by The Hoang
I grew up in a devout Catholic family where faith in God was something very important to us. My parents, father Thieu Hoang and mother Mai Nguyen, were immigrants from Vietnam and they had fled to the United States during the Vietnam War. Their beloved country was ravaged by war and religious liberty was suppressed. America was the Promised Land where I could grow up and be free to practice my faith.
I am forever grateful for the sacrifices my parents have made for me. These experiences have really shaped me into the man I am today.
My vocation story began when I was young. I remember how my parents always took me to church on Sundays and I was always curious of what the priest was doing at Mass. I would often ask my mom, Who is that person? or What is he doing? She was patient with me and began to teach me about the Mass and the priest's role in it. I was too young to understand that this was the beginning of my call to the priesthood.
As I grew older, I found myself being involved with my parish, St. Joseph in Owatonna, Minnesota, since my parents were active in their own faith. I loved being there and the people were so kind. However, the thought of priesthood and even church soon was on the backburner when I started high school. I was interested in so many things such as music, literature, and foreign languages.
These interests soon became my idols, and I put a lot of time and effort into them. I wanted to become a teacher and work with kids, so I started to work with the youth at the local Catholic school and with kids in a religious organization. Amidst all of these activities, I was restless and wasn't happy. I remember praying to God one day in adoration and telling him of my frustration and confusion.
I told him that I have been doing everything that I love such as helping kids, yet I wasn't feeling fulfilled or even happy. God simply asked me one question, Do you trust me? I replied with a desperate, Yes. He responded with, Trust in me. Go deeper with me and allow me to become your teacher.
When I heard these words, I felt a great sense of peace. I knew that I had to give of myself to God and to really do something meaningful. I just didn't know what. I soon learned that God wanted to teach me how to truly be happy by surrendering to his will. So I started to let go and really tried to listen to what God wants.
One thing led to another, and I was soon talking to my parish priest who helped me apply to seminary. I promised him one year and that one year has turned to seven years. Each year has brought me closer to God and more happiness as I continue to let him teach me instead of me trying to teach God that my way is better.
The Hoang is a third-year Theology student studying for the Diocese of Winona.