By Theresa Carson
Without understating the pain brought by COVID, newly ordained Father Minh Anh Dinh SVD, 31, acknowledges a silver lining. The eight months that he and his classmates spent as transitional deacons were unlike those of their predecessors and probably unlike those of their successors.
By the time they were ordained to the transitional deaconate in October 2020, the world had already begun to pivot and adapt to the pandemic, making creative use of technology and learning how to build pseudo communities online.
Assigned to Holy Child Jesus parish in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood, Father Minh took an active role in religious education. The Our Lady of Pompeii community developed a novel approach for preparing children for the sacraments. They engaged parents, encouraging them as the first teachers of their children, teaching catechism at home.
“It was a wonderful idea,” Father Minh said. “We need to find a way to reach out to them because faith needs to be continuous. Parents play an important role in their children’s faith life.”
Father Minh met with the parents through Zoom to prepare them and then later interacted with the children through Zoom to keep them engaged in the larger faith community.
“They were excited to see so many kids the same age and ask questions,” he said. “This was the first time ever that we were able to include the parents in the program. They [the parents] remembered how it was their own parents who taught them their faith.”
Even though Father Minh recognizes the blessings that come from the challenges, he looks forward to the day when people can meet again face to face. He became especially aware of the gift of presence during his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP), a component of the Divine Word formation process, in Portugal.
While serving as a missionary in Portugal, he said he learned the importance of seeing each person as an individual.
“People’s needs and challenges are various and can be unexpected,” he said. “Attending to the suffering of other people strengthened my call. It’s a privilege as a missionary to go somewhere, encountering all kinds of people—rich and poor—and their being open to us. It’s important to me to be fully present to them.”
During his pre-pandemic time in Portugal, he visited the sick in nursing homes and served at the bedside of people who were dying in their homes. One Easter Sunday, he walked the streets of one village for 10 hours, blessings houses as he went.
“People were waiting for us with doors open,” he said. “We don’t have to give them theological discourse. Instead, they need another person’s presence to give them peace.”
Father Minh, who was born and raised in Vietnam, came to the United States in 2008 to study business at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During a visit to Thailand, he was introduced to the missionary work of the Society. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he joined the Society of the Divine Word. Father Minh’s first assignment is with the Chicago Province.
“I’m looking forward to contributing to the creativity of the future ministries of the Chicago Province,” he said.
He has been assigned to the Canada District. He will serve at Cristo Rei parish in Mississauga, Ontario, where he will continue to serve the Portuguese community.
Want to learn more about Father Minh? Check out this article from 2014: www.divineword.org/news/feature/minh-anh-dinh/