After a year of novitiate, John Huan Nguyen and Hubert Senam Kodjovi Liassidji professed their first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians). The profession ceremony took place on August 15, in the main chapel at Sacred Heart Monastery / Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.
It was a multicultural gathering featuring a combined Togolese choir from the parishes of Christ the King in Moline, IL and St. Ambrose in Chicago. Readings and prayers were done in Vietnamese, French, Ewe (national language of Togo) and English. Dehonians from around the world, many at SHSST for the summer ECS /ESL program, were among the concelebrants, as was Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ, vicar general.
Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, provincial superior of the US Province, received the vows. Fr. Francis Vu Tran, SCJ, district superior of Vietnam, was at his side. John Huan Nguyen is a member of the district.
The new SCJs introduce themselves in their own words:
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.” The year was intense, but I am happy to be part of the community. The novitiate can be difficult, but it was also a sweet stage of my life.
During this year I came to love and appreciate Fr. Dehon’s spirituality and his religious experiences. 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.
This past novitiate year has been a great learning experience for me both culturally and spiritually. I have learned much about community life. Living in the novitiate, I experienced God’s mercy and love through the formal teaching we received, but also through interaction with my brothers. Together, we discerned our vocation.The Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart has helped me to become more intimate with the Lord through Eucharistic Adoration, community prayer and my personal prayer.
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.
Frater Hubert Senam Kodjovi Liassidji, SCJ
My name is Hubert Senam Kodjovi Liassidji. I’m originally from Togo in West Africa and I became 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.
While growing up I thought about becoming Protestant. But instead, 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 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 run by the Priests of the Sacred Heart. 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 the most needy people, and further, I become the disciple of Jesus Christ through the teachings of Fr. Dehon.
I do believe that Priests of the Sacred Heart is the religious congregation that really fits my spirituality. Even before I joined the SCJs, I had a special compassion towards the poor, the lowly, the orphans, the oppressed. How do we care for the poor? How can we be the voice of the voiceless? What am I to provide for the hungry? How can I help the abandoned and the marginalized people in the society?
As I 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.
My novitiate year was a life in the desert, and it is comparable to the time the chosen people were in the desert while they were preparing to enter the promised land. The only difference is, as a novice, I applied to be in the “desert” and I brought myself into it. But the chosen people were brought by Moses. It is always a good thing to bring yourself into the desert for spiritual purpose.
My novitiate was a time in which I rediscovered my vocation with the SCJs. It was a time I discovered the zeal, the joy to serve God and to be available for God’s people. The novitiate has prepared me to commit myself by professing my vows and to enter deeply the religious life. I am freely and totally giving myself to the SCJ family. “Religious life is a LIFE, a total self-gift with nothing held back, from the moment of my first profession to my breath,” (S. Shneiders, IHM).
Now, as I profess my first vows, I feel anxious and at the same time full of joy. I am anxious because I know it is a big commitment. Professing my vows is the beginning of a new journey, and this new journey I know will not be easy. But I put my trust in the Lord and his Mother. I am blessed and full of joy to profess my first vows as a member of this religious community. Led by the Spirit, I enter joyfully, full of hope, and I will continue to find lasting fulfillment of my commitment, and see where God is leading me on this journey to become religious and priest.