Bishop White Seminary, Spokane, WA
When I was a little kid, up until the end of middle school, I thought entering the seminary required some sort of special sign from God. I would often hear priests talk about a certain dream they had or a dramatic event that had turned their lives around. In my process of discernment in high school, I would wonder where my sign was. Even now when people ask me what my vocation story is, I feel like they are expecting something out of the ordinary. However, I finally came to the realization that the blessings I have received from God throughout my life were the very signs that I had been looking for. This understanding gave me courage to discern my vocation in seminary formation.
I was born with a rare birth condition called a cleft palate. Newborn babies with this condition have an opening through the roof of their mouths which makes it harder for them to speak. My mom had just immigrated to the United States from Vietnam one year earlier. I had to go through various surgeries as a newborn and throughout my childhood. My last surgery for the condition was in eighth grade. I would ask myself, “where did my parents find the strength to overcome all these hardships?” The answer I always seemed to end up with was their faith.
My Catholic roots trace back at least seven generations to my great-grandfather, St. Matthew Phuong, who was martyred for his faith in Vietnam. His sacrifice and model of faith have been passed down to me and my family. My parents have always prioritized taking me to Mass and holy hour. They encouraged me to altar serve and volunteered in the youth group. St. Matthew Phuong’s example is what we lean on when faced with difficulties. He is an instrumental part of my vocation story because he has taught me to put God above all, even in the face of death. Along with this family connection, my Vietnamese culture has also allowed me to have a special devotion to our Mother, Our Lady of Lavang.
Through my parents’ immigrant experience and my health difficulties as a child, I’ve learned to place my faith in God’s plan. Like the Virgin Mary, I wish to say “yes” to God’s call even though I don’t know what will happen next. Like St. Matthew Phuong and the Vietnamese martyrs, I hope to give my life for God and the Church. I understand the journey to priesthood won’t always be smooth and easy, but I hope that through prayer and a willingness to place my trust in God, I will be able to overcome the challenges and accomplish what God has planned for me.