You were raised by a single father. In what way has your dad’s example impacted your faith?
My dad is a refugee from Vietnam and came over when he was 24. He didn’t have parents in the United States, he didn’t have any siblings in the United States, and like most Vietnamese men, he was the breadwinner of the family and did everything he could to provide for us. He made a lot of sacrifices for me. He has always reminded me to pray, from when I was younger until I was older and going away to college and working on my own, and even when I was in formation. I remember joking with him — like, “What do you think we do in the formation house, if we don’t pray?” But it’s something that I still carry today; I still feel his advice in the back of my mind. He helped to instill that good habit, where in the midst of everyday life, even in formation, sometimes it’s not top of mind because we all have a million things that need to be done.
When did you first feel a call to the priesthood?
I think that stems back to when I was 13 years old. During that time, the Vietnamese community in Orange County was very big into having these vocation fairs and these vocation nights. I was unofficially discerning with a religious order, but I didn’t tell my dad about it because I had this guilt about leaving him. It wasn’t until he had met someone and settled down that I felt I had the option of responding to God’s calling.
What was it about religious life, as opposed to diocesan priesthood, that attracted you?
Although my immediate family is small, I’ve always been close to my cousins and was used to being surrounded by uncles and aunts and relatives almost every other weekend. That kind of resembles the community life of being surrounded by people, to just have that support. With religious life, there’s this communal spirituality that you have, and the fraternal friendship and things like that. What specifically drew me to the Priests of the Sacred Heart was their devotion to communal adoration. That is fundamentally ingrained into our spirituality, where we come before the Eucharist together and pray.
You took on the role of vocation director for the Dehonians very soon after your ordination. What has that been like for you?
There are pros and cons. One of the pros is I’m able to relate readily with the men who are discerning religious life in the priesthood since I was just in their shoes. At the same time, that’s the con — I was just in their shoes. I think what gave me confidence was that I had already had some training in vocation ministry. I am also part of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, and with that, I have already been accompanying young men and women and the youth on their journey of faith. It’s already sort of trained me to walk with people, to accompany people. That’s also one of the reasons why I chose to be a religious priest, is to be able to accompany people.
What are some of your responsibilities as vocation director for the Priests of the Sacred Heart?
Right now, I am the only vocation director for the Priests of the Sacred Heart, so I’m responsible for all 50 states. What that entails is looking for opportunities for vocation promotion, and that’s either going to a national gathering like the National Catholic Youth Conference or SEEK, or to a regional or state-level gathering. Our community is active in four different states, so what I’m trying to do now is to bring our come-and-see opportunities to different states as well as create events to bring young men and youth to our parishes for prayer.
What do you like to do in your free time?
For the longest time, Marcus Theaters had $5 Tuesdays, and so I started going to the movies almost every Tuesday with a group of friends. I’ve seen some good movies that I like; I’ve seen some boring movies that were too long. I’ve seen some movies where I came out and thought, “What did I just watch?” But that’s just an opportunity for me to get away from the office, to not think about work in that moment. To just be with friends. I also enjoy hiking and I do that on a weekly basis when I’m not traveling. Something that I like to do but haven’t really had the chance to do — I have participated in virtual half marathons due to the pandemic, although I signed up for the in-person one in April 2020. I’m working toward an in-person half marathon. I enjoy being in Wisconsin, especially with this next month when the fall colors are coming out, and I hope to be able to find some time to get outside and immerse myself in God’s creation.