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Fr. Thomas Vu Minh Thai

Fr. Thomas Vu Minh Thai, 98, a leader of the Vietnamese Catholic Community that immigrated to the United States in the mid-1970s and beyond, died Tuesday, December 20, 2022, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He served in Kentucky for many years, beginning in 1975 in the Diocese of Covington, then in the newly-created Diocese of Lexington through 2007. He was pastor at St. William Church in Lancaster, Our Lady of Mt. Vernon, St. Peter in Lexington, the Church of the Annunciation in Paris, and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Carlisle.

He was born on November 15, 1924, to Vincent Vu van An and Mary Do thi Thien at Le-Xa, Hung-Yen, North Vietnam. After seminary studies in Hanoi, he was ordained to the priesthood in Saigon on December 3, 1954. After ordination, he served four years as secretary to the bishop in charge of refugees in Saigon. Then he came to the United States for further studies at Creighton, New York University, Columbia, and at Fordham where he completed his Ph.D.

He returned to Vietnam in 1970 and stayed until the end of the war in 1975, joining the many immigrants on their way to the US.

“He was able to return to the US as the key person while people were transitioning to life in the US,” said Fr. Linh Nguyen. “With his education and experience in the US, it was Providential that God had prepared him for that. He gathered the Vietnamese people in faith. He was a primary Vietnamese translator for the USCCB and established so much in education and formation.”

In addition to his pastoral ministry, Fr. Thai taught in Vietnam in the early 1970s at Dalat University and the University of Saigon, then at Thomas More College in Kentucky beginning in 1975. In 2007 he retired from full-time ministry in the Diocese of Lexington and moved to Cincinnati, where he served as a parish administrator at Our Lady of La Vang, provided sacramental ministry to Vietnamese parishes, and devoted time to his writing.

In a document he called ‘Profession of Faith,’ Fr. Thai thanked God for the many blessings in his life, especially his priesthood: “I have been trying very hard to live up to this grace-filled gift, despite the many times I still fail…”

“That’s him,” said Fr. Nguyen. “He was a man of great humility, true faith, and he responded generously to the call that God asked.”

Visitation for Fr. Thai will be from 3-6pm Wednesday, December 28, 2022, at St. Peter Catholic Church, Lexington. The Rosary will be recited at 6pm, followed by a prayer service. The funeral Mass will be 11am on Thursday, December 29, 2022, at St. Peter with burial to follow at Calvary Cemetery.

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