By Theresa Carson
Before the COVID pandemic, Father Hai Ngoc Pham SVD, 46, served St. Rose of Lima parish in Bay St. Louis, Miss., to fulfill his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP), part of his seminary training.
When his pastor was busy and he needed someone with whom to talk, he prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Most of the time, those days fell on a Tuesday, his one day off.
After Sunday Masses, he taught catechism to 70 children. On Wednesdays, he worked with the St. Vincent DePaul Society. On Thursdays, he visited the homebound, and on Fridays, he participated in Mass at a local nursing home.
Frequently, he accompanied the pastor for Anointing of the Sick and on hospital visits in New Orleans. He enjoyed spending time with the people.
“I met people who needed food and clothes and helped with specific needs,” said Father Hai, who was ordained on Saturday. “I have felt God call me during the past five year. My vocation has become stronger and stronger. I am happy to be here and to be trained to be an SVD missionary. I have never felt that way before. I had a good life, but I never felt the peace that I do now.”
Father Hai, who grew up in Saigon, is used to a demanding schedule. He had begun to dream of becoming a priest when he was six years old. However, in the 1990s, there were limited openings in the seminaries. Instead, he attended a public high school and then enrolled in Vietnam’s University of Economics, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Life continued and he applied for a job with the Southern Airport Corporation, a firm that supplies goods and services to airports. While working, he earned a master’s degree in finance rose through the corporate ranks, eventually being promoted to deputy chief of finances in his company.
In 2013, after a 15-year career, he pursued another dream: learning English in North America. While studying at Humber College in Toronto, Canada, his childhood aspirations of becoming a priest were reawakened. He met Divine Word Missionaries at Cristo Rei parish in Mississauga, Ontario and began the formation process.
In the final step before ordination to the priesthood, Father Hai was ordained as a transitional deacon in October 2020. Through Zoom, he worked with catechists of Queenship of Mary parish in Glen Ellyn, Ill. Together, they prepared students for First Communion and Confirmation.
“We spent a lot of time on the computer. I have to adapt to the situation,” he said. “This pandemic has changed the world forever. We need to be with people yet limit physical contact. We need to help them be aware of God’s presence.”
For Father Hai’s first assignment as a priest, he will return to the Southern Province, where they will utilize his business skills for administration and fundraising. Many of the parishes that the Society of the Divine Word serves in the Southern United States are small in numbers and financially struggling. His work will help to assure the economic stability of those parishes.
To learn more about Father Hai, we invite you to read this 2016 article: www.divineword.org/news/feature/hai-ngoc-pham/