa noted the international presence — Deacon Tsui was born to Chinese immigrant parents, Deacon Vu hails from Vietnam and Deacon Olszewski is of Polish descent. 

We say the whole world is in Brooklyn,” the bishop said, adding that the nationalities of the men are “a reflection of the diocese.”

The Catholic Church has two types of deacons — transitional and permanent. Transitional deacons are in their final year of preparation for the priesthood. Permanent deacons are men who serve the church but who are not on the road to priesthood.

Auxiliary Bishop Massa announced the parishes where the deacons will be serving as they prepare for priestly ordination next year.

Deacon Tsui will be at Most Precious Blood Saints Simon and Jude Parish, Gravesend. Deacon Vu has been assigned to the Church of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen, Cobble Hill. Deacon Olszewski will be serving at Mary’s Nativity-St. Ann Parish, Flushing.