‘To fall in love with Jesus is to fall in love with his people’

Photo: Stephen Brashear Photo: Stephen Brashear

Transitional deacon Thomas Viet Tran will become the Archdiocese of Seattle’s newest priest when he is ordained by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne on June 6 during a 10 a.m. Mass at St. James Cathedral.

The cathedral is often packed for ordinations, but this one will proceed even if COVID-19 restrictions mean only a handful of people can be present. (The Mass will be livestreamed on the Archdiocese of Seattle Facebook page and Vimeo channel.)

“It just goes to show that the church continues to move forward even in the midst of the difficulties of these unique times,” said Father Bryan Dolejsi, director of vocations.

Deacon Tran will bring “joy and energy,” a “definite love for the poor” and a “deep sense of prayer life” to his priesthood, Father Dolejsi said.

“Both praying for the people, but also wanting to share the invitation for people to grow deeper in their spirituality,” he said.

The archdiocese also will be ordaining new transitional deacons in the coming weeks. For details, or to learn more about vocations to the priesthood or religious life, visit SeattleVocations.com or search SeattleVocations on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo: Courtesy Tomas Viet Tran

About Thomas Viet Tran

Born: January 1, 1978, in Dalat, Vietnam

Home parish: St. Benedict, Seattle

Seminaries: Bishop White (Spokane) and Mount Angel (St. Benedict, Oregon)

Favorite field of study: Liturgy, because when we gather to worship the Triune God in the Mass or the Divine Office we are united with the angels, the saints, the living and the dead to praise God. At Mass, we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died for our sins. Then we bring this good news to others who do not know who Jesus is.

Favorite saint: It is hard to pick a favorite, but St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II have most influenced my vocation to the priesthood. In high school, my cousin who is a nun gave me two books about Mother Teresa and her work with the poorest of the poor in India. One sentence has stood out to me ever since: “Do small things with great love.” Pope John Paul II was the pope I grew up with. I was inspired by his profound love for humanity and his holiness. He witnessed God’s immense love for everyone, particularly the poor and the needy. I hope to reflect these values in my priesthood.

Hobbies: Following sports (especially soccer and college basketball), hiking, cooking for others and myself, fishing and walking — my goal is 12,000 steps per day. I like to spend my quiet time in the woods, on the river trails, or at the beach. That is the best way for me to connect with nature, refresh and relax.

What was your life like before you began formation for the priesthood?

I was raised in a devout Catholic family. I am the oldest of five children. I have one brother and three sisters. After graduating from public high school in Vietnam, I spent five years working on the family farm. During this time, I was involved with a local community affiliated with a Cistercian monastery. I assisted the youth group by working with and helping the poor in the region. In 2000, I entered the Abbey of Chau Son in Vietnam and then moved to the Abbey of New Clairvaux in California in 2003 to pursue a monastic life. However, I experienced many health problems due to severe allergies. In 2010, I relocated to Seattle, where I connected with friends from Vietnam. That year, I applied to the formation program for the priesthood of the archdiocese, and I was accepted
in 2011.

What person or experience most influenced you to answer the call to the priesthood?

Two people really helped me to answer God’s call to the priesthood, and interestingly they were not priests. The first was an elderly widow in my neighborhood when I was growing up in Vietnam. She walked barefoot to daily Mass at about 4:30 a.m. Every time she passed by my house, if she did not see my room light on, she would call me by name so I could wake up and go to Mass at 5 a.m. I was an altar boy for many years.

Secondly, Sister Joanne, a missionary in Dalat, introduced me to the prayer of the Divine Office. When I was with the youth group helping the poor, the homeless and the orphans before I become a monk, I met with her monthly to discuss religious vocations and the priesthood. We promised to pray for each other no matter where we might be.

What do you most look forward to about being a priest?

St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Do small things with great love.” This always reminds me that whatever I do, big or small, for the least of God’s people with great love, I do it for Jesus. I look forward to serving the people of God in the Archdiocese of Seattle. I am excited to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments, to pass on the Catholic faith and to walk with people on their journeys toward heaven. To be able to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus, I must have a relationship with Jesus through prayers and devotions and a loving heart like Jesus’ toward everyone. In other words, to fall in love with Jesus is to fall in love with his people.

Northwest Catholic - June 2020