On Aug. 9, seven young men professed first vows and became members of the Society of the Divine Word at Techny, Ill. Minh Anh Dinh, Khanh Minh Ha, Thinh Cuong Ngo, Lam The Nguyen, Toan Quang Nguyen, Vinh Quoc Nguyen and Tung Son Tran completed their novitiate year and will begin their graduate studies this autumn. Today, we highlight the story of Minh Anh Dinh.
Newly professed Minh Anh Dinh SVD shifts focus from business to the work of God
By Theresa Carson
Before college 24-year-old Minh Anh Dinh’s future lay before him in a defined plan. He was to complete his bachelor’s degree in the United States before returning to his native Vietnam to take over the family company. As often is the case, God had different plans.
During Minh’s first three years at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he loved business—meetings, conferences, seminars. “I had a dream that I could do a lot of things and make a lot of money,” said the business management graduate.
But by senior year, he was worn out. All the activity around him felt busy and hollow. An encounter with a businessman made him realize that he wanted more.
The businessman asked for Minh’s business card. He wanted to know what the business student could do for him. Minh realized that he wanted to be known not for what he did or for who he knew but for who he was as a person. He realized that many of the people whom he thought of as friends were actually only acquaintances.
Looking for a place to gather his thoughts, Minh found the Newman Center on campus. “I needed a quiet place,” he said. “No one was there. I felt peace in my heart. I went to Church every Sunday but hadn’t had that feeling before. I wanted to be alone with God.”
His life shifted away from business and more towards God. He joined a discernment group at the Newman Center. While there, he attended Bible study groups, where participants welcomed and encouraged him. He volunteered at a soup kitchen. He met other men and women who pondered the religious life. “We are still friends,” he said.
Minh has known the Society of the Divine Word for a long time. His uncle is Father Ky Ngoc Dinh SVD, who was ordained to the priesthood in 2008 and works in Riverside, Calif. However, Minh did not automatically choose the Society of the Divine Word.
He had met Vocation Director Joseph Chau SVD, one of his uncle’s classmates, during his sophomore year. “I rejected him so many times,” Minh said with a kind smile. During his senior year, Minh’s wallet became too thick to put in his back pocket. While cleaning it out, he found Father Chau’s card and kept it.
Shortly thereafter on a whim, Minh jumped in the car after an exam and drove to Divine Word College for Mission Sunday. Father Anthony Duc Le SVD, a missionary in Thailand, was in Epworth, Iowa, to celebrate Mass at the college. He shared stories about working with the poor and with the Divine Word HIV/AIDS program.
“Before, I thought that everything was coincidence; now I know it’s God’s grace,” Minh said.
Minh later combined a stop in Thailand with a trip to visit his family in Vietnam. The time with Father Le changed his perspective on HIV/AIDS. Minh saw how the Divine Word Missionaries and their missionary partners taught the HIV/AIDS patients to love themselves. “I encountered the real people,” he said. “That was a very touching moment for me. It strengthened my desire to become missionary.”
In 2012, Minh graduated from UIC with a degree in business management. He then joined the SVD Associate Program. For a year, he studied philosophy at Divine Word College before embarking upon novitiate.
“I heard a lot about novitiate—a holy year, the most wonderful year of my life,” Minh said. “The community welcomed me and made me feel like I’m a part of the family.”
Minh’s ministry site is the Life Learning Center, operated by the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters in Chicago. He teaches computer skills to Hispanic immigrants and others. He feels that he learns more from them than they do from him.
“They shared with me their lives. They are wounded and vulnerable people. This experience is not a coincidence. God is always guiding me on the right path. If I kept my way as a businessman, then I would miss all the experiences that I had with the SVDs at Epworth, in the HIV ministry, being with the marginalized, understanding the real meaning of love,” he said.
“These experiences add color to my life. I have been like a black and white printer the last two years. Now I have a new lens, adding colors to my life,” he continued.
“Life is like a tandem bike; mostly I try to drive that bike. Jesus asked me to let him drive. If I let Him drive, then it will be amazing in the future.”
Article posted: August 12, 2014