For Giang Tien Nguyen SVD, the perpetual vow ceremony marks another destination in a long journey with God
September 21, 2014 — On Sept. 20, Giang Tien Nguyen was one of three men who professed perpetual vows with the Society of the Divine Word at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center in Techny, Ill.
Born in Vietnam, Nguyen left his birthplace at age eight with his family in order to join their father who had emigrated earlier. They moved to San Jose, Calif., and he quickly acclimated to his new surroundings.
Encouraged by the members and environment of the Eucharistic Youth Movement, Nguyen began considering life as a missionary priest when he was in junior high. In 2006, he graduated from Divine Word College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
As he approaches perpetual vows, he said, "When I was a novice, I realized the many blessings that I have received. Now I am beginning to give back through [teaching] catechism and sharing the Good News. I’m looking forward to allowing God’s grace to be evident in the lives of the people I come to serve."
He sees his journey as a progression. For four years in high school, Nguyen was an Air Force Junior ROTC cadet. He appreciated the discipline and core values of "Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All that We Do."
The friendships made and lessons learned during that time fostered his vocation. "Friendships, example of dedication, teamwork, love for God through simple ordinary people—that helped me to reflect on the vocation at that age," he said.
Family influenced him, too. Both Nguyen’s father and grandfather studied in a Cistercian monastery. They did not profess vows, but they did pass along their faith and values to subsequent generations.
"The spirituality of religious life, encouragement and support are a big part of my story," Nguyen said. "I received encouragement from the Eucharistic Youth Movement, teachers, classmates, family, even those in the military."
That encouragement continued through novitiate. "The personal interaction impressed me—people being authentic," he said. "They are who they are, whatever personality God gave them."
After novitiate, he continued his education at Catholic Theological Union and partook in the Society of the Divine Word’s Cross-cultural Training Program (CTP).
For his CTP, Nguyen received personal invitations from Divine Word Fathers Quy Ngoc Dang, Michael Thanh Do and Anthony Cong An Nguyen to come to the country of Mozambique in southeastern Africa. During his time in Africa, he worked with many talented Divine Word Missionaries and Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters. They taught children how to read and write and resident farmers how to apply for the use of government land.
The sisters and the Divine Word Missionaries complemented each other. In the African culture, the men did not always have access to groups of women while some of the sisters were not able to drive. "When possible, we shared each other’s gifts," he said.
Nguyen expressed gratitude to the many people from different walks of life who have helped him along this path. Each year the perpetual vows candidates choose a theme for the ceremony. This year’s theme is "Love one another as God loves us."
To Nguyen, that theme reflects the journey that he is walking with God. He said he seeks "to accept who I am even with my imperfections. It’s perfectly okay to be imperfect. God still loves me and other people anyway. I started out seeking perfection and learned through the compassionate side of other people that God can embrace me for who I am, as I am."
The other two members who professed vows wish to remain anonymous because of lack of religious freedom in their home country. Nguyen, age 30, will continue his studies at CTU while he works as a deacon at Queenship of Mary in Glen Ellyn, Ill. He will be ordained a priest in May 2015 and then return to Mozambique to begin his first assignment.