By FATHER PETER DO
Associate Vocation Director
My vocation story began within my family. I was blessed to be born to parents who loved God, each other and me. I was the baby of my family and the sixth child. My mother was a convert. She became a Catholic when she married my dad. I grew up in a family that prayed together every day and every night.
I remember my non-Catholic grandparents on my mother’s side, reminding us, “It’s time for you to pray evening prayer,” We continued that tradition until my brothers and sisters were married and moved out on their own.
My dad set an example of what it means to serve God and His people. I remember my dad spending most of his free time at the parish where I grew up. He did pretty much everything, including raising money to build churches in the area. Following my dad’s footsteps, I became very active at church after my confirmation and became a sacristan at a very young age. I loved being an altar boy when I was young and always hoped that someone would not show up so that I could serve. Some weekends I served all four Masses.
People told me that I should be a priest, and I started to think about the priesthood at 12 years old. My parents were very supportive of the idea. However, in 1975 the Communist Party took over Saigon. They shut down the seminaries and did not allow the church to reopen the seminaries until the 1990s, so at that point my dream of becoming a priest became impossible.
In September of 1989, my family left Vietnam for the “promised land” of America. And for us to continue our journey we had to stay in a refugee camp in the Philippines. During this time, we learned the English language and a lot about the American culture. I continued to be active at church while living in the refugee camp along with my siblings who sang in the choir at church.
Finally, on May 22, 1990, my family and I arrived in Louisville, Ky. I enrolled at Seneca High School and graduated in 1992. At that time, my thoughts of the priesthood were gone. I still wanted to be a priest, but I did not have a good command of the English language and the thought of speaking English in front of people was terrifying. But God, who works in mysterious ways, had other plans for me.
I was invited by a seminarian, whose mission was to visit newly-arrived Vietnamese families, to the “Come and See” program at St. Meinrad. So, I decided to visit St. Meinrad without knowing what I was getting into. During my visit, the story of Moses and the burning bush kept running through my mind. Moses said to the Lord that he was not a good speaker, yet God gave him a mission. That scripture filled me with the courage to say yes to God and to my vocation director.
The rest of the story is history. I filled out the paperwork and was accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Louisville and was sent to the University of Louisville for an intensive English program. I was there for two semesters and began my studies at St. Meinrad in January 1993. In 1998, I attended Mundelein Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 2002.
Becoming a priest is easy, but living a priestly life is more difficult, and yet I would do it all over again. It is worth the journey, and I encourage all young men to at least consider the priesthood. Let God lead you to a decision. Parents, grandparents and friends, if you see someone who would make a good priest, tell them. God uses your voice to be his voice. We need good people who want to be good priests.