Deacon Francis Xavier Doan Ngoc Chau (“Chau”), who served as a Renewal Ministries’ Country Coordinator to Vietnam for nearly fifteen years, recently passed away after a battle with a long illness. Below, Country Coordinator Don Turbitt reflects on Deacon Chau.
By Don Turbitt
It is with great sadness and pride that I speak about my friend Chau. In 1975, Chau was attending seminary in Vietnam. That was when the war with the US was ending, and everyone was fleeing the country. Chau’s brother came into the seminary, grabbed Chau by the shoulder, and said, “Come on, we’re going.” They literally went to the water and jumped in a boat, leaving behind their sisters and parents. (It was primarily young men whose lives were in danger at that time.) After a short time, Chau came into the US.
Chau worked and was eventually married. They never had any children. After several years, he became a deacon. He was very dedicated to the Church and the Lord. He was a Charismatic, holy man with a great love for God. He went to Sacred Heart Major Seminary to get a master’s degree. That is where he met Peter Williamson and Ralph Martin. He told his friend from seminary—a new bishop in Vietnam—that he was studying evangelization with Ralph and Peter, and the bishop invited him to come to Vietnam and teach what he was learning in the seminary.
Peter and Ralph encouraged Chau to take someone from Renewal Ministries with him on the trip. I was supposed to go to Russia that year, but my plans changed, and I ended up accompanying Chau. Little did I know it would lead to fourteen years of friendship and eleven trips to Vietnam.
The bishop asked Chau to teach the seminarians each day about what he was learning in the US. Chau actually designed a course and gave tests at the end of the week. The bishop asked me to do evangelization-type teaching to a group of 188 nuns in the evenings. So, Chau taught over one-hundred seminarians during the day and then translated for me and prayed with people at night. It was a very fruitful time, with many healings.
Learning about baptism in the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit was new for both the seminarians and the nuns. Chau’s friend, Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, of Than-Hoa Diocese, who was also the acting bishop of the Phat Diem Diocese, was very impressed too.
We would go to events with the bishop, to do Confirmation or something like that, and he would allow Chau to do homilies, and he would always have Chau in front. In Vietnam, when the bishop goes somewhere, one thousand or more people show up. There is great honor given to the bishops in Vietnam, and this particular bishop deserved all the honor. So, Chau had opportunities to preach in all kinds of different churches there; he did really great work. The bishop was proud of Chau, and Chau was very proud of the bishop too.
I heard Chau preach all the time, and everybody seemed to appreciate it, but he only spoke in Vietnamese, which I don’t know. Then one day, the bishop asked Chau to preach in English, because the seminarians were trying to learn English. Chau completely blew me away. It was phenomenal! He really had a depth of knowledge, and he preached powerfully.
Bishop Linh, who eventually became the archbishop of the Hea Archdiocese, once told me that there were ten-thousand people in his diocese. When I asked how many of them went to Mass on Sunday, he looked as if he didn’t understand why I asked the question, and answered, “Ten thousand.” The Vietnamese are just amazing, faithful people. I can’t say enough about them. And Chau was a good representative for them. He thought about other people and not himself. And he will be missed.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.