Duy Nguyen, SCJ, is ordained to the priesthood

On June 11, Duy Nguyen, SCJ, was ordained to the priesthood at Sacred Heart Monastery/School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis. A member of Fr. Duy’s religious community, Bishop Joseph Potocnak, SCJ, retired bishop of De Aar, South Africa, was the ordaining bishop. [Click here to read his homily]

The ordination took place nine years after Fr. Duy accidently wandered into a vocation booth for the Priests of the Sacred Heart at World Youth Day in Toronto.

All smiles before the ceremony begins

“At the time, a vowed life living in community didn’t even register in my thoughts,” said Fr. Duy. “I knew what priests and sisters did, but I never dreamt of becoming a priest. I didn’t know what a brother was and had no conception of the life of a religious. I imagined and pursued a customary life, the kind where one acquires a stable position with a good paycheck while living in a cushy home. Little did I know that I would join the Priests of the Sacred Heart in their mission as prophets of love and servants of reconciliation.”

Ironically, Fr. Duy actually met the SCJs three years earlier, though he didn’t know it at the time.  In 1999 his family was invited to a gathering at the SCJs’ formation house in his hometown of Chicago.  “At that time, I did not know who they were or what they were all about,” said Fr. Duy.

He had to go to another country to discover the religious community to which he would eventually profess vows; a community with a formation program only a short drive from his home in Chicago.

“Sometimes you just don’t see what is in front of your nose,” he laughed.

Before entering candidacy, Fr. Duy studied at the University of Illinois in Champaign.  He later transferred to the University of Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in Information and Decision Sciences (he describes it as a mix of computer and business skills).

Fr. Duy graduated from Catholic Theological Union in 2010.  He broke up his studies three years ago with a pastoral year based in Lower Brule, S.D.  Before professing final vows and preparing for his diaconate ordination last fall he spent the summer in Argentina doing language studies.

Fr. Duy at the altar

“I never considered diocesan priesthood,” said Fr. Duy as he prepared for his ordination. “I thought about the priesthood in general, but never diocesan. I explored another religious congregation in addition to the SCJs, but never the Chicago archdiocese nor another diocese. My idea in the beginning was to serve God as a priest, but somehow I discovered community first, a community where it just ‘clicked.’”

“What attracts me to this community is the presence of the Spirit of God,” he continued. “I find the Spirit active and vibrant in the work we do, the community life we share, and the laughter we exchange. It is this same stirring Spirit that propelled me to the SCJs seven years ago.”

“Dehon’s life is proof that union with God is not far-fetched,” added Dn. Duy, talking about the founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon.  “All it takes is hard work, discipline and the grace of God.”

My prayer is that you find as much satisfaction and joy in you priesthood as I have

“If you are a man of prayer, I guarantee you that you will have more than enough time to serve the people under your care,” said Bishop Potocnak in his homily at the ordination.

“Your prayer life, your time with Jesus, will set the tone for your whole day.  It will help you treat people with the same love and respect that Jesus had for the people of his time.

“There will be crosses and trials and difficulties.  But Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust in me.” Saint Paul, in his difficulties, heard the words, “My grace is sufficient for you.” It’s true his Grace will always be sufficient for us.”

“My prayer,” the bishop concluded, “is that Father Duy will find as much satisfaction and joy in his priesthood as I have.”

[Click here to read Bishop Potocnak’s full homily]

Fr. Duy will return to ministry in northern Mississippi where he has served as a deacon since last fall.

A photo album from the ceremony will be posted on the province photo site on Monday.

Family members pose with Fr. Duy and the bishop after the ordination