Noticias de la Diócesis de Allentown

He Fled Vietnam 40 Years Ago, and He Still Feels a Debt to the Catholic Church For Helping Him Start a New Life Here

It has been a remarkable journey for Phat Nguyen, who fled Vietnam 40 years ago to escape political persecution, one of 60 people crammed into a small boat for five days.

Today, he is one of the longest-tenured employees of Holy Family Manor. He is renowned for his deep knowledge of the building’s mechanical systems and is called “our in-house MacGyver” for his knack of being able to fix almost anything.

To get settled in the United States, he was helped by the former Catholic Social Agency, now Catholic Charities, as part of their former Refugee Program, and was sponsored by the Barnabite Fathers, an order of Catholic priests.

Nguyen started work at Holy Family Manor one month after his arrival in this country in 1981. His job is skilled maintenance, involving heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing work.

“Phat knows what is behind every wall,” says Joseph Shadid, chief executive officer of Holy Family Senior Living. “He does the work of two people, a real Jack of All Trades.”

Nguyen, 59, of Bethlehem, is a member of St. Anne parish, Bethlehem.

“As a former boat person, I was helped by the Catholic Church to get my start in this country,” Nguyen says, “I am honored to work here in a Catholic facility,” he says, as partial repayment, he says, for the debt he feels to the Church.

Nguyen recently received a hand-written letter from Bishop Alfred Schlert, thanking him for his years of work and congratulating him on his service anniversary.

Holy Family Manor, Bethlehem, is a ministry of the Diocese of Allentown that provides older adults with physical, emotional, social, and spiritual care. It is a part of Holy Family Senior Living.