Father Joseph Khan dies in California


By Msgr. Francis Henricksen

It is always with amazement how we view history and move with change. With time, things are different, and yet they are the same. The European immigrants landed on the East Coast of our country. With the people came priests and religious to help them to preserve their faith and cultural traditions. These were the things that held them together amidst the freedom in their new homeland.
Escaping from war, torture and oppression, people from Vietnam found the same hope for a new life with us — even in Iowa. And even in the Diocese of Davenport. Father Joseph Khan was one priest who found his way to the Quad Cities. Here he would continue his priestly ministry among so many others who, like him, were victims of persecution and fear.

Fr. Joseph was about 80 years old when he died last week. He had retired in 2004 to California. His life was not easy in Vietnam, but was faith-filled through his parents and his Church. The only surviving boy, he was encouraged at an early age to be a priest. With war times among the French, Japanese and the Vietnamese Communists, it was not easy to reach his goal.  Then on April 23, 1963, he was ordained a priest in the cathedral in Saigon.

His life seemed to be plagued with fragile health and, added to that, a serious car accident. His ministry was pastoral and on the faculty of the seminary in Vietnam. Communist torture heightened until 1993 when he was finally allowed to come to the United States under the sponsorship of the Sisters of Christian Charity, who provided him with medical treatment.


Fr. Joe was invited by the local Vietnamese community to celebrate Holy Week with them in 1994, as they were without a native priest at that time.

That invitation was made permanent by the community and was approved by Bishop William Franklin. In 2001 Fr. Joe was incardinated in the Diocese of Davenport.

A simple, gentle priest. Fr. Joe Khan found peace and joy in his life in Iowa.  It was a much deserved peace and he was richly rewarded with a grateful love from his local community at the cathedral parish. His health continued to fail in retirement. But now he has been welcomed home to an eternal peace which the world cannot give. May he now intercede for our peace on earth.

Obituary for Fr. Khan

Father Joseph Khan, a priest originally from Vietnam, who served the Vietnamese Catholic community in Davenport, died Nov. 3 in California.

Born in the early 1930s in Ha Bac, Vietnam, he attended Pius XII Minor Seminary in Hanoi for high school and then St. Sulpician Major Seminary in Saigon where he studied philosophy and theology. He completed his theology studies at St. Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon.

On April 23, 1963, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Paul Binh Van Nguyen in Saigon.

From 1963-66 Fr. Khan was an associate pastor at An-Lac Church in Saigon. He studied for a teaching license at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, from 1967-72.

During a stop in New York afterwards, he was seriously injured in a car accident. He spent almost four months in the hospital and required more than a year of physical therapy.

Upon his return to Vietnam in 1974, Fr. Khan was a principal at Phung-Su High School and chancellor/teacher at St. Thomas Seminary, both in Long-Xuyen, from 1974-75. He became vice-director/teacher at St. Thomas from 1975-79. He served as pastor of Can-Say Church in Long-Xuyen from 1979-93.

While serving in Vietnam, Fr. Khan said he endured challenging and difficult times under the communist regime. He applied 61 times to obtain a visa to the United States. He got one through the American Embassy in Thailand in 1993 and sought medical treatment in Pennsylvania. In 1994 he was invited to Davenport to assist the Vietnamese community with its Holy Week observance. He was asked to stay on.

Fr. Khan was incardinated in the Diocese of Davenport and served as pastor of the Vietnamese community from 1994-2001. At that time the community joined Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport and Fr. Khan served as parochial vicar until his retirement in 2004.

Fr. Khan’s funeral is to be celebrated later this week at Our Lady of La Vang Catholic Church in Santa Ana, Calif. Burial is to take place at Good Shepherd Cemetery in Huntington Beach, Calif.

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