Fr. Paul-Cuong Phan died on December 7, 2022, at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, where he was a chaplain since 2021. He is survived by his mother and five siblings.
His hospital ministry at O’Connor and Valley Medical Center was brief, but he was known as a chaplain with a compassionate heart and cheerful spirit. Not only patients, but doctors and nurses also noticed his presence and ministry.
He was the fourth of six children of Ted Phan and Huong Nguyen. He was born on January 12, 1962 near Saigon, Vietnam. With the fall of the city in April 1975, he and his family escaped out to sea and was rescued by the U.S. Navy. They were among the first 125,000 Vietnamese refugees that settled in America. The family spent two years in Tennessee then moved to San Jose.
After graduating from Independence High in 1980, he worked for nine years in high tech companies while attending some colleges. Then he became a seminarian for the Diocese of San Jose in 1990 and was ordained a priest on June 12, 1999. He was the last person being ordained a priest by our founding Bishop Pierre DuMaine.
In 23 years of priestly ministry, Fr. Paul-Cuong was assigned to eight different parishes in the diocese: St. Joseph of Cupertino, St. Patrick’s Proto-Cathedral, Christ the King, St. Victor, St. Athanasius, St. Maria Goretti, St. Lawrence the Martyr, St. Elizabeth, and a year in hospital ministry at O’Connor and Valley Medical Center.
From 2019 to 2022, he was Vicar for Vietnamese Ministry in our diocese. In that role, he quickly worked with a team of clergy, religious and lay people to provide the virtual Vietnamese Mass within a week when the Shelter in Place started. The broadcast continues to these days on VieToday TV through KTSF 26.5 and Comcast 174.
Fr. Paul-Cuong was also a chaplain or spiritual guide to some Vietnamese organizations: Eucharistic Youth Movement, Cursillo, especially he was the national chaplain to the Federation of the Sacred Heart League – USA, an organization for Vietnamese Catholic men.
In his autobiography, he wrote “I have found true happiness in living my priesthood.” Before his ordination to the priesthood, he said, “When I was a little boy, my mom told me to pray for more vocations every time a priest raised up the (consecrated bread and wine). I have done that ever since.” He wanted to become a priest in order to “achieve my highest ideal: living according to Jesus’ model; being His disciple” and to “devote my whole life to doing what I love to do: caring for God’s people,” he wrote in The Valley Catholic, May 18, 1999.