About 1,100 joy-filled people packed St. Therese of Carmel Church on Sept. 28 for the historic episcopal ordination of Fathers Michael Pham and Felipe Pulido. Many others watched the livestream.
This was the first time in this diocese that two auxiliary bishops were ordained at once, and the first time that the diocese will have three auxiliaries at the same time.Pham and Pulido are the diocese’s seventh and eighth auxiliary bishops and the first Vietnamese and third Hispanic auxiliary bishops, respectively.
They join Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano, who was ordained a bishop in 2020, in assisting Cardinal Robert W. McElroy with confirmations, diocesan-level liturgies and pastoral administration.
In remarks near the end of the Mass, each newly ordained bishop addressed the assembly.
Bishop Pham said that he felt the same “tremendous honor and privilege” that he did on the day that he was ordained to the priesthood.
“God’s grace is overflowing upon me today,” he said. “I forever praise the Lord for such a tremendous gift. Thank you, everyone, for helping me to be an instrument of God’s saving grace.”
He quipped that he and Bishops Bejarano and Pulido are “the new ‘Three Amigos.’”
All three of the diocese’s auxiliaries will collaborate in promoting vocations, but the cardinal has entrusted each with his own role. Bishop Bejarano will serve as Vicar for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities; Bishop Pham will be Vicar for Clergy; and Bishop Pulido will take on the newly created position of Vicar for Parish Pastoral Initiatives.
For his own part, Bishop Pulido said, “On this day of my episcopacy ordination, in this beautiful church, I present myself to you – poor and weak, but with so much joy in my heart.”
“I’m most grateful for the presence of so many faithful Catholics from here in San Diego Diocese who are present today,” said Bishop Pulido, a newcomer to the diocese after having served for 20 years as a priest in the Diocese of Yakima, Wash.
“My thanks to God and to all of you, and God bless,” he said.
At the episcopal ordination Mass, Cardinal McElroy was the principal ordaining bishop. The co-ordaining bishops were Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima and Bishop John P. Dolan of Phoenix, Ariz., who served as auxiliary bishop of San Diego from 2017 to 2022. Other concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishop Bejarano and Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez.
In total, there were more than 30 bishops and 150 concelebrating priests in attendance.
The momentousness of the occasion was highlighted by a lengthy entrance procession that included members of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver, in their full regalia.
The cultural diversity of the diocese could be heard in the Mass readings – the first, second and Gospel readings were proclaimed in Vietnamese, Spanish and English, respectively – and in the liturgical music, which included songs in all three languages.
During the Mass, the mandates from Pope Francis appointing Bishops Pham and Pulido were read publicly, after which the congregation applauded. The documents were presented to the two bishops-elect, who showed them to Cardinal McElroy, the other bishops and priests in attendance, and the assembly.
Bishops-elect Pham and Pulido publicly pledged to guard the Catholic faith and to discharge their duties as bishops. After the laying on of hands, the cardinal recited the prayer of ordination, with the Book of the Gospels held open over the heads of both bishops-elect. Subsequently, their heads were anointed with sacred chrism, a perfumed oil consecrated at the annual chrism Mass.
Each newly ordained bishop was presented with the Book of Gospels and the insignia of the episcopal office: the mitre, the crosier and the bishop’s ring.
Members of both Bishop Pham’s and Bishop Pulido’s families were in attendance.
Among them was Melissa Nguyen, one of Bishop Pham’s sisters, and her husband, Tuan. The couple lives in San Marcos, but are active members of Good Shepherd Parish in Mira Mesa, where Bishop Pham previously served as pastor.
Moments before filing into the church, Nguyen said she felt as if she were “on Cloud Nine” and “floating.”
Of her brother, she said, “He’s always ready to be there to help and answer to God.”
Pope Francis appointed Pham and Pulido as auxiliary bishops of San Diego on June 6.
Bishop Pham, 56, was born in Da Nang, Vietnam. He and his family emigrated to the United States as refugees, ultimately settling in San Diego. Ordained a priest for the Diocese of San Diego in 1999, he was serving as pastor of Good Shepherd Parish, as Vicar for Ethnic and Intercultural Communities, and as Vicar General at the time of his appointment as auxiliary bishop.
Bishop Pulido, 53, was born in the small town of Dos Aguas, Michoacán, Mexico, and moved to the Yakima Valley in Washington State with his family when he was still in high school. He was ordained a priest in 2002 in Yakima. Before becoming one of San Diego’s auxiliary bishops, he was serving as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Kennewick, and as Vicar for Clergy and Vocations Director for the Diocese of Yakima.
In his homily for the ordination Mass, Cardinal McElroy spoke directly to the bishops-elect.
“To be a good bishop,” he advised them, “you must truly journey with God’s flock as Pope Francis has urged us: walking sometimes at the front to lead; walking sometimes in the middle of the flock to experience the realities of daily life; and walking sometimes at the rear to embrace and walk with those who are struggling to keep up.”
The cardinal reminded Pham and Pulido that they had been “called to be bishops at this pivotal synodal moment in the life of the Church” – a reference to the worldwide consultation of the faithful that is underway and the style of Church governance that it represents.
Cardinal McElroy said, “We seek to build a Church that is discerning and prayerful, dedicated to the treasury of Catholic faith, collaborative and inclusive, humble and forthright, evangelizing the cultures of our world while reaching out to all those on the margins, and especially to the young, who are drifting away from the life of the Church.”
He added that the two new auxiliary bishops “must become prophets of the synodal Church that is dawning and the renewal to which we have been called.”
Cardinal McElroy noted that the Mass readings recounted “three pivotal divine calls in the history of salvation”: Abraham being called by God to leave his homeland and to go where God would lead Him; the first Apostles being called by Jesus to drop their fishing nets and follow Him; and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost calling the Apostles to abandon their fears and boldly preach the Good News to the whole world.
“As the heirs of Abraham, you must proclaim that we are all on a journey in this earthly pilgrimage, and that we must never become so attached to the places where we are most comfortable that we fail to see God’s call to change,” he said.
“As heirs of the disciples who heard the call to accompaniment from Jesus as He stood on the seashore, you must work to place the ‘kerygma’ (the core message of the Gospel) at the very center of the preaching and teaching of the Church, and reflect the pastoral embrace of Christ to all God’s people.”
“Finally, my brother bishops,” he said, “as heirs of the Apostles who waited in fear in the upper room, you must proclaim the same trust in the Spirit of God in the life of the Church that animated Peter and the Apostles in Pentecost Day and must animate the Church in every age.”