What does a bishop do when he retires?

Orange County Catholic profiles retirement activities of Bishop Tod Brown and Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Luong

Former Bishop Tod Brown, right, is greeted by fellow clergy at the installment ceremony for incoming Bishop Kevin Vann in 2012. (photo: OC Register)

Character. Faith. These two words come to mind when pondering the lives and work of The Most Rev. Tod Brown and The Most Rev. Dominic Luong are two men who gave so much for the Diocese of Orange. After decades of service, Bishop Brown relinquished his role four years ago, Bishop Luong just last year.

They may be retired, but they are by no means inactive.

Bishop Tod Brown

Starting a new business requires long hours and “sweat equity,” but shepherding that same business through a period of explosive growth requires vision and dedication. Though not a business (financial staff may argue otherwise), the Diocese was led by Bishop Tod Brown through a period of tremendous expansion, doubling in size to 1.2 million followers during his 14 years as bishop. And recognizing the county’s growing diversity, during his first Mass he thanked the congregation in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Korean.

Although Bishop Brown has retired, his labor of love continues.

“Before I retired,” he says, “I mapped out a plan for myself to assist Bishop Vann [his successor] any way I could.” Along with his religious-dialog and ecumenical work (as bishop, he stressed the importance of interreligious and ecumenical relationships), “I like to be involved with some kind of outreach to the poor. I like to stay busy.”

Busy, indeed. Just last week, at St. Columban Church in Garden Grove, he anointed ill patients with holy oil and blessed the hands of caregivers with holy water brought from Lourdes, France.

“Caring for the sick and infirm is the ministry we are all called to as Christians,” Bishop Brown said in a Jan. 30 Orange County Catholic news item. “As a society, many of the dedicated people who care for the most vulnerable are not given the appreciation their service merits.”

Transition into retirement wasn’t easy at first. “[It] really took an adjustment, about a year or two,” he says, emphasizing the importance of retirement planning. “It’s a different kind of lifestyle.”

That lifestyle includes worldwide travel. He has been to France, Italy, Vietnam and Hong Kong, among other locales.

“I’m happy to be able to stay busy and have more say in what I do and when I do it,” Bishop Brown says. “It’s nice to have more control over my time. I’m really enjoying my retirement.”

Bishop Dominic Luong

Ponder what life must have been like for Dominic Luong when he came to the U.S. from Vietnam to study for the priesthood. Imagine the culture shock, the language barrier, the expectations of a devoutly Catholic family halfway around the world.

Now imagine taking all of this on at age 16.

So by 1975, nine years after his ordination, then-Father Luong was a tremendous resource for the thousands of refugees who flooded in to the U.S. after the fall of South Vietnam. An archbishop convinced him to move to New Orleans, where a large portion of the Vietnamese arrived.

Years later, Bishop Tod Brown petitioned the Vatican for a much-needed second auxiliary bishop, since thousands of the Vietnamese refugees had also settled in Orange County, as well. The once-wide-eyed 16-year-old immigrant was appointed the first native-born Vietnamese Roman Catholic bishop in the U.S.

These days, “Retirement is great, because I have more time for myself.”

Still active in the Church, he’s writing a book, “Mary of Vietnam.” “It’s about the many places Our Lady has appeared there. Each sighting has produced a different, unique message.

“I’m also involved in a Lectio Divina [‘Divine Reading’] group,” Bishop Luong adds. “We get together every month, have Eucharistic adorations and celebrate the liturgy. And every year, during Lent, we go on a four-day monastery retreat.”

He remains active at St. Bonaventure, in Huntington Beach. “It has a strong Vietnamese community,” he says. “I like to keep in contact with my people.”

Although Bishop Luong would like to embark on pilgrimages throughout the world, “Now my health does not allow travel so much,” he says. “But I did visit pilgrimage sites in Krakow [Poland], the birthplace of Pope Saint John Paul II.”

Given Bishop Luong’s decades of service to the Church, and to refugees far and wide, the words he chose for his Coat of Arms speak volumes.

“My motto is, ‘You are Strangers and Aliens No Longer,’” he says.

Full story at Orange County Catholic.

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  1. When one of our previous bishops retired, he chose to serve as assistant pastor at my parish.

  2. To answer the title, perhaps repent for the souls he has led astray?

  3. Cardinal Manning from Los Angeles retired to Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena and lived a holy life until his death from cancer. He said the most beautiful Mass and lived his vocation very close to God.He was a tremendous inspiration to me as Cardinal and then in retirement.

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