The Revs. Felipe Pulido of Yakima, Washington (left), and Michael Pham, 56, of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa are San Diego's new auxiliary bishops.
The Revs. Felipe Pulido of Yakima, Washington (left), and Michael Pham, 56, of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa are San Diego’s new auxiliary bishops. Image via San Diego diocese

Pope Francis on Tuesday chose two clerics from diverse backgrounds to become new auxiliary bishops for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

They are the Very Rev. Michael Pham, 56, vicar general of the diocese and pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa, and the Rev. Felipe Pulido, 53, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Yakima, Wash.

Pulido and Pham will be consecrated as bishops in a Mass on Sept. 28. They will join Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano in serving alongside Cardinal Robert W. McElroy to support the large Catholic community in San Diego and Imperial counties.

“I could not be more pleased nor more grateful that His Holiness has seen fit to bless our diocese with these two faithful and committed servants of the Lord,” said McElroy.

Pham fled Vietnam as a 13-year-old refugee in 1980, accompanied by his older sister and a younger brother, arriving first at a refugee camp in Malaysia before being sponsored a year later by an American family and relocating to Blue Earth, Minnesota.
A few months later, another sister came to live with them and in 1983 the remainder of his family — four more siblings and his parents — arrived in Minnesota.  His family moved to San Diego in 1985.

He finished high school at San Diego High and entered San Diego State as an engineering major before convincing his family that the call he felt to enter the priesthood was too strong to ignore, transferring to St. Francis Seminary at the University of San Diego.

He completed his seminary training at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park and was ordained a priest of the San Diego Diocese in 1999.

Pham has strengthened the cultural communities in the diocese, which have roots from Africa to Vietnam, the diocese said.

He has served as Episcopal Vicar of the Office of Ethnic and Intercultural Communities. Six years ago, he launched Pentecost Mass for All Peoples, which has come to attract more than 2,000 faithful annually.

Pulido was born and raised in a small town west of Mexico City and attended minor seminary in Uruapan, Michoacán. There he attended middle school and began high school, but in 1988, he and his family left Mexico and moved to the Yakima Valley where he finished high school. 

As a teenager, Pulido worked in the fields, picking fruit and vegetables. 

Later, he worked as a teaching assistant at the Epic Migrant Head Start program in Yakima. Pulido was also helping provide care and support to an elderly priest, which inspired him to enter Mt. Angel Seminary in Oregon.

He later attended the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Yakima in 2002. Currently, he serves as Vicar for Clergy at that diocese and as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Kennewick.

Pulido took part in immigration forums and worked on behalf of immigrants, according to local reporting.

“I’ve known Father Michael since I came to San Diego eight years ago,” McElroy said. “His efforts at Good Shepherd have made a good parish great and his tireless ministry highlighting the rich cultural diversity of our diocese and our Church are powerful and moving.

“Father Felipe is new to the San Diego area, but I have come to know him as a man of deep faith whose ministry has been an inspiration to the people in his home diocese of Yakima.”
McElroy noted that more than half the parishioners in the diocese are Latino and “having two men as gifted as Bishop Bejarano and Father Felipe can only improve our ability to minister to all Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.”

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego runs the length of California’s border with Mexico and serves more than 1.5 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.

It includes 98 parishes, 49 elementary and secondary schools, and through Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego various social service and family support organizations throughout the region.