Meet our 2023-24 students!

“What particularly resonates with me about Dehonian spirituality is the congregation’s vision, which beckons us to approach life with open hearts and minds. This vision encapsulates the essence of bearing witness to the transformative power of God’s love in the world.”

– Candidate Michael Ugochukwu Iwuchukwu

Preparing for religious life

Each year we ask our students in formation to introduce themselves in their own words. Reflecting the diversity of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians), as well as the Church itself, they represent a wide variety of cultural, educational and professional backgrounds. Yet they each have the same call to follow in the footsteps of our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon. Most of our students attend Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology; also, this year two of our students are doing “field education,” gaining experience in full-time ministry before completing their studies.

We invite you to meet our 2023-24 formation community…

Frater Jonathan Tu Nguyen-Vuong, SCJ
Professed: August 2022

Favorite scripture passage:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Philippians 4:13

Frater Jonathan

Hi everyone! My name is Jonathan Tu Nguyen-Vuong. I am 22 years old, which still makes me the youngest member of the community. I was born in Riverside, CA, but my family moved to Louisiana in 2004. I continue to have family in Broussard, LA, where I lived for 15 years.

I just celebrated my first anniversary in vows. For the start of this academic year I am a member of the St. Michael’s Community in Nesbit, MS, where I am serving with Sacred Heart Southern Missions, Sacred Heart School, and the six parishes that make up the Catholic Parishes of Northwest Mississippi.

More specifically, I am an assistant catechist to second grade students in preparation for their First Communion, a volunteer at Sacred Heart School (helping both during the day and with the afterschool care program), and a minister to clients at the Food Pantry in Walls, MS.

Next year I will return to Wisconsin to continue my undergraduate studies.

I learned about the Priests of the Sacred Heart through Fr. Quang Nguyen, SCJ.  When he was province vocation director he celebrated Mass at my home parish of St. Jules Catholic Church in Lafayette, LA. Fr. Quang is good friends with the pastor of the Vietnamese community there. After that Mass, he and I chatted a bit. I had been thinking of a vocation and he asked a question that inspired me to consider pursuing that 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 Priests of the Sacred Heart. I only knew about diocesan priests. During my Come and See Weekend with the SCJs (on my birthday!) I learned about the vows that the SCJs must follow, the charism and spirituality of the founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon. I learned about the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I want to be a Dehonian – an SCJ – because I want to spread the Love of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to all those I have met and will meet. I seek “Sint Unum” in my life, the lives of others, and for the world.

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 am also working on my meditation skills.

Frater Hung Pham, SCJ
Professed: August 2020

Favorite scripture passage:

“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love”

John 15:9

Frater Hung

Hello! My name is Hung Pham. I was born and raised in Vietnam and moved to Houston in 2008. I graduated from the University of Houston in 2015 with a degree in Petroleum Engineering and worked at the ALS Oil and Gas Company in Houston as a Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) analyst before applying to be a candidate with the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

I professed my first vows on August 15, 2020, and continue to want to discover more about our SCJ Rule of Life and SCJ charism, our commitment to oblation. I desire to live in the spirit of love and reparation by following Dehonian spirituality to become a prophet of love and a servant of reconciliation. As a Dehonian, I am blessed in many ways, such as having daily Adoration and Mass; plus, I am constantly learning things from my fellow SCJs in community.

I initially studied philosophy and theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and have now completed my third year of studies at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. I have been a Minister of Care at the University of Chicago Hospital, and I completed the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston during the summer of 2022. These experiences have helped me to learn how to provide spiritual care for the sick. With patients I always try to listen with a compassionate presence.

I am now doing my pastoral year at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Houston. I’ve been involved in marriage preparation, quinceañeras, and baptism preparation, plus I have worked with altar servers, lectors, and our faith formation groups. This experience is helping me to apply what I have learned in the seminary to real life situations.

Returning to Houston for my pastoral year has allowed me to once again be active in the Dong Hanh group, also known as a Christian Life Community group (CLC). I was involved with the group when I lived in Houston before becoming a Dehonian candidate. This group helped me to grow in my spiritual life.

I am happy to be a Dehonian, and it is my desire is to continue to develop a deeper understanding and relationship with God as a Dehonian.

In my free time I love playing soccer, cycling, gardening, fishing, walking, and running.

Deacon Paul Phong Hoang, SCJ
Professed: August 2018

Note: the following was written by Dn. Paul in September, 2023. He has since graduated from SHSST with his M.Div. and was ordained to the diaconate. As of January, 2024, he is a member of the pastoral team that serves six parishes in northern Mississippi. Click here to read about and view photos from his ordination.

Favorite scripture passage:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:68

Frater Paul

My name is (Paul) Phong Hoang. I am 31 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 bachelor’s degree in Biology. My uncle in Houston recommended that I reach out to the Priests of the Sacred Heart during my initial discernment. At the SCJ Come and See weekends I was attracted to the SCJs’ simplicity, diversity, and community life.

What resonates with me in our Dehonian Spirituality is the focus on love, as well as the image of the Sacred Heart. It seems generic yet profoundly universal and necessary in our world. Love is what ultimately captivates and converts the heart. I joined the community in January 2016 and took my final vows this year in May 2023. Last summer, I spent nine weeks in Quito, Ecuador, studying Spanish for future ministry. Currently, I am in my last semester of Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

I’ve been in various ministries since I joined the community, including the ESL program with the Vietnamese Association in Uptown Chicago, the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement (TNTT), St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care in Milwaukee, Dismas Ministry, Juvenile Jail visitation, and Catholic Charities. I will be returning to TNTT this year and volunteer at St. Martin of Tours, a Dehonian parish in the Milwaukee area. In my spare time, I enjoy playing soccer, billiards, and having coffee.

Frater Thuan Nguyen, SCJ
Professed: August 2020

Favorite scripture passage:

“Do not forget the works of the Lord”

Psalms 78: 7b

Frater Thuan

Hi, my name is Thuan Nguyen. I am a professed member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart and currently a second-year theology student at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. I was born into a small family in Dong Nai Province, Vietnam; there is my mom, my sister, and me.

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 a student with the community.

I contacted Fr. Thai, the vocation director, and I met with 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 initial 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 come to the US Province to enter postulancy and the novitiate because we did not have these programs in Vietnam at that time.

Being with the SCJs for over eight years, the most important thing for me about Dehonian Spirituality – which I embrace to grow and discern my vocation – is living with God in a life of oblation. Living oblation and renewing my commitment to it frequently throughout the day helps remind me of the good deeds the Lord has poured upon me in my life, therefore one of my favorites biblical quotes is “Do not forget the works of the Lord” (Psalms 78: 7b).

Frater Jacob Smith, SCJ
Professed: August 2022

Favorite scripture passage:

“When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Sir, come and see.’ And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him'”

John 11:32-36

Frater Jacob

Hello! I am Jacob A. E. Smith. Originally from Houston, I’m 23, in my second year of temporary vows, and my sixth year with the community. Last May I graduated from Marquette University with a BA in Philosophy and a double minor in Theology and History. I really enjoyed my time there, and Philosophy has continued to be a passion, in particular the writings of Martin Heidegger and Saint Anselm.

My ministry experiences have included assisting with the ECS Program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, working at Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Mississippi in the midst of COVID, training altar servers at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Houston, and during the past summer, serving our retired SCJs at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake. I also was blessed with the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Portugal last August and was able to assist with our communications from it.

I discovered the Dehonians through Vision Magazine’s Vocation Match Quiz when I began discerning the priesthood. The Dehonians were one of about 20 communities that were recommended to me, but they were the first to reach out! I think that initial enthusiasm and excitement was a big reason that I was eager to discern with the community. I decided to be a Dehonian as opposed to other congregations because the Dehonians offer a wide variety of ways to serve.

Since becoming a candidate, it has been the witness of so many priests and brothers in our congregation that has kept me here. The impact of wonderful men like Fr. Bob Tucker, Fr. Ed Killianski, Fr. Ed Griesemer, and Fr. John Czyzynski show me what religious life is. I want to create joy and peace as they have through my own acts of love and reparation. Our charism is multifaceted and can be lived in many different ways and ministries, but these men and many others demonstrate just what an impact it can have both on the individual and the people we serve. All of these Dehonians helped form the Dehonian I am now and am becoming.

Frater Truc Tran, SCJ
Professed: August 2020

Favorite scripture passage:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14-15

Frater Truc

Hello everyone! My name is Truc Tran and I am 37 years old. I was born in NgheAn Province, in the middle of Vietnam. I graduated with a degree in Construction Engineering in 2011. I have two sisters and two brothers; I am the second child in my family. My youngest sister is also following a religious vocation in Vinh Diocese, Vietnam. My parents are farmers.

In 2015, I went to Saigon City to discern my vocation. In 2016 I began my philosophy studies at Alphonsus School of Redemptorist Congregation, also in Saigon.

After completing my philosophy studies, I came to the United States in August, 2018. After a year in the ECS program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, I entered the novitiate. It was a time for deep prayer and learning more about the Dehonian charism, the vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience), and the SCJ Rule of Life. These were all significant for me. They helped me to understand more deeply our founder and our Congregation. I professed my First Vows on August 15, 2020. I am in the eighth year of formation and three years of temporary vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I want to discover more deeply the SCJs’ Rule of Life and the Dehonian charism.

I am a member of the Sacred Heart Monastery community, in my second year studying for my MDiv at SHSST. In spring I look forward to requesting the Ministry of Acolyte and will then apply for my pastoral year.

This year my ministries include volunteering at Friedens Food Pantries, which serves people in the Milwaukee area who live with food insecurity.  In my free time I enjoy playing soccer, exercising, fishing, listening to music, and reading books. And I always enjoy learning new things.

Frater Michael Wodarczk, SCJ
Professed: August 2022

Favorite scripture passage:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Frater Michael

I am Michael Wodarczyk from Brookfield, WI, and am 34 years old. Prior to entering the seminary as a candidate for the Priests of the Sacred Heart I went to St. Norbert College where I earned a bachelor’s of Business Administration with a major in Accounting. I worked for Asenzya in Oak Creek, WI, as an inventory control clerk. I was active in my home parish, serving as a lector and as a Eucharistic minister. I also worked with RCIA.

I came to know about the Priests of the Sacred Heart when I did preliminary research on religious orders in Milwaukee. I found the SCJs on a website for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I was drawn to the community because of its parish ministry and daily Eucharistic Adoration.

I took first vows in August of 2022, and renewed my vows in July.

I wanted to profess vows with the SCJs because of community life, daily Eucharistic Adoration and prayer. I have grown in my faith, and it is the structure of religious life that has made that growth possible.

Currently I am in Theology 2, studying at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology.

I like movies. I like spending time with family and friends.

Michael Ugochukwu Iwuchukwu
First-year candidate

Favorite scripture passage:

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

1 Corinthians 4:7


My name is Michael Ugochukwu Iwuchukwu and I am 31 years old. I am the youngest of four children, and my beloved parents are now in eternal rest. Hailing from Nigeria, I was nurtured in the warm embrace of a Catholic household, where love and joy were abundant. My educational journey led me to attain degrees in Philosophy and Theology in 2015 and 2019, respectively.  In 2021, I began to pursue a master’s degree in religion, theology, and philosophy at Drew University, located in Madison, New Jersey. I graduated in May. Currently, I am a first-year candidate with the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

My journey with the Priests of the Sacred Heart began in the summer of 2022, during one of my personal retreats in North Dakota. It was during this retreat that I encountered the inspiring life of the founder of the congregation, Venerable Leo John Dehon, a life that resonated deeply with my own personal experiences. Additionally, I was captivated by the congregation’s mission, which centers around spreading God’s boundless love to wherever it may be found, with the aim of ushering in the reign of God’s kingdom on earth.

Reflecting on my journey in the present, I can discern that I have truly been a child of the Sacred Heart throughout my life; I was born in Sacred Heart Catholic Hospital, received my high school education at Sacred Heart Catholic College, and currently find myself studying at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology as a candidate for the Priests of the Sacred Heart.

What particularly resonates with me about Dehonian spirituality is the congregation’s vision, which beckons us to approach life with open hearts and minds. This vision encapsulates the essence of bearing witness to the transformative power of God’s love in the world.

Our formators

Our formation program is based at Sacred Heart Monastery, located on the campus of Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. Directing the program this year are Frs. Joseph Thien Dinh, SCJ and Fr. Frank Wittouck, SCJ. Between them, Frs. Joseph and Frank represent almost 100 years of religious life as members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. Before taking part in the international formators program at our Generalate in Rome, Fr. Joseph earned a Doctorate in Ministry from the Houston Graduate School of Theology. He has served in parish ministry in Wisconsin and Texas, and was a member of the Provincial Council.

Looking at Fr. Frank’s curriculum vitae, it seems like he has done just about everything! He has been a teacher, spiritual director and administrator in the province’s seminaries, a military chaplain (serving in Korea, Germany, Kuwait and in the United States), a prison chaplain, as well as a parish pastor. A lifelong student, he has certificates and degrees from Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Kilroe Seminary, the Catholic University of America, the University of Detroit, the Austin-Presbyterian Seminary, the University of San Francisco and Loyola University New Orleans. He is officially retired, but remains active in a wide variety of ministries, including mentoring our students preparing for religious life. 

Fr. Joseph
Fr. Frank

What about you?

We are the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians, SCJs). We live in community, are inspired by daily Eucharistic Adoration, and in a fragmented world we believe unity to be possible. Our ministries are diverse, as are our members. Yet our goal is the same: to work with a common heart in service to God’s people, reflecting the love of Christ as experienced by our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon. Are you called to a life of prayer and service based in the love of the Sacred Heart? Are you called to religious life as a priest or brother?

Do you have a question for our vocation director? Are you discerning a vocation to the priesthood and/or religious life?

Click here to contact our vocation director!

Meet our 2023-24 students!

Fr. Guy Blair, SCJ

Fr. Juan Carlos “Juancho” Castañeda Rojas, SCJ

Fr. Byron Haaland, SCJ

Br. Duane Lemke, SCJ

Fr. Christianus Hendrik, SCJ

Fr. John Czyzynski, SCJ

20 Questions with Dehonians