Thanh Cong Nguyen, grandfather of priest, dies at 87

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Thanh Cong Nguyen, the grandfather of Father Anh Tuan Phan, associate pastor of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, died on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, surrounded by his family at the Nashville Center for Rehabilitation and Healing. He was 87 years old.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, followed by a burial service at Calvary Cemetery on Lebanon Pike in Nashville.

Mr. Nguyen was born in the village of Nhu Ly, Quang Tri, in central Vietnam, where Simon Hoa Dac Phan, one of the Vietnamese Martyrs canonized as a group by St. John Paul II in 1988, was executed.

As a young man, he spent two years discerning a call to the priesthood with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus religious order in Vietnam, said Father Phan. Mr. Nguyen eventually left the order and served in the South Vietnamese army, rising to the rank of major.

After the end of the Vietnam War, Mr. Nguyen was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for 13 years, including nine months in solitary confinement, Father Phan said.

He was released from prison in 1987, and in 1992 left Vietnam for Nashville with his wife, Nguyet Tran, and four of their seven children, Binh Cong Nguyen, Tien Nguyen, Tam Cong Nguyen, and Truc Cong Nguyen. The immigration to the United States of Mr. Nguyen, his wife, and children was sponsored by Father Peter Do Quang Chau, the former long-time leader of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in Nashville. The two men knew each other from their days studying with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Father Phan explained.

In Nashville, Mr. Nguyen worked as a custodian for Christ Presbyterian Church on Old Hickory Boulevard and as a tutor for children in Metro Public Schools who recently arrived in the United States from Vietnam, Father Phan said.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1997, and in 2007 and 2008 sponsored his two surviving daughters, Lan Nguyen, who is Father Phan’s mother, and Thuy Nguyen, and their families to come to the U.S., Father Phan said.

Members  of Christ Presbyterian Church donated money to pay for the family’s plane tickets to come to America, said Father Phan.

Mr. Nguyen’s family includes his wife, Nguyet Tran; his children, Lan Ly Nguyen, Hong Thuy Cong Nguyen, Binh Cong Nguyen, Hong Tien Cong Nguyen, Tam Cong Nguyen, Luan Cong Nguyen (deceased), and Truc Cong Nguyen; 22 grandchildren, two of whom are deceased; and three great-grandchildren..

West Harpeth Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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