As a child growing up in a rural town on Vietnam’s North Central Coast, Deacon Loi Dinh Pham was drawn to the priests’ colorful vestments but thought the priesthood was out of reach.
“The preacher always wore something very colorful and beautiful, but I had no idea of becoming a priest,” said Deacon Pham in a recent interview. “I never had that thought. Priests were very holy, noble, extraordinary, out of my reach.”
He will become a priest on May 29. Deacon Pham along with Deacon Quan Minh Nguyen will be ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St, at 11 a.m. The service will be live-streamed to the cathedral’s YouTube channel.
Deacon Pham was born in Huong Son, a rural town in Vietnam to farmers who are devout Catholics. He is the fifth of six children.
Deacon Pham said he started thinking the priesthood might be for him after a conversation with one of his older brothers when he was in high school.
“He told me very firmly and seriously, ‘Loi, I want you to become a priest,’ ” said Deacon Pham.
He found out that day that his brother had promised their mother one of her sons would become a priest, he said. Looking back, Deacon Pham said that conversation with his brother was a sign from God.
“I considered God sent him to me to present that call from God,” he said. “That really struck me. From that day on I started thinking about it.”
In 2013 Deacon Pham entered St. Francis Xavier Seminary in Vinh, Vietnam, and three years later he came to the United States to continue his formation for the priesthood. He graduated May 8 from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., with a master’s degree in theology.
Now that his ordination to the priesthood draws near, Deacon Pham said he’s grateful, excited and nervous.
“I feel grateful, first to God and to all the people — my superiors, the bishops and vocation directors here and in Vietnam and all the people who supported me. I’m excited to graduate and move on, and, God willing, be ordained as a priest and to serve God and his people,” said Deacon Pham.
“In the midst of those wonderful feelings, I’m nervous. Being a priest and an associate pastor is a big deal,” he added.
While he’s feeling the weight of his vocation, Deacon Pham noted that through his “best efforts” and God’s providence he is confident he will serve God and his people.
Deacon Pham has been assigned to serve as associate pastor of St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., an assignment he said he is very excited about.
As a priest, Deacon Pham said he is looking forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
He’s also looking forward to serving God’s people.
“I’d love to see myself having the smell of sheep while serving the people … being there whenever they need me as a representative of Christ and the church,” said Deacon Pham. “My initial motivation (for priesthood) is to serve people with love and joy and try to bring good things to the people of God.”
Deacon Pham said he is especially looking forward to ministering to the “poor, disabled, sick and forgotten.”
“They will be the main focus of my priesthood. We’re blessed when we have everything. Then we have people who are lacking. It’s my duty and responsibility to serve them as a requirement of charity,” said Deacon Pham.
He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving in English at 4 p.m. May 29 at St. John Vianney Church, 4839 Southside Drive. He will also celebrate a Mass in Vietnamese at 10 a.m. March 30 at St. John Vianney.