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My name is Minh Phong Joseph Nguyen, and I was born in a Vietnamese Catholic family. I had a beautiful childhood with many, great, happy memories with my grandparents, parents, sister and my two brothers. My parents always taught me to be a man and have faith in God.
A vocation is a divine calling to God’s service. My call to serve God began when I was asked by my family, my siblings and my priest about my intentions and desires to lead a consecrated life. Then, in seventh grade, our parish offered a vocation class to help us recognize our purpose in life. What do we live for? What is our purpose? Who do we live for? How do we live our lives? More and more, my desire and devotion to God kept growing and I realized I already belonged to God.
After three years, I stopped going to the vocation class due to some academic challenges. This academic pressure pulled me away from God, and I began to think that I did not have the aptitude for religious life, as I once thought. It was not until the end of my senior year that I realized that even though I had abandoned God, he still loves me dearly.
One day, as I was driving, I began to fall asleep and almost crashed into a huge traffic sign. At that moment, I felt as if a hand pulled me out and back to the road on that motorcycle that was covered with plants. I knew God was always by my side and was constantly protecting me. His love for me was unconditional, yet in return I loved him so little. Quickly after this incident, I returned to the vocation class and was determined to fully dedicate myself to God.
Today, as our society grows, people start to lose faith in themselves, in others and in God. By observing my life and that of others, I have come to realize that true happiness is only found in God, and that nothing will ever give us everlasting joy and happiness like Jesus Christ. With faith, I began the path toward priesthood. October 6, 2013 was the first time I participated with the Redemptorist Missionaries, whose aim was to imitate the word of God for the poor. My wish was to offer my whole life in service to God. After spending time with the brothers at the retreat, I was able to find balance and harmony in my life.
On Sept. 16, 2014, a day before my 19th birthday, I became a member of the Redemptorist Mission in Vietnam. I was jealous of my twin brother because he was able to spend our birthday with family, while I was away and by myself. Was it fair? I soon found my answer. I had God by my side, and even though my family was far away, they always thought of me and supported me. I stayed with the Redemptorist Missionaries in Vietnam for three and a half years, while attending college.
During my mission in Vietnam’s highlands in 2015, I had the opportunity to help people of different ethnic minorities. It changed my whole perspective of life. Consecrated life is not always as easy as I had thought. There were many challenges due to the differences in language, culture and traditions that I was able to discover and experience through the Redemptorist Mission. Life’s challenges and difficulties can prevent us from getting closer to God and without faith, we will fall.
My religious path changed in April 2017, when my family migrated to the United States. Despite this move, I was determined to still devote my life to God. Through Father Jack Vu, and Father Tuyen Do, God brought me to the Diocese of Little Rock. I was able to meet Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, Msgr. Scott Friend and other priests, all men of great compassion.
Every person in this life has a purpose, and I do too. God created me, through my parents. He gave me a name. Phong means wind. I will be the wind that carries the love of God to everyone around me, and that is my purpose. I am always proud of that. Thanks to God, I will always try my hardest for a life as his servant. I am not very talented, but I will use everything God has given me as tools to contribute to life to bring joy and happiness to others, especially everyone in the Diocese of Little Rock.
I could see myself becoming part of this diocese; start my consecrated life, and be with brothers and priests who are welcoming and full of love. After a year of living here, everybody in the House of Formation has loved and supported me a lot in the vocation, in the pastoral work and also in the work of labor of everyday activities. The other seminarians help me to fulfill the mission given and to grow in the love of God and everyone.
Looking back on my vocation journey, I see that God loves me very much, and he has used many ways to train and help me grow in my religious life. Thanks to the grace of God and the caring interest of everybody, I have become more and more convinced of my vocation.
I will persevere with the grace and the love of God. Every day, I will try my best to serve the Lord and serve others. My grandmother told me that I would not be able to complete any tasks unless I pray to the Lord, and she was right. Please continue to pray for my vocation. God bless us all!
If you wish to contact Minh Phong Nguyen, please e-mail Maria Izquierdo-Roque in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published Sept. 17, 2019. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.