Vietnamese priest recalls his wartime odyssey

Surrounded by walls of water, Father Pham says his faith sustained him

United States
February 12, 2016
In the midst of the literal storm, Father Joseph Pham found himself at peace.

"I prayed, surrendered myself to God, and trusted him. I was calm," he said, recalling fleeing Vietnam on a small boat on his way to America.

Describing his experience, the U.S.-based Father Pham had his Camden, N.J., audience fully engaged, at the Collegium Center for Faith and Culture on Feb. 5, reported the Catholic Star Herald, the Camden diocesan newspaper.

Father Pham shared his story of growing up under a communist regime and the faith that brought him to the United States.

Growing up in South Vietnam, his town was invaded by the northern communist government. His father was arrested, and placed in a concentration camp.

After his father's release, Father Pham's parents knew that if their children were to have a life of freedom, it wouldn't be in Vietnam.

Fleeing on a boat, he and his 11 family members encountered raging seas, with walls of water on either side. Huddled in a corner of the vessel, Father Pham prayed.

The seas got calmer, and soon the family found themselves at a refugee camp in Malaysia and, later, in Philadelphia (his family still resides there) in 1987. Father Pham was 19 years old.

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