"I was called to serve, and I'm back to serve…"

A deacon who was seriously injured during last year’s Easter Vigil is marking another Easter, and giving thanks for his recovery.


As he waited for the Good Friday Mass to begin at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Deacon Joseph Hieu Vinh took one more look at his watch.

Church members entered the evening service and greeted him as they took their seats.

“I’m pretty much back to normal and serving the church,” Vinh said during an interview earlier in the week. “I was called to serve and I’m back to serve. It’s with grace and a miracle that I recovered so quickly. I believe (everyone’s) prayers have been answered.”

On April 3, 2010, Vinh, 52, was one of three people, including his daughter Trang, who were burned on their faces and arms when a symbolic Easter vigil fire, fueled by mineral salts and alcohol, accidentally flared outside the church during an evening service.

The accident occurred as more fluid was added to the waning flames. The fire flashed and caught their robes on fire, Capt. D.J. Corcoran of the Knoxville Fire Department said at the time.

Vinh was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s burn unit, while his daughter was taken to the same hospital by ambulance. The third victim, Patrick Connelly, was also taken to Vanderbilt. He was released several days later.

Father Joe Ciccone, the former pastor of Immaculate Conception, suffered burns to his hands while landing on one of the victims to put out the flames. He was not hospitalized.

The day after, Vinh woke up at the Vanderbilt Medical Center, unsure of where he was and unaware that his daughter had also been injured in the fire. The following Wednesday, Vinh and his daughter had surgery in which doctors took pieces of skin from their thighs and placed them on their arms.

The two remained in Nashville for a week before returning to Knoxville. Vinh said it’s a miracle that the only physical scars that he and his daughter have are on their arms.

And now life is returning to normal.

Read how, here. Thanks be to God.

And,before someone mentions it in the comments: yes, the reporter got it wrong.  There is no “mass” on Good Friday.

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2 responses to “"I was called to serve, and I'm back to serve…"”

  1. My kids call it “the Good Friday Not-Mass”…

    I was thinking about this last night, with my daughter running the thurible and our somewhat reckless pastor taking fire risks that make me nervous. Thanks for the update.

  2. The former official name was “Mass of the pre-Sanctified”, which takes the focus off the veneration of the Cross.

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