Most Rev. Curtis Guillory SVD, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, ordained Carl Gales SVD, 44, and Derek Nguyen SVD, 34, on May 28 at Our Lady of Africa in Chicago.
The pair have been confreres since 2015 when they entered the Divine Word novitiate. That year, Father Nguyen graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Divine Word College in Iowa while Father Gales took a leap of faith. He left a career as a parish music director and professional musician in Missouri to follow the call to become a religious missionary priest.
Their paths to the religious life and priesthood could not be more diverse. Father Nguyen, who was born in Malaysian to Vietnamese parents, grew up in California. He entered Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, after high school graduation and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
The Nguyen family moved to the United States when Derek was three years old. On the journey, he remembers only being on the plane and eating a pat of butter, but the memories of his family’s life in Vietnam and their existence at a refugee camp in Malaysia are well ingrained in his mind because of the retelling of the stories.
Father Gales, who was born in Baltimore, was a musical prodigy. In his youth, he performed as a concert pianist with the Phoenix Symphony, the National Czech Symphony Orchestra in Prague and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
He received a full scholarship to Indiana University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music and later attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music before studying at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris for two years.
Father Nguyen is a cradle Catholic while Father Gales grew up attending the Prayer Assembly Church of God in Christ, a charismatic Protestant church.
He discovered Catholicism as a college student. A friend invited him to Mass, where he felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Father Gales eventually converted to Catholicism and became a director of music and liturgy for Catholic parishes, including the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Jefferson City, Mo., and Saints Peter and Paul in Decatur, Ga.
Both priests professed vows and began studies at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago in 2016. To fulfill a formation requirement, Father Nguyen learned Spanish and did his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP) in Mexico. Father Gales learned French and fulfilled his CTP in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
During this past school year, Father Nguyen served as a transitional deacon at Holy Child Jesus Parish in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. Father Gales served at Our Lady of Africa in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Last week, they graduated from CTU.
Father Gales has been assigned to Our Lady of Africa for his first assignment. Father Nguyen will go to Ecuador for his first assignment.
Founded in 1875, the Society of the Divine Word has more than 6,000 members who serve the spiritual and social needs of people in more than 80 countries.
Photos are available upon request. For more information or to set up an interview, contact Theresa Carson at 847-412-1606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.