Newly ordained Divine Word Missionaries represent a changing Church

The Chicago province ordination class of 2009 follows trend in the Catholic Church

According to a recent survey conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), six percent of 2009 ordinands in the United States come from Vietnam and more than 10 percent of the class was born in Asia.

Most Rev. Leonard J. Olivier, SVD, retired auxiliary bishop of Washington, DC, ordained five of these men on May 23 in Techny, Ill. The newly ordained Divine Word Missionaries—four originally from Vietnamese and one from China—will carry out their first assignments in the United States and abroad.

In recent years, the Society of the Divine Word in North America has ordained more young men of Asian descent than from any other cultural group. Last year, the Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago Province ordained nine men from Asian backgrounds.

“This year, we are blessed with five,” said Rev. Mark Weber, provincial superior of the Chicago Province, the religious order’s largest province in the Western Hemisphere. “Having been immigrants themselves, they have a keen understanding of the challenges that the people from other nations and from impoverished situations face.”

Vocations from the Vietnamese community, in particular, have helped the Society of the Divine Word maintain its standing as the only male religious order of the largest ten to experience consistent growth during the past 40 years.

The recently ordained Divine Word Missionaries include:

Quy Ngoc Dang, 34, who came to the U.S. in 1991 and entered Divine Word College after seeing a newspaper article about the school. For his Cross-Cultural Training Program (CTP), an essential part of each Divine Word Missionary’s preparation for ministry, he served parishes in Mozambique. As a deacon, he worked at St. Anselm Parish on Chicago’s south side. Following ordination, Dang will remain in the Chicago Province for his first assignment.

Tuan An Mai, 36, who moved to the U.S. with his family in 1994, worked in nursing homes while attending Divine Word College. He also ministered to the Hispanic community at St. Cecelia in Mount Prospect, Ill., and did his CTP in Taiwan. As a deacon, Mai served St. Kilian Parish in Chicago. After ordination he will return to the China Province for his first assignment.

Tam Duy Nguyen, 35, born and raised in VungTau, Vietnam, came to the U.S. at age 18. Nguyen graduated from Divine Word College with a degree in philosophy, professed his first vows in 2003 and did his CTP in Togo, West Africa. While completing master’s degrees in divinity and theology at CTU, Nguyen worked as a deacon at St. Ambrose Parish in Hyde Park. He will return to Togo for his first assignment.

Linh Duy Pham, 37, fled from Vietnam in 1987. After 14 months in a Thai refugee camp, he moved to Texas, where extended family lived. Pham attended Divine Word College and then completed his CTP in Jamaica. While doing his priestly training, Pham served at Queenship of Mary in Glen Ellyn, Ill. After ordination, Pham will remain in the Chicago Province for his first assignment.

Founded in 1875, the Society of the Divine Word has more than 6,000 members who serve the spiritual and social needs of people in 71 countries.