“The time of novitiate constitutes a privileged period of initiation into the religious life of our Congregation… The novice shall involve himself in an experience of community and evangelical life; he shall be initiated in the practice of the evangelical counsels.”
SCJ Rule of Life, No. 98
On Wednesday, August 14, Thien Nguyen, Thuan Nguyen, Truc Van Tran and Hung Pham began their novitiate year in preparation for first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, provincial superior, received the new novices during a ceremony in the Novitiate chapel. Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ, is novice master, and Fr. Andrzej Sudol, SCJ, is associate novice master.
In their own words, the new novices share a bit about themselves:
My name is Thien Nguyen and my baptismal name is Paul. I was born and grew up in the countryside in Vung-Tau province in Vietnam. I have many siblings: three older brothers, two older sisters, and two younger brothers. When I was a child, I wanted to be a businessman when I grew up because my family was very poor and lived mainly on rice cultivation.
Fortunately, my family overcame those difficulties. My parents are very religious and they pray every day; they taught me the importance of this when I was a little boy. But when I was young, I really did not understand what prayer was.
For high school, I had to stay far from my home because there was no high school close by. I learned to live independently, to do everything myself. It was then that I realized the importance of prayer. Prayer continues to bring me peace when I am lonely or homesick.
I went to Sai Gon [Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City] to pursue my dream of becoming a businessman but after many jobs – waiter, textile worker, welder and construction worker – that dream faded. Impressed with construction, I decided to study Civil engineering.
In 2011 I came in contact with the SCJs. I was still at the university and the community life I found with the SCJs brought me a lot of fun and happiness. When I graduated, I was discerning a vocation to religious life, but decided to experience life, my degree and a new job. I earned good money and had a full life in the material sense but deep in my soul, I felt empty and unhappy. I struggled, but through prayer, I heard the call of God. I returned to the SCJs in 2015 to pursue my vocation.
In 2016 I began to study philosophy at St. Joseph Major Seminary of Sai Gon; after I completed my studies in 2018 I came to the United States to study ESL and enter postulancy.
I now realize that God always accompanies me in my life, and I have received a lot of blessings. I am very happy with my decision to follow Jesus in my life. I always believe in God’s will and try to imitate the life example of Jesus and do the best that I can.
Since I have been in the United States I have been very interested in the topic of immigrants and admire the silent sacrifices of those who help them. In the future I hope to also be an extended arm of Jesus, bringing God’s love to those in need.
My name is Thuan. I was born into a small family in Dong Nai province, Vietnam; there is my my mom, my sister and me. My sister is a novice of St. Paul de Chartres.
I studied chemistry education in Sai Gon university from 2011 to 2015. I lived in the dorm of Huyen Si Parish, which is available to students to live and study in Ho Chi Minh city. I liked community life there and I felt called to become a religious. I knew about the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Vietnam through my neighbor, who was student with the community.
I contacted Fr. Thai, the vocation director, and I met him to learn about the SCJs. I was invited to Mass for the feast day of the congregation. After that, I decided to apply to become an SCJ candidate.
My first day as a candidate with the community was August 6, 2015; I had my first holy hour in the community. In that first year, I studied English and Vietnamese in preparation for the entrance exam for philosophy studies. I passed the exam and I entered the Dominican Academy.
After finishing philosophy, I joined two of my confreres to go to the US Province to enter postulancy and the novitiate because we did not yet have these programs in Vietnam.
Entering the novitiate, I hope to learn more about the three SCJ mottos: Sint Unum, Ecce Venio and Adveniat Regnum Tuum. Furthermore, I want to become a SCJ to live as Fr. Dehon lived.
My name is Truc Tran and I’m from the Vietnamese District; I’m 33 years old. My family lives in Nghe An, in the middle of Vietnam, in the Vinh diocese. I graduated from construction engineering about seven years ago and began to learn about the Priest of the Sacred Heart in August, 2015.
When I became a candidate with the community, I learned many things from our superior, our formation directors and my confreres, my religious family. They taught me about Fr. Dehon, who founded the congregation.
After a year with the SCJs, I took the entrance exam for philosophy and began my studies at St. Alphonsus Academy. I graduated last year, and then came to the US Province to continue formation, first studying in the ESL/ECS program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.
There have been challenges in being with a culture different from my own; but it has been good for me to study and learn to adapt to many things. The ECS program has helped me a lot with my English, but also with how to study. I have been able to prepare for postulancy and now novitiate.
I like some sports like football, reading books about history. I come from a family of seven: two sisters and two brothers. I am the second child in the family, I have an older brother, a younger brother and two younger sisters. My parents are farmers.
For many years, my father has taught catechism for young people in our parish. My mother has a great love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is part of my motivation in pursing my vocation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. My younger sister is also pursuing a religious vocation.
My name is Hung Pham and I was born in Vietnam. I lived in Houston for nine years and graduated in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Houston in 2015. Before entering SCJ candidacy, I worked at the ALS Oil and Gas Company as a total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) analyst; I began there in 2015.
I was a member of Dong Hanh group in Houston, also known as a Christian Life Community group (CLC). I taught Vietnamese and Catechism at Martyr church in Houston starting in 2013. During the past year, I did the same at St. Martin of Tours parish in Franklin, WI.
I am excited about joining the SCJs and want to discover more about the SCJ Rule of Life. I would like to learn to be a prophet of love, a servant of reconciliation, and be attentive to humankind’s appeals through Dehonian spirituality.
During my first year of candidacy, I lived in Chicago with the formation community there. I studied philosophy and theology at Catholic Theology Union. During the past year I studied at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology and was a member of the Sacred Heart Monastery community.
I like playing soccer, biking, gardening, and walking.