Phnom Pehn, Cambodia — On 6 July 2019, amidst an atmosphere of joy and happiness of the Church of Cambodia and the Salesian Family, Fr Joseph Nguyen Nhat Khoa, SDB and Fr Paul Phromphong Seharat, TMS [Missionary Society of Thailand], received the sacrament of priestly ordination from the hands of His Excellency Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the Apostolic Vicar of Phnom Penh – Cambodia. He was the ordaining Bishop together with Bishop Figaredo Alvar Gonzales Kike, S.J., the Prefect Apostolic of Battambang, Bishop Susairaj Antonysamy, MEP, the Prefect Apostolic of Kompong Cham, Fr John Bosco Dheparat Pitisant, the Provincial of the Salesian Thai Province, Fr Adriano Pelosin, the Rector of the Missionary Society of Thailand, Fr Roel Soto, other priests and religious in the Salesian Family, and the general faithful in great numbers who came to join in expressing their joy at the St. Joseph Church – Pshar Touch, Phnom Penh. At the end of the ordination ceremony, Fr Joseph expressed their gratitude to the Bishops, the Provincial, the priests and religious, the members of the Salesian Family who helped in the preparation and who joined in the auspicious event.

Fr.Joseph Nguyen Nhat Khoa, born on 19 March 1980, is a Vietnamese Salesian Missionary. He made his first religious profession on 14 August 2007 and made his final religious profession on 27 May 2015. He studied philosophy in Dalat, Vietnam from 2007 – 2010. From then, he made his application to be a ‘missionary ad gentes’. His practical training was at Don Bosco Training Center – Sihanoukville from 2011 – 2014. Finally, he studied Theology at Don Bosco Center of Studies, Philippines from 2014 – 2019, and was ordained as Deacon on 23 June 2018.

His motto is: “I am with you always” [Mt. 28, 20]

Father Joseph related his vocation story of following Christ as a missionary as follows:

I dreamed of becoming a football star when I was a boy. I wanted to become a football star not because I want to become famous but to “introduce God to others.” I thought if I was that famous football star, I would explain to a TV reporter my reasons and my faith. Being a famous player, people will not only love me, they would love to imitate me. That’s why a proverb says: “Love me, love my way.” Or in John 14:15 Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Since it was my dream to become a football star, God led me to become a Salesian. God wanted me to introduce Him to everyone, not by becoming a football star but by becoming a Salesian missionary. Later, when I reflected on my missionary vocation, the desire to be a football star became the starting point for the discernment of my missionary vocation. It was from that dream that my missionary vocation continues to be cultivated. When I was in the novitiate, some missionaries visited us and shared about their missionary lives and work. They influenced me to pursue my missionary vocation. Back then, I told the Lord that “if you want me to become a Salesian, I will desire to be a Salesian missionary later.”

Before graduating philosophy, I was invited to apply for the mission Ad Gentes. I was already thinking about it. Once, I went to pray in front of the missionaries’ tombs and I reflected about the missionary vocation through their lives. I was much inspired by their good example because I saw the great sacrifice they made for the Church in Vietnam. They left their families, countries and brought the seeds of faith to the missionary field in my country. They lived and died in this mission land. Their tombs are still here; their witnesses are still here. A Vietnamese proverb says: “When a Tiger dies, it leaves behind its skin – When a person dies, he leaves behind his fame.” They left their mark in the Church in Viet Nam. Now I am invited to continue the mission and mandate of Jesus Christ, I should be ready for that.

Let us pray and continue to encourage Father Joseph to be a ‘holy priest’ and a zealous missionary.