On April 30th, Fr. Tien Dinh and Fr. Tom Nguyen returned to Saint Lawrence Seminary High School chapel in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin, to be ordained to the priesthood before the community of students, faculty, staff, family, friends, and Capuchin Friars. This milestone for these two “Sons of Calvary” was especially meaningful as it occurred in the very place where their spiritual journeys began.
Fr. Tien Dinh was born in Vietnam, but raised in Marrero near New Orleans, Louisiana. The second youngest in a family of four brothers and four sisters, he first arrived on campus as a freshman at the age of 14. “My decision to attend St. Lawrence Seminary was a life-changing experience. It was at St. Lawrence, where I met all the people that helped shape me into the person I am today. Everyone played a major role in my growth not only as a person, but also as a Catholic.”
Not only did Saint Lawrence allow Fr. Tien the opportunity to continue to grow in his Catholic Faith, but it also exposed him to the Capuchin Community and their way of life.“Through my observation of the Capuchin friars living on campus, I was able to appreciate their way of life: the way they ministered to people, their prayer life, their community living, and their interactions with one another. It is through these observations that I came to the decision to look at the life of being a Capuchin and a priest.”
Upon graduating from Saint Lawrence in 2005, Fr. Tien joined the Capuchin College Program, attending St. Joseph Seminary on the campus of Loyola University in Chicago. After attending one year at the seminary, he decided to enter the postulancy program, where he lived with Capuchin friars in a community setting – learning about the history of the Capuchin order, experiencing the Capuchin way of life, and doing ministry with Capuchins in the Chicago area.
After completing his postulancy year, and then a year-long novitiate of prayer and discerning of his vocation as a Capuchin, Fr. Tien took his first vows. After completing his BA degree in Sociology and Philosophy at Loyola University, he attended Catholic Theological Union in Chicago for his Masters Degree in Divinity.
Fr. Tom Nguyen shares a similar story as many “Sons of Calvary” do. Fr. Tom is also an alumnus (class of 2004). His family moved from Vietnam and settled in the Houston area, where Fr. Tom was born. His journey, like Fr. Tien’s, began as a freshman at Saint Lawrence Seminary High School.
Fr. Tom says, “My experience at St. Lawrence was a wonderful part of my formation and growth as a young man. I learned so much from living in community and the great understanding that each person in our class was a real gift.” It was the fraternal brotherhood that planted the seed for Fr. Tom. Fraternity is one of the most important values for the Capuchin Franciscans. “It just all happened naturally at St. Lawrence. We eventually become family for one another.”
It is through community living that Fr. Tom learned to step out of his comfort zone and to be open to new understandings and ways of caring for others. He credits the diversity of the community in helping him to see that Church is so much bigger than his small parish in Houston. This is how the seed began to blossom in Fr. Tom’s Capuchin formation.
“The experience of SLS helped me tremendously to discern and to enter into religious life as a Capuchin Franciscan. Someone said to me that those that go to St. Lawrence make great Capuchins, and I can certainly see why. Everything about St. Lawrence embodies the spirituality of the Capuchin Franciscans and it begins to diffuse and come alive in all those that encounter the ‘Hill of Happiness’ and the many people that encounter a ‘Son of Calvary.’”
St. Lawrence was thrilled to welcome these two Sons of Calvary back to share such a joyous occasion. After their ordination, Fathers Tien and Tom will say Mass together in Chicago at St. Henry Parish, a Vietnamese Parish where both have helped out with the youth group. Then they will travel back individually to their places of ministries and hometowns for Masses of Thanksgiving. Fr. Tien will continue serving at St. Dennis Parish in Crow Agency, Montana. Fr. Tom plans to continue his ministry in Detroit at the Solanus Center.
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