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My full name is Vincent Hong Dai Nguyen. I was born into a farming family in a rural area of Nhon Hoa Ward, An Nhon Town, Binh Dinh Province (Vietnam). I received a traditional education within a religious family. From 2000-2013, I went to school and stayed with my family.
Growing up in a traditional Catholic family, my parents always guided the children to live with a Christian spirit, helping occasionally in the parish house, participating in classes to improve our life of faith, and living up to the duties of being a Catholic. And then, the years of living with my family ended as I graduated from high school. I took the university entrance exam and passed the entrance exam and went to Ho Chi Minh City.
The process of discerning a vocation started when I went to college. There are many surprises for students transitioning from provinces to cities. For me, the fear of evils, fraud and the city environment helped me to become more active in searching a worthwhile career opportunity that would develop my talents. Day by day, I began to get in tune with the bustling city life. I received a lot of advice regarding the spiritual life from priests, brothers, sisters and my peers while participating in student groups.
I learned a lot from these student groups which, in turn, made me more brave. I was able to participate in apostolic and charitable work. Every month, my student group and I would assist in the shelters, orphanages, hospitals and accompany the priests, brothers and sisters to see patients who are less fortunate. After every trip, I felt that I was still more fortunate than many people and I always thanked God silently.
Since then, I admired the sacrifices of priests and religious, and I hoped to embark on the narrow path of serving others and living for others. I also dreamed of becoming a priest or a brother so I could help more people and be able to go to new lands as a missionary. Having an extroverted nature, a desire to work hard and a common sense nature are qualities, I think, might help me in my future pastoral work.
The college years felt like a long and difficult journey. After school, I had to find a job. My work helped me to have enough money to cover my daily expenses and to go to school. Through work I not only earned a living, but I gained life experiences and discovered different cultural traditions.
Sometimes when I struggled with money, I forgot the goal of my life was to become a priest or brother to help the Church and society. Therefore, every day after studying and working, I often spent short moments at the end of the day thinking about my life, listening to the Lord through my work and my actions and praying to God for help.
As time passed, with the worries of my family’s rice business, I failed to follow God, and I forgot my vocation path. I was fortunate enough to meet a client, who is also my friend, settling in the United States. He introduced me to Catholic scholarships that help Vietnamese students to evangelize in the Church in the United States. I tried to schedule a meeting with the U.S. consulate based in Ho Chi Minh City. It can be said that the interviews for me were very arduous and I believed that it was also the will of God.
I failed the interview twice, but the last time I was granted a visa. After the failure of the interviews, I was extremely disappointed and I thought God would direct me on another path. I have always prayed to Our Lady of Fatima after these events and she seemed to have accepted my prayers. My last interview was a miracle when the consular staff did not ask questions that were too difficult for me as that of the previous times and they finally issued me a visa.
It can be said that my feelings when being granted a visa were extremely terrific, but behind that there was a great worry. My biggest worry was about the language and finding my suitable vocation in an unfamiliar heaven. I came to the United States without an English word, so to speak it was extremely difficult and depressing. I was like a deaf and mute person who could do anything but use sign language. I truly believe that God arranged every one of my challenging adventures for a reason.
Because of my linguistic weakness and my limitations in learning English, it was difficult to find an appropriate vocation for myself. Thankful for the grace of God and my introduction to Father Tuyen Do and Mr. Phong, I realized that Little Rock was a very peaceful land, a missionary land and many people needed help. I find this place has many advantages and it suits my personality and me.
I was even more fortunate to meet Father Jack Vu and Msgr. Scott Friend, who did not mind the long distance coming to see me and talk to me about my vocation journey. Moreover, I am especially grateful to Bishop Anthony Taylor for accepting me as a seminarian of the diocese to continue my study and to take the path of vocation to serve others. I am very grateful to the diocese for receiving and supporting me, especially with your prayers, so that I can stand firm in this journey.
While living and studying at the House of Formation, I received a lot of help from the vocations team and from the seminarians. I made progress with my English skills and enriched my spiritual life. That is why the vocations director, Msgr. Scott Friend, wanted to send me to Assumption Seminary to continue studying the pre-theology program and to further cultivate my spiritual life.
Looking back over my two years as a seminarian of Diocese of Little Rock, I have received so many blessings from God. The place that is considered my second home, welcomes me and helps me on my vocation journey to be a servant to many. More than that, Assumption Seminary helps me incubate my knowledge and cultivate my spiritual life.
Finally, I am convinced that my vocation journey, every step of my way, is always accompanied by God through Mother Mary through those who have helped me. Maybe, they were my best friends on my vocation journey. Although we do not have the same skin color and language, we have the same faith. That's why I need not only your daily prayers but also others. Please pray for me that I may become a good minister in the future as God desires.
If you wish to contact Hong Dai Nguyen, please e-mail Georgina Pena in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published Oct. 11, 2021. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.