Diaconate Ordination of San

On May 19, there was a happy occasion at the Jesuit Mission Cambodia. Brother San (whose Vietnamese name is Do Thanh Nguyen) was ordained as a Deacon in Phnom Penh. He first came to Cambodia in 2014 as a regent, returning to Vietnam in 2016 to complete his theological studies and then being missioned to Cambodia again in early 2022. Since then, he has been studying Khmer and working at the Ruom Center, a formation center for factory workers. He has a deep affection for the culture and people here, so much so that he chose his local name, “San” from “Sok San,” the Cambodian word for “peace”.  

San had a late vocation and was baptized due to being moved by a catholic priest for whom he was building a church in Vietnam as an architect. San faced enormous obstacles when attempting to join the Society of Jesus because of the adamant opposition of his communist parents. He also had many twists and turns in his subsequent formation period. Thus, it brought us all great joy to witness San being ordained as a deacon. Fr. Nhia, the Provincial of Vietnam, as well as several of the religious sisters and friends who have assisted San in embracing the Catholic faith and living as a Jesuit, traveled from Vietnam to pray and rejoice with us.

On the while, I was a little worried about San’s deaconate ordination because this was the first time a Jesuit had ever been ordained as a deacon in Cambodia, and the ordination date was decided at the last minute, so we didn’t have much time to prepare. Also, no Jesuit is working in a parish here in the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh, so we had to rely on other people to help us with almost everything, including the liturgy of the ordination, the choir, and the altar decoration. However, many people, including Bishop Olivier, Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh, and others too numerous to mention, were so gracious and generous in their support that we were able to hold a simple but joyful and grateful ordination ceremony, not only for the Jesuits but also for the local church. I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to all those who participated in San’s ordination. We, the Jesuit Cambodia Mission, also renew our resolve to serve the local church more faithfully and humbly. 


Fr. Kwon Oh-Chang, S.J.


Short Biography

Born in Hanoi, Capital of Vietnam, in 1975. Nguyen is the first & only son in his family. He has one younger sister.

He entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Vietnam 31 May 2009 and pronounced his first vows two years after. Both his first (2011-2014) and second cycle studies (2016-2020) were done in Vietnam.

For regency (2014-2016), he was sent to Cambodia mission. He was assigned to Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey province, supervising the construction of Xavier Jesuit School project and taking care of boarding boys of the Nobili Center at Francis Xavier Church Sisophon Parish.

Prior to joining the Jesuits, he graduated from the Hanoi Architectural University in 1997, then he went to the South of Vietnam in 1999 for work. At that time he was not yet Catholic.

In Ho Chi Minh city, by chance, he was introduced to a Catholic construction group to supervise a church construction of Bac Hoi parish in Lam Dong province. The pastor of that parish was Fr. Peter Hoang Dinh Thuy, a Salesians of Don Bosco priest (SDB). That was a chance for him to get to know Catholic church. Fr. Thuy SDB was the one who introduced him to a portrait of a good shepherd. Jesus, our Good Shepherd. San loved that image and he felt a calling to become a priest.

From 2001, I worked for another construction company in Ho Chi Minh city, but still kept in touch with the Catholic construction group.

An amazing turning point happened when he was 27, in the afternoon on Saturday before the 4th Sunday of Easter, Feast of the Good Shepherd. San described that moment as the time God granted him faith. “I felt so happy. I experienced a special happiness which I never have had before. That was the first moment I recognize God in my life.”

At that time, he knew only one Jesuit priest, Fr. Joseph Hoang Van Tinh SJ. Right after that moment, he went to meet Fr. Joseph, telling him what happened to me and asking him for the baptism. He had me baptized on the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 31 July 2002.

“Because of that happiness I received at the moment of faith, I had a strong desire to talk to others about God, so that they could be happy like I was. I only knew that Jesuit is a mature & independent person, and that the Society of Jesus is a group of missionaries to spread the Good News to others. For this reason and with my very little knowledge of the Society, when the baptism mass finished, I met Fr. Joseph to tell him I wanted to join the Society of Jesus.” And here he is now.

Congratulations to San. May the Lord bless you and keep you.