By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
I am not sure if Fr. Paul Chuong Nguyen is a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor movie superstar, but he surely acts like one. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memorable lines are: “Hasta la vista baby!” and “I‘ll be back!” Often these lines were proclaimed when he screamed at his enemy and promised to be revengeful. In Fr. Paul’s case, he carried the same spirit when he was confronted by the COVID epidemic and the lockdown of the retreat center. In a crisis mode, Fr. Paul transformed St. Joseph Salesian Youth Retreat Center into a haven for those who needed to say goodbye to their loved ones, many of whom were not even parishioners of the center. But our Grotto attracted many to celebrate funeral Mass here as it offers comfort, dignity and loving care under Fr. Paul’s leadership. Ultimately Fr. Paul was waiting patiently since March 2021, and finally he was able to declare these famous lines: “Hasta la vista, Baby and I’ll be back” – last Friday November 11, 2021 the retreat center re-opened.
Eighty seven students, teachers, volunteers and the pastor team from St. John Vianney Parish cheered up the campus – this is the first retreat in 20 months after the lockdown! Yes, Fr. Paul is back! He and his team, Ms. Tammy, Fr. Chinh, Patrick (SDB seminarian) and the volunteer team of Salesian Cooperators and Families (Dave, Delores, Mike, Xuan and Ann) provided a great breakfast and retreat experience for this much welcomed and joyful event.
Fr. Paul is always striving to engage his parishioners to commemorate the departed love ones in a special way. This year, he created a new Memorial Lawn at the side of the chapel. Our departed are remembered with vivid image of love and dignity – up to 700 names sprawled the Memorial Lawn. Prayers were offered daily with special intention for the departed by the Salesian Community. We are reminded of the cross and the salvation of our souls from our Savior.
The scientists invented the Covid vaccine to combat the virus. Here at St. Joseph, we joined in the fight with unwavering spirit; loving kindness and prayers is our weapon! Let us say hasta vista to COVID 19 and make a bold declaration that “We are back with God’s grace!”