Thomas Nguyen, 19, a native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, who grew up in the United States, is a Glenmary aspirant interested in missionary priesthood. He, Charles Aketch and Richard Toboso comprise Glenmary's 2013 formation class, all of whom are pursuing priesthood.
Thomas, an aspirant, completed his first year of undergraduate philosophy studies at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa in May 2014. He says that "I think I adjusted well to my studies and learned how to live in community."
During this past summer, he and fellow aspirant Ricardo Rivera Gutierrez were assigned to Vanceburg, Ky., and the Glenmary Farm nearby for a mission placement. The pair carried out some projects with the guidance of Glenmary Father Dave Glockner, the sacramental minister at Holy Redeemer Church, including home repairs for a poor family, painting and other projects at a Vanceburg youth shelter, and some small parish projects—as well as helping coordinate a Vacation Bible School (VBS) for local children led by a visiting youth group from Erie, Pa. The rest of their time was spent doing outreach work with groups that came to the Glenmary Farm and being part of the mission-trip experience there. From his VBS experience he felt he learned important lessons about "serving people with joy and an open and embracing heart."
He has now returned to Divine Word for his second year of studies.
Thomas says he was raised in a family of faithful and devout Catholics who helped him develop a stable prayer life and who told him stories about the great saints. He was an altar server at his home parish, which led him to love God and his Church. "And I was drawn to the priesthood when I was only about five years old," he says. "I guess I was just impressed by the dedication of our parish priests."
Thomas and family members moved to the United States when he was very young, first living in Minnesota and then moving to Garland, Texas. In 2008, after reading the inspiring story of St. Isaac Jogues, he was praying to God for guidance on which religious community would be the best choice for his future vocation. While later attending the annual Marian Days event in Carthage, Mo., he spoke to Glenmary Father Steve Pawelk about Glenmary Home Missioners—then that evening read in a Glenmary brochure that "this community was founded through the inspiration of St. Isaac Jogues and his companion saints."
He didn't make contact with Glenmary again until a few years later, when he spoke with vocation director Brother David Henley and told him he wanted to learn more about Glenmary. Brother David soon scheduled a Come & See mission trip experience for high school students that Thomas attended.
"After my first meeting with Father Steve, I definitely felt that Glenmary would be my future home," he says. "And the Come & See retreat reaffirmed its appeal for me. On seeing the missions, I knew I would enjoy being a Glenmary missioner. Just watching the faces of the people there sparked an unimaginable joy in me." Thomas continued his discernment following the Come & See and eventually decided to join the home mission society in 2013 after graduating from Namaan Forest High School in Garland, Texas, in May.
Thomas' mother at first opposed the idea of his entering Glenmary. But after much prayer and perseverance on his part, she finally agreed that he could become a Glenmarian.
Thomas says that "my studies and other parts of my formation have gone well so far. I hope, with the Lord's grace, to one day become a Glenmary missioner."