My name is Trung Nguyen and I am from Vietnam. My family is Catholic and I am one of seven children. In Vietnam, my parish has about 7000 parishioners with one priest, and 99 percent of the people are practising Catholics. Mass is every morning at 5am in winter and 4.30am in the summer, with three Masses every Sunday.
Looking back to my vocation, it is based on ‘two yeses’. I became an altar boy when I was 10 years old. One morning, I went to Mass with my father as usual and he went to see the priest after Mass. The priest saw me and asked if I wanted to accompany him as a server. I said the first ‘yes’ that started my journey. I was 12 years old. My main job was preparing the altar and serving at Mass every morning. It is customary in Vietnam for boys to assist priests in parishes and I assisted for seven years.
In 2007, I went to Ho Chi Minh City to study at the university. My major was philosophy. There I began to recognise the strength of my call to priesthood. The question I kept asking myself was: ‘What am I looking for in my life?’ I had always wanted to be a priest and to give the joy and peace I receive from God to all the people I meet in my life. I wanted to serve God and people in this way.
I was in my fourth year at the university in 2011, when I met a priest from New Zealand who was in Vietnam teaching at the seminary. He invited me to come to New Zealand to train for priesthood. I was surprised and thought: ‘Am I brave enough to leave my country? Can I leave my family?’ I prayed I would make the right decision for my life. After many months of praying and talking to my spiritual director, I said ‘yes’. That second ‘yes’ led me to the Palmerston North Diocese.
I arrived in New Zealand on 18 May 2012. I did not know any English but after a long period of learning English in Palmerston North I entered the seminary in Auckland in 2014. Now I am in my third year. I now feel this is my second country and Palmerston North has become my home. I feel the love of the people around me. When I look back on my journey, I know I would not be here without God’s grace through all the prayers of people. They look after me and welcome me into their families. They talk to me as a friend and love me as they love God.
It is not always what we want to do, but rather what we are called to be that will bring peace and happiness to our lives. Like all vocations, there are some challenges on the journey, but the joy and peace when I am with God and people overcomes those difficulties.
Young people, remember that being a sister, a brother or a priest is always an option for your life. If you are thinking about it, feeling the call from God, talk to a priest or trusted person you know. Parents, if your children are interested in the vocation of priesthood, please encourage them and pray for them. I know I would never have been brave enough to walk the path of my vocation without the courage, love and support of my parents.