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Priest who escaped Vietnam in 1975 named auxiliary bishop of Atlanta

Father John-Nhan TranBishop-elect John-Nhan Tran | Photo courtesy of Archdiocese of Atlanta

Pope Francis has named Vietnam-born priest John-Nhan Tran an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Bishop-elect Tran, 56, was 9 years old when he and his family left South Vietnam on a barge at the port of Ben Bach Dang in Saigon in April 1975, according to a 2015 interview on Nola.com.

After escaping Vietnam, Tran grew up in Louisiana, where he and his family were accepted as refugees. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1992.

Tran will be consecrated an auxiliary bishop for Atlanta on Jan. 23, 2023.

The family, which included aunts, uncles, and cousins of Tran, was rescued from the South China Sea after they had run out of water.

“I think we would have perished quite soon if we hadn’t been rescued by a U.S. ship,” Tran told Nola.com. “I was so young that for me it was just, ‘Where’s the water?’ and ‘Are we there yet?’” he said. “Later, I felt the pain for my parents’ generation. I’ll never be able to know what they were feeling, how scared they must have been.”

Since his ordination in 1992, Bishop-elect Tran has served as parochial vicar and pastor of several Catholic parishes.

He has been the pastor of Mary, Queen of Heaven Church in Mandeville since 2015.

In August 2015, Tran donated his left kidney to Father Thanh Nguyen, a Vietnamese priest serving in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. Tran and Nguyen became friends while studying at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana.

In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Tran will serve alongside auxiliary bishops Joel M. Konzen and Bernard E. Schlesinger III. The archbishop of Atlanta is Gregory J. Hartmayer, a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.

Hartmayer said on Oct. 25 that he is “overjoyed to welcome Bishop-designate John Tran to Atlanta.”

“Our archdiocese is blessed with a diverse community of Catholics from around the world. Bishop-designate Tran reflects and celebrates this diversity,” he said.

“After several days of prayer and trusting that God will provide, I was able to embrace the appointment by Pope Francis,” he added. “I am indeed humbled to serve as auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.”

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said Tran “has ministered faithfully to the people of the Archdiocese of New Orleans throughout his priestly ministry.”

“He is a leader among our priests,” the archbishop said. “We congratulate him and assure him of our prayers as he assumes his new ministry. It is bittersweet as he will be greatly missed.”

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