Each year we ask our students in formation to introduce themselves. This year’s group includes six candidates, six professed seminarians, and four novices. They are men from a wide variety of cultural, educational and work backgrounds. Yet they all speak of their shared call to the spirituality found in the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) and a desire to serve others.
“Religious life is a call but also a choice,” wrote Frater Hubert Kodjovi Liassidji, who just professed his first vows this year. “It is one thing to have a call but another to choose to respond to it. I chose to answer God’s call and through formation with the SCJs, I discovered and continue to discover my true identity. I recognize Christ by serving and giving myself to the poor, and further, I become a disciple of Jesus Christ through the teachings of Fr. Dehon.”
First-year candidate Steven DiNello wrote that “I have tried my hand at many different career paths, but since it has always been my dream to one day become a Catholic priest, nothing else fulfilled me nor brought me the kind of joy and peace that I am experiencing now that I have finally answered the call.” Yet, he emphasizes that those “extra years of life experiences and discernment only help me more to embody the spirituality of the Sacred Heart that is necessary to become a true Dehonian.”
Candidates and seminarians for the Priests of the Sacred Heart live at Sacred Heart Monastery in Hales Corners (Franklin), WI. They do their theological studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology and undergraduate work at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Our novitiate is located on a rural property approximately 15 miles south of Sacred Heart.
Are you discerning a vocation to the priesthood and/or religious life? Do you feel called to a life of community, prayer and ministry based in the love of the Sacred Heart? Contact our vocation director at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-609-5559.
Hello, my name is…
Frater (Paul) Phong Hoang, SCJ
My name is (Paul) Phong Hoang. I am 27 years old and was born in Hà Tiên, Kiên Giang, Việt Nam. My family came to the United States in 2007 and settled in Houston, Texas. I graduated from the University of Houston in 2015 with a B.S. in Biology. I am in my fourth year of formation and currently living at Sacred Heart Monastery and attending Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. I am in my second year of theology.
My uncle in Houston recommended that I reach out to the Priests of the Sacred Heart during my initial discernment. At the Come and See weekends, I was attracted to the SCJs’ simplicity, diversity, and community life.
I’ve been in various ministries since I joined the community, including the ESL program at the Vietnamese Association in Uptown Chicago, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (TNTT), the Vietnamese language program for children at Queenship of Mary parish in Joliet, IL, and St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care. This year, I am volunteering at Dismas Ministry, Catholic Charities, and I visit the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center for Bible study.
In my spare time, I enjoy playing soccer, billiards, and exercising.
Frater Hubert Senam Kodjovi Liassidji, SCJ
My name is Hubert Senam Kodjovi Liassidji. I’m originally from Togo in West Africa and I became an American citizen on August 17, 2017. Born on November 3, 1980, from a faithful Protestant woman and a Catholic man, I am the fourth child of a family of five. I have two sisters and two brothers. I was raised by my mother, who taught me a lot about the Christian faith, though I did not have the opportunity to get baptized when I was a child. I converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 19.
After high school, I studied physics and chemistry at the University of Lome, where I got my degree in chemistry.
I moved to the United States in November, 2010, and worked at many places. I wanted to continue my studies, so I moved to Iowa and worked at Iowa Automotive Component (IAC) as a forklift operator while studying at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City. I majored in chemical engineering.
My journey with the SCJs is comparable with the story of Nathaniel in the beginning of the Gospel of John. I never knew about SCJs. The first time I heard about them was from the vocation director of the diocese of Davenport in Iowa when I started discerning my vocation. He talked about Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Nathaniel was invited to approach Jesus for the first time, and so was I by Fr. Tom Hennen, the vocation director of the diocese of Davenport, encouraging me to get to know the SCJs.
Religious life is a call but also a choice. It is one thing to have a call but another to choose to respond to it. I chose to answer God’s call and through formation with the SCJs, I discovered and continue to discover my true identity. I recognize Christ by serving and giving myself to the poor, and further, I become a disciple of Jesus Christ through the teachings of Fr. Dehon.
As I have spent time with the SCJs, I have come to understand that the social action taught by our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon, is a new way of evangelization.
On August 15, 2019, I professed my first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Led by the Spirit, I enter joyfully, full of hope, and I will continue to find lasting fulfillment in my commitment, and see where God is leading me on this journey to become religious and priest.
Frater Duy Henry Minh Bùi Nguyễn, SCJ
Hi, I’m Henry of the Heart of Jesus, 30, entering my fifth year of formation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ). I was born and raised in Orange County, CA, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University, Monterey Bay.
I recently renewed my vows with the SCJs at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Houston. I am thrilled to see where this life as an SCJ will lead me. I know it will continue to allow me to help and serve those who are most in need. This year, I will be working at food pantries and soup kitchens in the Milwaukee area. I am also working with my confreres in the development of a Dehonian young adult program. During my free time, I enjoy listening to music, watching movies, and exploring the outdoors.
I am in my third year of Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology (SHSST). As a requirement of SHSST’s Master of Divinity program, I participated in an intensive summer CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program in San Antonio with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. With this experience, my understanding of the theology of pain and suffering grew more and more as I made myself available in order to be present with the sick and dying and their families.
Let ecce venio continue to echo on this journey of mine.
Frater John Huan Nguyen, SCJ
I am John Huan Nguyen from Vietnam; I have two brothers: one older, one younger.
The first phase of my life was interesting for me in school, but then I asked myself, “What is next?” I wondered if I would have a family, what my career would be. I went to college; my years there were exciting but still safe in the arms of my family. I had a lot of friends and I have many happy memories of doing things with them. But then my life changed because of a deep call in my heart: the call of Jesus.
I joined the SCJ formation program in Vietnam four years ago. After I completed a year with the community, I attended St. Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon to study Philosophy. Many people think that studying Philosophy is boring, but it is an important stage for a person pursuing a vocation.
In May, last year, I left Vietnam and joined the ESL program [now ECS] at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology and then entered the novitiate. I reflected on my vocational journey with the Priests of the Sacred Heart, learning to be intimately united with Christ in the “Ecce Venio” and “Ecce Ancilla.”
During this year I came to love and appreciate Fr. Dehon’s spirituality. My love for the Sacred Heart has truly inspired me to continue with the community. I have learned and cherish the oblation and reparation prayers that we recite each morning and evening. They capture the essence of what it means to be a Dehonian within the context of today’s world. I want to dedicate my life to God through vows with Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
For me, whatever happens is good because it is of God. I will always try to live well. I hope my life is a beautiful reflection of God. I believe that through difficulties and trials life becomes meaningful.
Jonathan Nguyen (candidate)
Hi everyone. My name is Jonathan T. Nguyen-Vuong. I am 18 years old, which makes me the youngest member of the community. I was born in Riverside, CA. My family moved to Louisiana in 2004. I lived in Broussard, LA, for 11 years. I am a first-year candidate of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJs) currently living at Sacred Heart Monastery. I attend classes at Marquette University, working on my bachelor’s in Philosophy.
I learned about the SCJs through Fr. Quang Nguyen, SCJ, vocation director, who came all the way from Milwaukee, WI, to celebrate Mass with the Vietnamese community in my hometown parish called St. Jules Catholic Church in Lafayette. Fr. Quang is good friends with the pastor of the Vietnamese community. After that Mass, he and I chatted a bit. He asked a question that inspired me to pursue my vocation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart: “Would you like to work in a group or by yourself?” I replied: “in a group.”
I had never heard of religious congregations until Fr. Quang told me about the SCJs. I only knew the diocesan way of life. But now that I have begun living and studying with the SCJs I have a sense of calm. I understand the difference. During my Come and See Weekend (on my birthday!) I was attracted to the vows that the SCJs must follow, and the charism of the founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon.
I have felt called to the priesthood since I was in fourth grade. I went to a private, Catholic elementary school, and learned about God in school every day. When I transferred to a public high school, I continued to feel called, I continued to be active in my Catholic faith. I have a passion to learn more about God every day of my life and I know that learning about God will never be enough; I need to be a part of community life.
In my free time I love to play basketball and tennis, write poems and quotes, journal, listen to Vietnamese or Christian music, read books, exercise, and especially, learn new things. I also meditate.
Frater Long Nguyen, SCJ
I am Frater Long Nguyen, originally from Thibodaux, LA. I am 40, and after completing my studies at Catholic Theological Union I am now beginning a new ministerial assignment in Mississippi.
I completed my work at CTU while living at Sacred Heart Monastery last year. While there, I was happy to return to St. Martin of Tours parish and enjoyed working with Dn. Chuck Schneider visiting the home-bound, as well as with the Lifeteen Program. Br. Duane Lemke, SCJ, who also does ministry with teens at the parish, was a great support. In addition, I was a driver for those who have difficulties with transportation.
I enjoy finding time for solitude and nurturing the interior life while spending time in nature.
However, I also feel called to live the SCJ charism through ministry with God’s people through communion visits, home visits, prayer groups, Eucharist and Adoration.
Thien Nguyen (novice)
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.
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.
Thuan Nguyen (novice)
My name is Thuan. I was born into a small family in Dong Nai province, Vietnam; there is my mom, my sister and me. My sister is a novice of St. Paul de Chartres.
I studied Chemistry 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.
Hung Pham (novice)
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.
Celsus Robert (candidate)
I am Celsus Neil Robert from the Island of St. Lucia. I first entered the SCJ formation program in January, 2017. After a break, I returned this year in time to start the fall semester. Prior to candidacy with the SCJs, I lived in Los Angeles for three years, during which time I worked with Kaiser Permanente Hospital as a long-term case manager. In my parish, St. John the Evangelist in Los Angeles, I served as a youth minister for three years, a choir member and as a member of the parish council.
I am currently completing my M. Div at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. I have undergraduate degrees in Social Work and Criminal Justice from Cheyney University (Pennsylvania) and an MBA in Healthcare Administration from California Southern University.
I am an extrovert and I enjoy spending time with others in community. I am usually energetic and active and enjoy exploring my creativity.
Jacob Smith (candidate)
My name is Jacob Smith and I am in my second year of candidacy with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. I’m 20 years old and I hail from Houston. I am in my sophomore year of Philosophy at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
I was not raised in a Catholic household; I come from a semi-religious Protestant home where the Catholic Church was looked at with skepticism. However, my love of the history of mankind led me to ponder the truth in my faith. After being confirmed a Lutheran, I left the faith for what I like to call “Christian Agnosticism.” However, the Lord called out to me from the darkness and showed me the light of the Catholic Church and how brightly it burned through the pages of history.
I became fascinated with priestly ministry and approached my local parish, wanting to know what Catholicism was about. Lo and behold, I decided to become Catholic myself. Two years after that first visit to the parish, on April 23, 2017, I received my first Communion and Confirmation.
My fire continued to burn for God, but my passion for history also led me to develop a deep love for other cultures, which drove me to seek out a future as a religious missionary. Taking a bold move, I reached out to the SCJs and learned about their spirituality and founder’s charism, especially their ministry to those who feel rejected by society, before I ultimately decided, after much deliberation, that they were the order God was calling me to. I applied.
In my second year of candidacy, my hobbies include hanging out with my brothers in community, badminton, billiards, and singing both on my own and in a choir, and listening to classical music. I also enjoy reading about international history and discussing it with others interested. I enjoy walks outside to calm my mind and thank God for creation. My ministry is at Marquette University, where I am a member of the Liturgical Choir and Liturgical Preparation Committee, and I also serve Masses and act as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
Truc Tran (novice)
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 with a degree in 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, and I like to read 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. My younger sister is also pursuing a religious vocation.
Michael Wodarczyk (candidate)
I am Michael Wodarczyk from Brookfield, WI, and am 31 years old. Prior to entering the seminary as a candidate for the Priests of the Sacred Heart earlier this year, I worked for a company called Asemzya doing inventory control. My previous education includes a degree in Accounting from St. Norbert College.
I came to know about the Priests of the Sacred Heart when I did preliminary research on religious orders in Milwaukee. I was drawn to the community because of its devotion to Eucharistic Adoration; it is one of my favorite ways of praying. I was also drawn to their parish work.
Some of my hobbies are watching movies, walking and praying. I enjoy relaxing, especially after a busy day. I also enjoy being with my family –– especially when we have gone on cruises together!
Do you feel called to a life of prayer, service and community? Learn more about the Priests of the Sacred Heart (also known by our initials, “SCJ,” or as “Dehonians” after our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon). Contact our vocation director at email@example.com or call 1-800-609-5559.