Fr. Paul Chuong Nguyen A “Restless” Life Well Lived!

By Sheila Kun, Salesian Cooperator

If I have to depict the life of Fr. Paul, the word “restless” came to mind. Without a doubt, Fr. Paul was a true SDB who was restless all his life; he could not sit still to rest or take a decent meal. He was always full of creative ideas to plan for a new project or ways to improve the programs that he ministered. I have known him for only 6 years. But he left me with an indelible mark that hopefully would help me to be a better Salesian. 

It was only 10 days ago when we sat down as a community on the topic of how to evangelize in the community in our neighborhood. Fr. Paul commented that for him, running the retreat programs at St. Joseph here in Rosemead, was an opportunity that he seized with every kid. He recalled working with 12,000 students these last few years here in Rosemead and he was convinced that for any student, this retreat would be his first and last chance to introduce students to his/her encounter with Jesus. He took pride and made every effort to ensure that each student had a positive and special experience when he/she was here for the retreat. Just like Don Bosco, every kid was special to him. 

A very talented SDB, Fr. Paul capitalized on moments of crisis and turned it into opportunities to spread the Gospel. A good example was his willingness to turn our Grotto into a warm place for funeral services. Families felt the dignity and respect that were missing during the COVID season. We had heard of many heart-breaking stories from Fr. Paul on family discords and feelings of abandonment during the funeral services. Somehow, with his keen insight, he was able to offer the opportunity for the families to reconcile not only among the family members, but many, who had not been in the church, returned to the Lord through their experience here at St. Joseph. Fr. Paul performed over 300 funeral services since 2020.

Working with the homeless is now a monthly event here at St. Joseph; we offered food and tangible items for them. It is good, but that is not among the most specular things Fr. Paul had created.  One of the programs that I was totally impressed by was our retreat programs for the homeless. Many would offer food and goods to the homeless. But here at St. Joseph, Fr. Paul offered even more than you can imagine: spiritual food. 

If St. Joseph is a boutique restaurant, then Fr. Paul is definitely the executive chef. His signature dish is the retreat program for the youth. He uses the ingredients that have passed down from his Salesian Family: accompaniment, loving kindness, and fun activities to bring kids to Christ. As a smart chef, he utilizes his servers effectively. Parishioners, cooperators, and searchers are just to name a few that were at his disposable 24/7. His vision was to create a fusion menu, using the old Salesian recipes that worked for over 200 years, merged with his creative ideas of meeting the needs of the youth of our generation.

His passing reminded us that we should carry out his legacy with continuous focus on our mission – serving the young and the poor. I would like to call upon us to do it the Fr. Paul way – do it with commitment, passion and perhaps feeling “restless” until our mission is accomplished!