My New Beginning at Divine Word College

I’m a senior at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa. I was born in Vietnam and moved to the U.S in June 2016. My dad’s brother sponsored my family. Before that, I was a candidate at the minor seminary for my home diocese.

I was undecided about whether to relocate to the United States or continue my vocation journey in Vietnam. Fortunately, a priest who was teaching at the minor seminary told me that he studied English at Divine Word College and shared many things with me about life in the U.S. I was struck when he said, “we still have enough vocations here, but there is a shortage of vocations in the U.S. Not many people have chance to go there, but you do.”

I felt like God was calling me to go out into another place to serve. I got my visa and talked to my bishop and spiritual director about my decision. They respectfully accepted my decision and told me to be assured of their prayers and willingness to help me within their ability, if I continued to pursue my vocation.

Since my parents are over 60 years old, they wanted to stay in Vietnam. However, they were supportive of my wanting to move to the United States. My mom stayed home while my dad came with me to America. He stayed until I was more familiar with my new life here, and then went back to Vietnam.

Living in Alameda, California with my uncle for the first six months, I missed my family and friends in Vietnam. Looking at the photos of my classmates doing ministry in parishes during summer made me cry many times, because I felt like I made the wrong decision.

After three weeks in the U.S. I started working at a Vietnamese restaurant, knowing only a little English. Honestly, I forgot about Divine Word College Seminary. I wanted to go back to Vietnam, but hesitated to tell my dad and my uncle because they worked hard to help me come to the U.S.

Hoang Do and his mother

Then something happened to change my life! My uncle’s friend from Chicago knew the Society of the Divine Word very well. He came and visited us during a trip to California. My dad didn’t ask me anything, even though he knew in his heart that I badly wanted to continue with my priestly vocation.

Dad shared this with my uncle’s friend while I was gone to work. I came home at 5 p.m., and when my uncle’s friend first saw me, the first thing he said to me was, “If you want to know more and maybe join the SVD, don’t worry, I can introduce you to them. They are friends of my family and me.”

I was too happy to say anything. I cried and wondered how God works through people around us.

I received a call from a vocation director named Fr. Anthony Nguyen, SVD, that night. He was caring and open with me as be shared about his vocation. He described his ministry work in poor countries and it touched the bottom of my heart. My vocation lamp was filled with abundant oil!

Fr. Anthony later visited and interviewed me. During my Come and See visit to the college, though it was short, I was welcomed warmly and shown hospitality by members of the DWC community. I learned more about the school and the experience made me want to stay here longer. I went back to California and started working on my application. My bishop and a teacher in the minor seminary helped me by writing recommendation letters. I was accepted and started my first semester in Spring 2017, which I consider as a most gracious moment.

Hoang Do shares a laugh with fellow students

Since then, I always feel happy and grateful knowing that I have received much help from the college, the SVD and the college’s benefactors. I have received opportunities to focus on studying and nurturing my vocation.

This past spring, I was especially honored to be elected as the new president of the student senate.

I’m so thankful to have a chance to learn English, attend college and participate in a wonderful formation program in order to be trained to become a faithful servant of God in the future.

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