By Barbara Chevenert

The Catholic Commentator

Friends, family and colleagues remembered Father Than Vu as a gentle voice and a powerful intelligent who served God and his church with dedication, humility and a deep spirituality.

Bishop Robert Muench called Father Vu “a priest who believed in God, in the church Jesus founded and in eternal life. He had extraordinary personal and spiritual talents. Even people who only had a casual acquaintance with him experienced something special about him.

“He accepted God’s love for him and the love of others and loved in return,” Bishop Muench said Wednesday at a prayer service held at the Catholic Life Center, the administrative offices of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

“We are better off for having him as our priest. He was a great pastor, to work with and for. We will miss him dearly,” said Rebecca East, director of the adult catechumenate at St. Aloysius, where Father Vu served as pastor. East recalled that when Father Vu was pastor at Christ the King Church and Student Center “he was such an inspiration to the students.”

Staff members at St. Aloysius recalled that Father Vu had a theme song, “How Can I keep from Singing” about the joy that having faith in God brings. He frequently encouraged parishioners with the words to the song: “No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging. Since love is lord of heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing?”

Father David Allen called Father Vu one of those very few people who leave an “indelible mark on our hearts.”

“In our Catholic faith we hear how Baptism leaves an indelible mark of God’s love on our soul,” Father Allen said. “If we are lucky in life, we meet a few special people who leave an indelible mark on our hearts.  Father Vu was one of those very few in my life. As a brother priest and friend he touched me and changed me for the better in the service of God’s people in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

“Having served with him on numerous boards and committees, I found Father Vu to be a man of deep spirituality, humble service, true integrity and dedicated hard work. He had an inspiring strength within his quiet leadership and amazing wisdom. I will miss his many gifts and wonderful friendship. I will miss you going out for Dim Sum and sushi to eat, laugh and visit.

“Father Vu for me fits into a very small group who have inspired me and changed me as a priest and child of God. He like another of my heroes, Bishop Stanley J. Ott, walked the journey of cancer with untold courage and faith. They may have lost the fight against cancer but together they now stand before Abba, Father and know the goodness and mercy of our God.  His face shines upon them and they now intercede for us left behind.  We have been blessed by their journeys, love and faith shared.”

“He could light up a room,” Father Vu’s nephew, Peter Pham, said, speaking on behalf of the family. “He would always start off his homilies with a little bit of humor. He was constantly working. He didn’t fear death. What he feared was leaving family, friends and a whole community.”

He always told me to have passion. ‘Nothing is worth anything without passion – that’s how you succeed,’ he would say,” Pham said. “That’s how he lived his life with his family, friends and job – which really wasn’t a job, it was his life. He was 150 percent a priest,” he said.

“My uncle had the ability to touch everyone’s life, if they met him for a minute or an hour. He was a memorable presence. It was remarkable how many people he met.

“It was crazy for God to send so many. Maybe God decided he had met enough people. He has done his job – far and beyond.

Father Vu was “very prepared” to meet the Lord. He even prepared his own obituary and selected the readings, songs and ministers for his funeral liturgy, he said.

Father Gerald Burns, who stepped in as administrator of St. Aloysius during the late stage of Father Vu’s illness, said the vicar general was “beloved at St Aloysius. He delighted in serving the church parish especially a parish with the school. He thoroughly enjoyed ministering to all levels at the school.

He also excelled in planning for the future needs of the church parish, Father Burns added. The parish will soon break ground for a new child care center and 18 months later is scheduled to begin work on a long-need new administration building. Father Burns preceded Father Vu as pastor of St. Aloysius and agreed to serve as administrator when Father Vu’s declining health prevented him from remaining active as pastor.

Bishop Muench said during periods of reflection and discernment in his life, Father Vu “more and more discovered God and mediated God in his person and in his valued ministry. He used his many and varied gifts to serve God, the church and the community. We already greatly miss him: his gentle voice, powerful intellect, calm spirit, affable manner, reassuming demeanor and devoted ministry.”