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  • the Midwest s cold winter weather and to exercise his mind body and soul Born in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam Binh came to the United States in 2008 to study business at Marymount California University in Rancho Palos Verdes Calif Family played a role in his decision on where to attend college He considered going to business school in Thailand Japan or Australia but since he has relatives in California with whom he could stay he chose the United States Even though the distance between Rancho Palos Verdes and Orange County appears short on a world map the reality of Southern California traffic is a quite different Even in optimal conditions the drive takes about an hour I don t like driving and being in traffic for hours Binh said Instead he opted to live on campus While on campus he missed his family Binh and his cousins are close In fact he considers them siblings Even though he has only one brother he has numerous siblings His maternal grandmother had nine children seven of whom are in the United States After a year at Marymount Binh began thinking about transferring to a school in Orange County closer to his relatives That s when he met Father Trung Thanh Mai a Divine Word vocations director Binh was familiar with the Divine Word Missionaries from the first Friday holy hours that they sponsor for youth in Orange County Father Trung had scheduled a visit with Binh s cousin Tommy Nguyen and ended up inviting young men to visit Divine Word College in Epworth Iowa Binh immediately was taken by the friendliness of the people there I saw it fit me he said Both he and his cousin enrolled in the school Binh graduated in 2014 followed by Tommy this year Binh s novitiate began the August after graduation In addition to discernment during his novitiate year Binh took time to read more He set his goal two books per month He actually has exceeded the goal and read 22 books in the first ten months He also focused on honing his English language skills I love learning language he said When you learn a new language you get a lot more wisdom That love of languages led to a special ministry too On Mondays and Wednesdays he went to the Life Learning Center which is sponsored by the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters and is located in Chicago s Rogers Park His first assignment was to teach English to Spanish speaking immigrants I do enjoy it he said It was my first ministry that involves teaching The first few weeks I didn t know what to do so I recalled how I learned English Now I think I know what I ll do this week or next week To challenge his students he established a contest to see who could learn the most each week English for them and Spanish for him His students went to class as they could depending

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_08172015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • completely different If I was still in Indonesia I d be spoiled said the man who learned to do laundry by going to a laundromat and watching others I would never have learned about anything taking a subway or bus cooking doing laundry New York gave me a lot made me a stronger person and taught me how to depend upon God With the 500 he took to New York he put money down on part of a tiny apartment 250 for the housing deposit and 250 for the first month s rent Literally penniless he borrowed 20 from his pen pal for food for the week and survived on bread and sugar After a week of working in the flower shop the owner hired him Three months later she closed the shop She gave him a month s salary as severance to help him survive in the big city It tided him over until he found a job with a dry cleaner the drop off kind I had to input information into a computer and learn all the terms for the clothes he said Not an easy task for someone who was still learning English For the next seven years Fransiskus worked his way up through retail and service industry jobs until he had a steady union position with Gramercy Park Hotel Born in Lumajang East Java Indonesia Fransiskus is one of three children and his parents only son His family practices Buddhism but as youths he and his sisters attended a Catholic school in Semarang Central Java operated by the Sisters of Providence from Munster Germany Impressed with a Jesuit missionary Fransiskus decided to become Catholic Jesus is the only one who says I m the way of life he said I was attracted to Catholicism because of the kindness of the sisters I felt at home at the Catholic school They never preached to us but showed their faith by example like Pope Francis At first his mother said no but later agreed as long as he did not become a priest She wanted her only son to carry on the family name At age 16 Fransiskus became baptized and chose to study hotel management a tract that served him well in the United States For nearly a decade in America he tried to save money so he could send it to his mom He took a second job at a banquet hall called Cipriani There he met the likes of Denzel Washington Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama The banquet hall had a policy of no autographs no photographs but Fransiskus didn t mind When I have my picture taken with someone I want it to be a mutual relationship he said In addition to work at Cipriani and Gramercy Park Hotel he was a dog walker For eight years he worked one job from 9 a m to 4 p m and then the next from 6 to 11 p m In between he attended daily

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_08152015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • Anthony s vocation took root Born and raised in Louisiana Anthony is no stranger to hurricanes In fact he remembers Katrina well She hit three weeks into his first year of high school in Baton Rouge La His parents owned and operated two grocery stores at the time The family lived on top of one of the stores Their home was spared but the neighborhood was without electricity for a week Relatives from Versailles an unincorporated community east of New Orleans moved in with them The Nguyens have been both givers and receivers of good deeds He credits his parents for their example of charity Not only did they take in others they also cooked for neighbors and shared their food he said As the situation lingered his mother took the boys to Houston Texas where they had extended family They moved into a house with two other families The generosity of people after Hurricane Katrina was immense Anthony said We stayed with that family for a year From there they moved to Austin Texas Another family in Austin was trying to sell their house but when they saw that the Nguyens needed a place to live they took if off the market and gave it to the Nguyen family rent free for a year The grace of God appeared out of nowhere Anthony said His grandparents moved into the house in Austin with them while their own home in Versailles was being rebuilt His grandparents had lived in Versailles since the time they fled Vietnam Anthony s mom was 12 years old at the time His grandmother whom Anthony considers his second mother left Vietnam with three girls two boys and a baby She had to swim to a shrimp boat with a nine month old baby on her back he said They don t talk about their immigration experience much but when they do they talk about humorous stories instead of the hardships The Catholic Church is alive in Versailles Anthony said My grandma raised me to love my Vietnamese heritage The Vietnamese community is value oriented values of the family are passed down respect and caring about one another They see opportunities as God s grace During the 30 day retreat which is a part of the novitiate year Anthony had a chance to see his grandmothers I begged my novitiate brothers to go visit my grandmothers he said One of his grandmothers cooked Pho a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup for them Anthony and his six fellow novices spent a lot of time together Community living has its challenges For me it s easy because I have five brothers said Anthony who is the fourth of the six sons In his parents home he was responsible for the community laundry His brothers would throw dirty clothes in the laundry room and he d wash them It s the simple ways that we follow obedience he said with a quick smile I get to learn the other guys

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_08142015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • voice I consider her as my own mom because I was so close to her She took me to catechism class in 1998 That year I felt the desire to be an altar boy I asked a friend Would I have to pay to join the group He said No just go to the meeting And so Akizou went and thus began the beginning of his vocation When I served Mass they said I look like a priest They encouraged me he said Akizou received First Communion at age 13 and was confirmed at 15 Of the 80 people in the confirmation class he is the only one who is in the seminary My dad especially didn t agree with my vocation he said So Akizou sought out religious formation on his own He became involved in the diocese and with the children s missionary organizations In middle school he began discernment with the Franciscans They helped me understand more about religious life he said In time he realized that he wanted a stake in whether he d become a brother or a priest and the Franciscan formation process didn t allow the individual to take part in the decision making process In 2007 he stepped back and took a look at his vocation During that time his second year of college he met Divine Word Missionaries When I finished college I wanted a change said Akizou who holds a bachelor s degree in philosophy and an associate s degree in accounting and management In my culture you cannot do anything without the permission of your parents My culture is a very social culture If something goes wrong then you can t go back to your parents He struggled with his dad about his vocation Since his father adamantly opposed his vocation Akizou cut ties with the Divine Word Missionaries But the quiet whisper within his heart the desire to become a religious continued I could have everything but I would be an unhappy man so I made the decision to go back to my vocation he recalled In 2009 he reconnected with the Divine Word Missionaries I felt happy and peaceful I went back to the vocation and confronted my dad and faced him I told him that s what I wanted to do I was scared I was surprised when he said okay That was very powerful The following year he joined the seminary I love my ministry he said I love what I do It s demanding and requires a lot of energy On Sundays and Mondays Akizou visited the homebound as his novitiate ministry On one particular day a resident at a nursing care facility approached him She wanted to talk The staff tried to intervene but she was insistent She spoke rapidly trying to say all that she wanted to say before the nurses stopped her Akizou told them that it was okay that he had time for her The woman recognized that he was

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_08132015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • with eyes and heart We are each products of the family in which we are raised and so it is for Peter Like many young men in their early 20s he is a son brother and college graduate He enjoys sports games cooking and music And he describes himself as self aware reserved American Vietnamese and an introvert who tends to focus on the here and now He is not a stranger to change Born in Monroe N C he grew up in Santa Clara Calif His family moved to Greenville S C when he was about ten Peter is the second of his parents four children He is the peacemaker to his older sister s rebel His junior year of high school turned out to be a pivotal one in his youth To the consternation of his parents his older sister left for Louisiana without their permission To his parents who were born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as young adults such a decision flew in opposition to their traditional values His sister wanted to study culinary arts but their parents thought she should choose a more stable field such as medicine or law That episode set the backdrop for the visit of Father Joseph Chau a vocation direction from the Society of the Divine Word who is based at Divine Word College in Epworth Iowa Peter supposes that Father Chau received his name from an SVD alumnus at his family s parish When the young man heard that Father Joseph wanted to meet with him his first response was fear Initially I was scared worried that I d be sent off to this place where I didn t want to go he said He invited me to a come and see weekend at the college Divine Word College regularly sponsors opportunities for prospective students to visit the school for a couple days to get a feel for the campus and the environment That s where I felt more comfortable and where I experience that first sense of calling Peter said He entered Divine Word College when he was only 17 I was very young immature he said I grew up a lot at Divine Word College It was my first experience of being independent and finding my voice The biggest impact on me was the community and role models such as Father Jim Bergin Others were like spiritual parents Fathers Bang Cong Tran Khien Luu Thang Cao Hoang and the sisters They are intellectual and down to earth They encouraged me to take leadership positions and they encouraged me in academics and prayer Being surrounded by religious is familiar to him Many of his relatives on this mom s side are brothers sisters and priests He has an uncle who is a Cistercian brother My mom always talks about her older brother he said She says I m like him in personality and demeanor Of his mother s nine siblings five are members of religious

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_08122015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • parents watchful eyes because he lived with one of his father s friends Edoh grew up in Lomé the capital of Togo He knows life in the big city as well as the rural countryside When I opened my eyes I was already in Lomé said Edoh as he mused about the day he was born He also spent many summers in Adame his ancestral hometown a small village by a river on the border of Benin A person could walk from one side of Adame to the other in 35 minutes he said In Lomé he and his siblings went to a Catholic school near his father s house His father doesn t go to church His mother was Catholic but eventually discontinued going to church Mom stopped going to Mass and so did we he said Most of my friends are Protestant I followed my friends who were Pentecostal He returned to the Catholic Church in 2005 Going to those other churches didn t bring anything new to my life I was searching for meaning and needed something to grasp onto meaning to my life so I resumed going to Mass Three years later he was confirmed and two years after Confirmation he entered the seminary His own parish was staffed by Comboni Missionaries but his spiritual director gave him a booklet written by the Divine Word Missionaries Everything started in 2008 I graduated with a master s degree in finance I searched for what to do next The idea of becoming a priest was on my list but I was not convinced by it because I spent a lot of time energy and my dad s money on a degree in finance he said Edoh also mourned his mother s death the year before As a university student he thought he would complete his degree marry have a family and contribute to the family of his birth As a junior in university I wished to take care of our mom because she did wonderful things for us he said After graduation Edoh discussed his goals and aspirations with his spiritual director He became more and more interested in exploring the possibility of becoming a religious I decided to see I didn t know anything I looked for information about the priesthood and religious life In 2009 I said okay He knew nothing about the Society of the Divine Word except what was in a booklet that his spiritual director had given to him He began attending meetings in 2009 and entered the seminary in West Africa in 2010 I decided to do something different Make it more exciting I knew nothing about the SVDs except what was in the booklet That journey became even more exciting after his postulancy He learned that the novitiate in Ghana was full so he and two of his classmates would venture to the United States for novitiate I love numbers figures and graphs I didn t take language learning seriously until

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_08112015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • at Tuankham was built in the 1980s missionaries of that time wanted more people come to church so incentives were given to accomplish this goal usually in the form of money This mentality continued to exist when Father Vinh arrived at the parishes go to Mass and receive money from the priest This issue gave Father Vinh enormous anxiety especially when some parishioners approached him directly after Mass I was shocked that some would ask me directly for money saying that the priest before him would give them money if they had come to church Father Vinh said I did not know what to say other than the truth that I have no money This expectation was something hard to change Seeing that the attendance at Mass was decreasing by the week Father Vinh felt that he had to do something but submitting to the incentive system was not the answer He wanted to spread the faith not buy it He certainly had no money to give but through sincerity he hoped to change the people s way of seeing his ministry Father Vinh thus began new initiatives to reach out to the people He began to teach English and Vietnamese as there were a few who were interested He also traveled to visit Catholic families with the hope that they would consider coming back to church Wherever and whenever he had Mass he would gather up the people by picking them up at their homes and dropping them off afterward It s tough and I do feel resentment and frustration at times after all I m not a saint Father Vinh confessed But what kept me from quitting or going to another place was prayer which reminded me of that very reason why I chose to follow this path God Rainy days and Sundays As if things had not been hard enough the rainy season came with its usual destruction beating down on these old churches The church at Tuankham was in poor condition and needed the most help There were parts of the building where the structural integrity of the walls was so completely compromised that a simple touch could bring down a whole section of the church Even with certain sections blocked off during Mass Father Vinh had to keep an extra eye on these places so that accidents would not happen Perhaps if you look close enough there s always grace hidden in the midst of struggles said Father Vinh convinced that God wanted him to serve here When it rained during Mass I had to move from one side of the altar to the other making sure that the host and everything else doesn t get wet the parishioners would get a good laugh out of my balancing act Things were difficult but we made it work we still had Mass and prayer at this place Realizing that the integrity of the church building was at risk Father Vinh had to do something But whom

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_06252015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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  • losses of those years being away from home He realized that his relationship with his parents had changed and he could barely recognize his younger siblings since they were babies when he left The losses in making that journey 15 years ago were now more apparent than ever and he needed time to work through his transition Since then Father John has gone back to Vietnam annually to reconnect with his family and to make sense of everything that was happening in this life He realized that his role as the eldest son providing for the family financially was not the only exclusive mode of showing care The reality was that he could not be 2 000 miles away and still fulfill all the duties of the eldest son To his surprise he learned that his family did not have this expectation As time unfolded grace was already working within their lives In the subsequent year Father John sponsored his siblings so they could go to the United States to explore new opportunities and thus they were able to care for their parents in Vietnam For Father John he no longer felt the contradiction between his role as the eldest son and following his missionary vocation After 15 years I finally realize what I had left behind in leaving Vietnam I left my family Father John said The pain is real and the loss is apparent and I have to deal with it When I reconciled that I was able to pursue my religious vocation with the Society of the Divine Word Learning to say goodbye is realizing what to leave behind and what to carry along There is pain in leaving but the grace is in finding deeper meaning and values and allowing something new to take place Father John left his family but from his family he received the grace to hear God s call and the strength to answer They became a great source of support and encouragement for him to push further into his vocation It gave him the enthusiasm and motivation to enter another phase of transition his first assignment to Papua New Guinea Life in Papua New Guinea I have to learn to let go leave my friends family and basic comfort and enter a new culture a new way of seeing things he said Entering another transition is not without difficulties and pains In describing his first year in Papua New Guinea Father John said Once again I became an infant having to learn another language and another way of doing things the social customs and culture Not only that I had to learn how to walk and climb Father John worked in the mountainous area of Papua New Guinea and going from one village to another was difficult due to the terrain Some villages can be reached only by foot In one of his early trips Father John remembers that he was climbing and crying at the same time because the rain

    Original URL path: http://www.divineword.org/news/tales_from_the_province_feature_stories_05072015.aspx (2016-04-25)
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