Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago ordained three Divine Word Missionaries to the priesthood on Saturday, May 27 at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Wheeling, Ill.
Fathers Edwan “Manie” Manuel SVD, Quang Ngoc Pham SVD and Jorge Zetino SVD became the newest priests in the Society of the Divine Word.
They are prepared for their first assignments. Father Quang will be assigned to Our lady of Hope in San Bernardino, Calif., which is part of the Society of the Divine Word’s Western Province.
The parish is predominantly Spanish speaking and Vietnamese speaking. Father Quang, who was born and raised in Vietnam, is the right man for the job.
“Whatever comes I’ll adapt to it,” he said. “It’s a missionary experience.”
The multi-lingual priest can speak four diverse languages: Vietnamese, Spanish, English and French. These past eight months, he served as a transitional deacon at Queenship of Mary in the Diocese of Joliet, where he used his Vietnamese and English language skills.
Shortly after arriving in the United States in 2012, Father Quang’s uncle, Father Peter Son Le SVD, invited him to his perpetual vows ceremony and suggested that he attend Divine Word College (DWC).
“I went to DWC with the initial purpose of learning English, but I passed the English entrance exam, so I did not have to study ESL at all,” he said. “This was because I had a bachelor’s degree in English language in Vietnam immediately before I migrated to the United States.
“Passing the [English] language test was both confusing and encouraging for me. Confusing as I was not sure what to do next but encouraging as I got more confident about my English skills,” he said.
Father Quang continued the plan to enroll in DWC and earned a bachelor’s degree in cross-cultural studies with a minor in philosophy.
His language learning continued during his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP), part of the formation process that gives brother candidates and seminarians an opportunity to experience the life of a missionary.
For CTP, Father Quang was sent to the Province of Montreal in Canada. He spent six months learning French. One week before the final exam, the pandemic began.
“For me COVID was a learning experience,” he said. “I couldn’t do much outside parish, but I learned a lot about the SVDs, my vocation and myself.”
Even though the COVID pandemic disrupted his ministry experience, he pivoted. While he was in quarantine, he wrote a book in Vietnamese about the history of Divine Word Missionaries.
“I wanted to introduce Vietnamese-speaking people to the history of the Society of the Divine Word and the inspiring stories of individual Divine Word Missionaries,” he said. “That time helped me explore the heritage of the SVDs,” Father Quang said. “That helped me discern my vocation.”
As he wrote, he was inspired by stories of Divine Word Missionaries.
“In the book there are stories of the earliest missions of the SVDs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in China, Papua New Guinea, North America, and the founding of the mission in Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam War,” he said.
“They were human like me and able to overcome challenges,” he said. “Now I’m a part of that tradition. We are a young congregation, but we have achieved a lot.”
He said he is ready to spread the missionary spirit, he said.
“How could I imagine I would be here today, preparing for my first Mass. It is beyond my capacity, but God made it happen.”
Father Manuel, who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., completed his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP) in Colombia and his temporary deaconate at Our Lady of Africa in Chicago. He will be assigned to the SVD Southern Province.
Father Zetino, who was born in Guatemala and attended high school in Grand Rapids, Mich., fulfilled his CTP in Germany and his temporary deaconate at St. Joseph the Worker parish in Wheeling, Ill. His first assignment is with the Chicago Province.