The Catholic Post interviews silver jubilarian Father Vien Van Do
Father Do was born in Phuong Tay, Vietnam. He attended high school at Hoan Thien Seminary in Hue, South Vietnam, and went on to St. Sulpician Seminary in Hue, and completed his studies at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, after coming to the United States in 1987.
Following ordination he served as parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Galesburg, for four years and was named pastor of St. Elizabeth, Thomasboro, and Sacred Heart, Ludlow, in 1994. He has also been pastor of St. Philomena, Monticello, and St. Michael, Bement; parochial vicar at St. Anthony, Streator; St. Philomena, Peoria; and Sacred Heart, Moline.
Named administrator of St. Dominic, Wyoming, St. Patrick, Camp Grove, and St. John the Baptist, Bradford in 2006, he became the pastor in 2008. He has been pastor of the Wyoming and Bradford parishes since 2013.
Mail may be sent to Father Do at St. Dominic Church, 303 N. Galena Ave., Wyoming, IL 61491.
What drew you to the priesthood?
The encouragement of my parish pastor and the parochial school nuns, the support and prayers of my parents drew me to the priesthood. . . . I had a deep desire in my heart. After I went through the high school seminary for seven years and major seminary for eight years in Vietnam, the communists from the North of Vietnam took over its South. Religious persecution happened. I was sent to the concentration camp for three and a half years where I was forced to work with other inmates like a buffalo, but was fed like a mouse. I was hungry for food, but hungry more for the priesthood. After a successful escape from Vietnam by boat people, I arrived in Hong Kong, then the Philippines, and came to the USA in 1987. The Diocese of Peoria welcomed me in. . . .
Who has been the biggest influence on your vocation and why?
The Servant of God Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan has been the biggest influence on my vocation because he was my rector at the High School Seminary Hoan Thien in the Archdiocese of Hue, Vietnam, for four years before he became Bishop of the Nha Trang Diocese. He was a wonderful person and a holy man of God. After the fall of Saigon he was arrested and thrown in jail, confinement and a concentration camp for 13 years where he wrote several books, but one of his books “Five Loaves and Two Fish” inspired me and touched me so much!
How are you a different priest today than you were 25 years ago and why?
Today I am a different priest than I was 25 years ago because I am growing in the priesthood by praying and working, by learning and doing ministry with more compassion and more experiences, especially by accepting more crosses to carry. But God’s grace is always enough for me. The more crosses I had to carry, the more grateful to God I become now!
What has given you the most joy in your priesthood?
Celebrating Mass for a big number of attendants, bringing some people fallen away after many years back to the church or bringing some people into the full communion of the church through the RCIA program, giving the anointing of the sick to the seriously ill before they died, have given the most joy to my priesthood. And sometimes, in the desperate situations, without knowing anywhere to turn to, I had to look up and pray, and someone came and said, “Father, turn to me!” It brought me so much joy because my prayers have been answered. . . . However, I should not forget that Jesus is my true friend — a friend who died for me, a friend who always forgives my sins, a friend who is always there to lift me up when I am down and promised to make my joy complete. So, I have to make a daily visit with him, usually at the end of each day, to renew my eternal friendship with him.
Talk about your prayer life — what feeds your ministry?
Prayer life is very necessary and important for me. Work without prayer will not bear fruit in my ministry. The machine can do a better job than I do. So, faithfulness to the Prayers of the Hours with the church and for the church helps me to sanctify my day. Meditation, spiritual reading, praying the rosary, visiting the Blessed Sacrament and making an examination of conscience daily, then night prayer help me to grow in God’s mysteries. . . . But celebrating Mass is the source and summit of my ministry because Jesus gives himself totally, completely and unconditionally to me in Holy Communion so that I, in turn, may give my very self to the people whom God sent me to serve.
What Scripture passage sums up your ministry and why?
Hebrews 10:7 “I have come to do your will, O God” sums up my ministry because I am always ready to take any phone call from any of my parishioners to serve their spiritual needs or any phone call from the Bishop to be transferred anywhere at any time.
Name your favorite saint (and tell us why).
St. Mary, Mother of God, because through praying the rosary one after another, I was saved from death several times: when I was beaten almost to death in the concentration camp in 1982; when I walked in the dark of night in a remote area and was saved from falling off a broken bridge in 1984; when I was on the way to escape from Vietnam to Hong Kong in the open sea, our little boat with 14 children and 10 adults hit a storm and ran into the swirling water, but finally we reached our destination safely in 1986. Another time I was on my way home from Peoria on Route 40 at 10 p.m. and praying the rosary in my car, when suddenly a big deer jumped out of the ditch and hit my car. The front of my car was totally damaged and all the lights were broken, except a little one in front of the driver’s side allowing me to get home OK in 2009.
St. Michael the Archangel because as a baptized person I need a guardian angel, but as a priest I need an Archangel to protect me!
“Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?” because it reminds me of my vocation and my ministry to God’s people with all my heart.
Favorite encyclical/papal document/church teaching?
Encyclical letter on Consecrated Life from Pope Francis, because I found it as a breath of the Holy Spirit helping me to renew my commitment to Jesus, to my priestly life and ministry.