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 all have the same call to follow in the footsteps of our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon.
“Overall, I’m just an ordinary guy with a disciple’s heart,” writes our newest candidate, Alfonso Pizano. “I’m grateful and eager to see what God has in store for me as I discern his will in my life all for his greater glory!”
“I am thrilled to see where this life as an SCJ will lead me,” writes Frater Henry Nguyen, “I know it will continue to allow me to help and serve those who are most in need.” Fra. Henry is back at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology to complete his theology studies after a year away for pastoral ministry in Mississippi and and then Ecuador.
Jonathan Tu Nguyen-Vuong, who is a novice this year preparing for first vows, writes that “it will give me great joy to be an SCJ in the US Province. My profession of vows will help me to continue my mission as a follower of Venerable Fr. Leo John Dehon.”
Our candidates, novices and students introduce themselves below (click here to view the photos separately):
Frater (Paul) Phong Hoang, SCJ
My name is (Paul) Phong Hoang. I am 29 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 Come and See weekends, I was attracted to the SCJs’ simplicity, diversity, and community life.
I professed my first vows in August, 2018, and am currently in my sixth year of formation. This year, I am living in Lower Brule, SD, for my pastoral year until August, 2022. I will return to Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology afterward to finish my M.Div program.
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, Dismas Ministry, and Catholic Charities.
This year, my ministries will be mainly at the six parishes we serve in South Dakota. In my spare time, I enjoy playing soccer, billiards, and making YouTube videos.
Frater Henry Nguyen, SCJ
Hello! I am Henry and I am in my seventh year of formation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University, Monterey Bay, in 2011. Prior to entering formation, I worked for an insurance company for five years and before I left, I was a sales and marketing trainer for their agents.
I give thanks to God for meeting the SCJs through the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement when I came to Franklin, WI, in 2009 for a conference. I was attracted to the SCJs by how they were moved from the Eucharist out into ministry and the lives of the people. Simply put, the spirit of availability.
I professed my first vows with the SCJs on August 15, 2018. I recently renewed my vows on August 12 at Sacred Heart Monastery after completing my pastoral year. My pastoral year was split into two parts; I spent the first seven months in northern Mississippi, working as a religious social minister for Sacred Heart Southern Missions. I felt that I was able to do the work Fr. Dehon wanted his Dehonians to do when he wrote in his diary “I would like to see no one come to us who does not leave a better person.”
The second half of my pastoral year took me to Ecuador to study Spanish and to accompany the people there. I found this experience to be enriching and challenging, being in an unknown culture during the midst of a pandemic. Taken out of my comfort zone, I believe I was able to learn more about myself as I got to know the streets of Bahía de Caráquez.
I am currently in my fourth year of Theology, studying for an MDiv at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. I anticipate graduating this upcoming Spring, 2022.
I am also participating in a six-month final vows program with Fr. Jan de Jong, SCJ (final vows director).
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. During my free time, I enjoy listening to music, watching movies, and exploring the outdoors. In 2020, when the pandemic slowed things down, I started to run more. I am happy to say that I have completed two virtual half-marathons. Slowly but surely. Hopefully as things get better, I can finally participate in an in-person half marathon.
Jonathan Tu Nguyen-Vuong (novice)
Hi everyone! My name is Jonathan Tu Nguyen-Vuong. I am 20 years old, which makes me the youngest member of the community. I was born in Riverside, CA. My family moved to Louisiana in 2004 and I lived in Broussard, LA, for 15 years. I am a novice with the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJs) now, currently living at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Franksville, WI. I put classes at Cardinal Stritch University on hold for this academic year due to the Novitiate, but I’ll return in the upcoming school year. Before Novitiate, I was working on my bachelor’s in Humanities: Contemporary Society, having a mixture of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies courses.
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, LA. Fr. Quang is good friends with the pastor of the Vietnamese community there. 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 between diocesan priests and religious orders. During my Come and See Weekend (on my birthday!) I was attracted to the vows that the SCJs take, the charism and spirituality of the founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon, and the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
After Novitiate, I anticipate professing First Vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart with my two fellow novices. It will give me great joy to be an SCJ in the US Province. My profession of vows will help me to continue my mission as a follower of Venerable Fr. Leo John Dehon.
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. I minister at Dismas Ministry in Milwaukee, WI. I also minister as an assistant catechist to the Vietnamese First Communion kids at St. Martin of Tours Church in Franklin, WI.
Frater Long Nguyen, SCJ
Late this summer the news showed images of Hurricane Ida thrashing through small bayou towns such as Thibodaux and Houma. According to a news article, “pine trees snapped in half like pencils and oak trees cracked open like coconuts.” I am distraught by the damage and the losses that my hometown suffered. Hurricane Ida surfaced memories of Hurricanes Andrew, Isabelle, Katrina and Harvey.
I am Fra. Long Nguyen, SCJ, 42, and have been in religious life for a long time. “Forever” characterizes my “being in formation” – always waiting. After a year of the pandemic in Mississippi, 2021 led me to Lower Brule, SD. Currently, I am waiting for diaconate and priestly ordination.
I enjoy working up a rapport with people in and outside the parish. Earlier, I took a walk down the main street in Chamberlain where I met a parishioner from Reliance. She was out walking her dog. We struck up a nice conversation. On the same day, I visited with a Filipino man who ran a food stand at the River City Nights last June. He rides his bicycle down the main street regularly.
Confirmation classes will begin in Reliance this Wednesday while First Communion classes will begin in Kennebec this Sunday.
Meditation has become a hobby. I always take time for deep breaths, concentration, internal dialogue, feelings, imagination, intentions, etc. I focus on the interior life. One of my goals is to help people protect themselves and strengthen their minds. They protect themselves and strengthen their minds by tuning into their internal life where God can dwell. This is where religious practices and devotion come in.
I look forward to serving in sacramental ministry.
Frater Thuan Nguyen, SCJ
Hi, my name is Thuan. 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 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 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 go to the US Province to enter postulancy and the novitiate because we did not have these programs in Vietnam at that time.
I am a professed member and a pre-theology student. I like listening to music and being alone with God in a peaceful place.
Frater Hung Pham, SCJ
Hello. My name is Hung Pham. I was born and raised in Vietnam. I moved to Houston in 2008. I graduated in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Houston in 2015. Before entering SCJ candidacy, I worked at the ALS Oil and Gas Company in Houston as a Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) analyst and started there in 2015.
I am a member of the Dong Hanh group in Houston, also known as a Christian Life Community group (CLC). I volunteered to teach Vietnamese and catechism at Martyr Church in Houston from 2013 until 2017. I am currently volunteering to serve meals at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, WI. In addition, I am helping to teach catechism at St. Martin of Tours parish in Franklin, WI.
I always want to discover more about the SCJ Rule of Life and Dehonian charism. I want to be a prophet of love, servant of reconciliation, and give attention to humankind’s appeals through Dehonian spirituality. I also want to live in a spirit of love and reparation so that I can dedicate myself more intimately to God’s and the Dehonians’ service. I took vows with the Priest of the Sacred Heart on August 15, 2020.
I lived in Chicago as a candidate in 2017. I studied Philosophy and Theology at Catholic Theological Union. I am currently attending Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Franklin (Hales Corners), WI. It is my second year of theology. I look forward to requesting the Ministry of Lector in the spring of 2022. And I am applying for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in the summer of 2022.
In my free time I love to play soccer, cycling, gardening, fishing, and walking.
Alfonso Pizano (candidate)
I’m Alfonso! I’m 42 years old and was raised in the California sunshine in the city of Whittier (Los Angeles County). I have a bachelor’s in English from Mount St. Mary’s University, and a master’s in Education from Loyola Marymount University. I also studied for a second master’s in Philosophy at Fordham University in New York. I am currently working on an MDiv at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology while I discern and prepare for Catholic priesthood with the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
I am newly received into the SCJ community as a candidate, and I bring with me a wealth of life experiences that will hopefully be useful in building up God’s Kingdom as we strive to serve the world with open minds and hearts by being agents of reconciliation and peace.
Before joining the Priests of the Sacred Heart, I was a Catholic elementary school teacher and have taught everything from 1st to 8th grade. In addition to teaching at various Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I’ve taught in San Francisco, Phoenix and Guadalajara, Mexico. My work experience also includes a long stint at Disneyland, where I peddled souvenirs, danced as a snowman in the “Christmas Fantasy Parade,” piloted the Monorail, and sailed submarines on quest to find Nemo.
Along with my passions for teaching and Disney Parks, I love going to the movies. Disney and Pixar films hold a very special place in my heart. I enjoy the theater and took great advantage of Broadway while I was a student in New York. I saw about 40 plays and musicals while I was there.
Overall, I’m just an ordinary guy with a disciple’s heart. I’m grateful and eager to see what God has in store for me as I discern his will in my life all for his greater glory!
Jacob Smith (novice)
My name is Jacob Smith and I am blessed to be called a Novice with the Priests of the Sacred Heart. I’m 21 years old and I hail from Houston, Texas. Though it is on hold for my Novitiate, I am also a Philosophy student at Marquette University.
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. I ultimately decided, after much deliberation, that they were the order God was calling me to. I applied.
As a Novice I study the life of our founder, Ven. Leo John Dehon, and the spirituality of our Congregation. Fr. Byron is our novice master. My co-novices and I also have various chores around the house. In my case, I take care of our chickens and act as chapel sacristan.
Since entering the Novitiate, I have found that my appreciation for simple things, such as community prayer and walks outside, has grown immensely. I love spending time outside with the Lord and with my music (favorites: Tudor Polyphony, J.S. Bach). Music is my greatest passion, and I sing both on my own as well as in choirs. I also love studying and discussing Church history. My ministry during this Novitiate year will primarily be catechesis for post-first communicants at St. Martin of Tours Parish, but I also look forward to cantoring opportunities at Sacred Heart Seminary.
Frater Truc Tran, SCJ
Hello everyone! I am Truc Tran and am 36 years old. I was born in NgheAn Province, Vietnam; I graduated with a degree in Construction Engineering in 2011. I am in my seventh year of formation with the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SCJ). I am living at Sacred Heart Monastery and am in the MDiv program at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology (SHSST).
I have two sisters and two brothers. I am the second child in my family. My youngest sister is also following a religious vocation. My parents are farmers.
In 2015, I went to Saigon City to discern my religious vocation. I joined the Priests of the Sacred Heart on August 6th, 2015. In my first year, I had to focus on studying in preparation for the Philosophy entrance exam. In 2016, I took the academy exam and passed it to start my Philosophy program at Alphonsus School of Redemptorist Congregation in Saigon.
I completed my philosophy program in May, 2018. Three months later, I went to the United States to study in the ECS (ESL) program at SHSST. After six months, I was accepted by the SCJs to enter the Postulancy. I have had many classes about the founder’s charism and spiritual life, as well as in the SCJs’ formation process. I began my Novitiate on August 14, 2019. The Novitiate was a time for me to learn more about the charism and spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon, the founder of the Congregation. We also studied the vows (poverty, chastity, and obedience) and the SCJ Rule of Life. These were all significant classes for me. They helped me to understand more deeply about our founder and our Congregation. I professed my First Vows on August 15, 2020, in the Sacred Heart Chapel at SHSST. On August 12, 2021, I renewed my vows with the SCJs in Saint Joseph’s Chapel at Sacred Heart Monastery.
I am currently volunteering to serve meals at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, WI. In my free time, I love to play soccer, billiards, exercise, listen to Vietnamese or English music, and read books. I also enjoy learning new things, especially in IT and video work.
Michael Wodarczyk (novice)
I am Michael Wodarczyk from Brookfield, WI, and am 33 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.
Currently I am in the Novitiate. Before entering Novitiate, I completed pre-Theology 2 and I will be in Theology 1 in fall of 2022. After Novitiate, I hope to take my first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
I like movies. I like spending time with family and friends.
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 or Cardinal Stritch 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 email@example.com or call 1-800-609-5559.
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