Two immigrants were ordained auxiliary bishops of the culturally diverse Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego on Thursday.
Michael Pham originally from Vietnam and Felipe Pulido of Mexico and then Yakima, Washington, who join Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano, were consecrated by San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy and Phoenix Bishop John Dolan. Dolan is a former San Diego auxiliary bishop.
This was the first time two auxiliary bishops in San Diego were ordained at the same time and is also the first time the diocese has been served by three auxiliary bishops.
Pham joked about he and other other two auxiliary bishops, “We are the new three amigos.”
On a serious note, the new Vietnamese bishop said, ““I am humbled by and thankful to Pope Francis for trusting the church in this capacity.”
McElroy spoke to the new bishops: “You are immigrants to our nation in a local church which is centered so deeply upon the faith and compassion of our immigrant communities. You understand that the vitality of our Catholic faith here in California is inextricably linked to the cultures and traditions that animate our hearts and move our souls.”
The ceremony began with a procession of clergy from the diocese and leaders of church organizations including the Knights of Columbus, Cursillo and Knights of Malta. Portions of the Mass were spoken in Spanish and Vietnamese.
Pham, 56, who was born in Da Nang, Vietnam, had been vicar general of the diocese and pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa. Before that he was associate pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Oceanside, diocesan vocations director, and pastor of Holy Family Parish in Linda Vista, and St. Therese Parish in Del Cerro.
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 in 1981 by an American family and relocating to Blue Earth, Minnesota.
The new Vietnamese bishop 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.
Pulido, 53, who was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Yakima, was born and raised in a small town west of Mexico City.
Pulido 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, he 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 ordained a priest for the Diocese of Yakima in 2002 and before this ordination served as Vicar for Clergy at that diocese and as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Kennewick.
“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 Cardinal McElroy after the announcement of the bishop selections.
Pham, standing 5 foot, four inches, joked about being “vertically challenged.” He recalled serving with Dolan earlier in his vocation and about their height difference. He referenced Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito in the movie “Twins.”
“Now my twin is (taller) Bishop Palido.”
The 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.