Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed in many ways, but we thank God for His abundant goodness and our being able to celebrate another August profession ceremony. On Aug. 1, five young men who are in formation for the priesthood professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Today, we spotlight Thong Tran SVD.
Name: Thong D. Tran
Hometown: Gia Kiem, Vietnam
Languages: Vietnamese and English
Ministries during novitiate:
Cooking for the homeless at Pho Tam, a Vietnamese restaurant
Food server at the Divine Word Residence at Techny
Minister of Care at St. Norbert and Our Lady of the Brook parishes in Northbrook, Ill.
New American Bible
Man from The Mountain by E.J. Edwards SVD
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton
Tell me about a time when you felt God’s presence:
A time when I feel God’s presence is when I witness wonders in nature, such as the clouds, rain, sunlight, the forest and flowers, in all of the circumstances that happen during my day that cause me to feel either suffering or joy and in all the people whom I encounter during my day.
When did you first feel the call to be a missionary?
I believe that the original root of my call was from my wonderful family, who helped me understand how to truly live and love others. I witnessed great love, care and presence in the actions of my family members toward each other. My great grandparents, grandparents and parents were wonderful examples for me in term of being a true lover and a true missionary for others like Jesus was. Later, because of the chance that I had of living in the United States, I witnessed a great diversity in cultures and lifestyles. Then, through community services at my local parish called Our Lady of Lavang in Atlanta, Ga., where I was working as a volunteer in the Eucharistic Youth Movement and a Vietnam-language teacher, I felt the needs of the community. That was when I wanted to become a missionary.
How has living with the Divine Word brothers and priests at Techny inspired you?
Living with the Divine Word brothers and priests at Techny helped me to see what a diverse cultural community looks like. The Divine Word community at Techny gave me a lot of experiences, skills and a taste of being a loving and true missionary for others. I have witnessed the differences among community members who have come from different backgrounds and cultures. I have learned from many of them the experience of how to live with cultural differences in a community. Each individual is unique. We learned how to manage our activities and tried to work together. We have learned how to accept each other in this unique way. We learned how to respect individual concerns and characters. We learned to share and support each other in different circumstances. We learned the beauty and value of each culture. We helped each other to recognize the love of Christ for each person. We learned how to be present with others. We tried to become a true missionary for others like Jesus. This endeavor is difficult for me, but it is also possible when I truly love God wholeheartedly and live my life for others like Jesus did.
What was the biggest challenge during this past year?
In the context of living in a diverse cultural community, it was a challenge for me to love others as I love myself like Jesus has taught me. I experienced the differences among the community’s members, and I recognized that I could not please everyone. What I could do was to try my best to understand and accept them for who they are.
How did the early experience of novitiate change after the COVID-19 pandemic began?
After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the schedule of the novitiate dramatically changed and my image of living a novitiate year also changed. Instead of having more time for myself, I learned to listen, be patient, say yes, serve other’s needs and love them. For example, I got involved more with the novitiate and residence communities. Instead of going outside for ministries—they all were cancelled—I stayed home to pray for people. I stayed at the novitiate and used Zoom for classes with the outside groups. I watched more spiritual movies with my novitiate group. We discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and worried about the health of our loved ones at home and of people everywhere. I did not like being self-quarantined, but gradually, I got used to it. The pandemic helped me to recognize the beautiful meaning of being a true lover and missionary for others like Jesus was.
What are your hopes for the coming year?
My hope for the coming year is that the COVID-19 pandemic will be gone; people will go back to their normal lives; and there will be no more social distancing or self-quarantining. I hope that the new novices will have more of a chance to participate in their ministries.