On Aug. 5 at Techny, Ill., five men professed the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and became members of the Society of the Divine Word. They are Quynh Thanh Cao, Edwan "Manie" Manuel, Hoang Quang Nguyen, An Thien Nguyen and Quang Ngoc Pham. In the fall, they will begin classes at Catholic Theological Union as they continue on their way to the priesthood. Here is the first of their stories.
In his home country of Vietnam, Quynh Thanh Cao SVD, 31, never dreamt of taking the exam that would put him on the path to the priesthood.
"The entrance exam to enter religious life in Vietnam is very difficult. I heard that many of my relatives failed. They are smart, but I am not as smart as they are," Quynh humbly said.
Even so, several members of his extended family are priests, brothers and sisters. He has an aunt in Houston who is a Dominican sister. Several others live in Vietnam.
Quynh, whose grandparents came to the United States in the 1980s, emigrated with his entire family in 2008. He lived in Philadelphia before entering Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa. At Divine Word College, he learned English as a second language and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
Since arriving in the United States, he has gotten to know many members of his extended family. His parents live near his grandparents. They get together every Saturday evening for dinner and Sunday morning for Mass. The aunts, uncles and cousins also join them annually to celebrate Lunar New Year.
A self-described shy person, Quynh became familiar with the Society of the Divine Word through an aunt’s friend, Father Joseph Chau Nguyen SVD.
Father Joseph Chau Nguyen has a spiritual connection with the family, too. Many years ago, he asked a Philadelphia archdiocesan priest, Father Joseph Huynh Dinh, whom he greatly admires to be his spiritual father. The elder priest happens to be the brother of Quynh’s great grandmother. He has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for generations.
"I greatly admire Father Joseph Huynh Dinh," Quynh said. "He has served the people of his parish. He was a good model for me by his prayerful, holy life and his priestly service."
Similarly, Quynh has been intrigued and inspired by Divine Word Missionaries who have served in the missions. He has a deep desire to work with the poor and those in need. He said he feels a sense of peace when he thinks about life as a priest.
For his ministry during novitiate, he volunteered at Misericordia, a home for people with developmental disabilities.
"At first, it was hard to have a conversation with them," he said. "Then I saw how others converse with them. I learned from them. I asked the Holy Spirit how to talk with them. The more you’re patient, the more they come to you and talk."