Fr. Joseph Chau Nguyen, SVD
Vocation Director, Central Region
Born and raised in Dong Nai, Vietnam, Fr. Joseph Chau Nguyen came to the United States in 1993, after spending a year and a half in a Philippine transition camp in Bataan. “My vocation began when I lived in the camp,” he says. As he observed the many Filipinos around him who lived in poverty, without education or spiritual guidance, this made a big impression on Fr. Joseph.
“They changed my life,” he says. “I realized how lucky I was. I nurtured a hope of becoming a missionary to serve the poor.” He met two SVD missionaries who were working in the Philippines. “I was touched by their dedication to serve others, especially people from another culture,” Fr. Joseph says. “They introduced me to Divine Word Missionaries and advised me to pray about my vocation.”
After he came to Philadelphia, Fr. Joseph continued to seek spiritual advice from other sisters, brothers and priests. One day, as he read some magazines, he saw an article about Divine Word College seminary in Epworth, Iowa. “I was very interested in that article,” he says, “and in August, 1995, I entered DWC.” After graduation in May of 2002, Fr. Joseph completed his novitiate formation and later spent one year in the SVD Southern Province for his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP), helping the evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. He was ordained on May 24, 2008, at Techny, Illinois.
Many people in the SVD and DWC communities also know Fr. Joseph as “J.C. the Magician” – the SVD who entertains at Lunar New Year celebrations and other events with his array of magic tricks and trained white doves. “While I was in the Novitiate,” he says, “Fr. Jim Bergin, SVD, advised me to find a hobby.” Fr. Joseph found a magic store in Chicago where he was able to learn magic tricks at no charge. “These performances help me to open doors, reaching children and young people,” he says, “and capturing their interest and attention.”
Though Fr. Joseph’s first assignment as an SVD was scheduled to be in Lafayette, Louisiana, he was asked to assume the role of new Vocation Director for the South Central Region instead. “The missionary is a person who brings hope, happiness, peace and good news of God,” he says. “I follow Jesus’ footsteps to carry His mission to other people and cultures – to serve, care for and love one another as Jesus has done for me.”
Fr. Joseph’s motto is printed on his ordination card: “Here I am, Lord (1Sam:3).”