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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

102717 brother T

CHARLOTTE — St. Joseph Vietnamese Church in southwest Charlotte is the parish home of Brother Truong Le, a Divine Word Missionary who grew up in the parish and attended Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools. Born in Saigon, the youngest of the eight children of Kinh Le and Duyen Nguyen, Brother Truong admits he was “never the smartest kid, the most outgoing, or the holiest.”

“But, somehow in my weaknesses, I always knew to trust in God,” he says.

Now a fully professed religious with the Divine Word Missionaries in Chicago, Brother Truong was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Francis J. Kane, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, on Oct. 1.

The Divine Word Missionaries religious order works in more than 70 countries around the world with the charism of proclaiming the Gospel where it has not been heard or insufficiently sown, Brother Truong explains.

“We witness through community living as we are gathered from all corners of the world. Our community life is marked with ‘inter-culturality.’ As brothers, we strive not only to co-exist with one another but through sincere fraternal love, we hope to incarnate the love of Christ in the service to others.”

He joined the order in January 2010, belonging to the Chicago province.

“I had an inkling of wanting to become a priest at a young age,” he recalls. “That desire expressed itself in different ways, and it was nourished by friends, family and the community at school and the parish.”

As he prayed more, his faith grew, and he felt called to become more involved at his parish, he says.
“The Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Group was influential in helping me to discern what is it that God wants me to become. Upon finishing my college degree (at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the alma mater of Bishop Jugis), my mind was free from preoccupations, and the call to become a priest was made apparent.”

He believes that the prayers of the community and the worldwide Church during the Year of the Priest helped him to recognize God’s presence in every step of his life. “I see that everything I had experienced converged upon the call to become a priest. And in letting go of my plans, that vocation is realized by becoming a religious missionary.”

Brother Truong credits many people for assisting him along the path of discernment.

“There is a countless number of individuals who have helped me along the way from friends, family, formators and confreres. Most notable is the support which the community in Charlotte has shown,” he says.

“My mother prayed for me every day. And these prayers mattered to me, because while on mission experience in Thailand for two years, they kept me going.

“The transition into a new culture and context is difficult. For a young missionary, I was able to overcome the challenges of missionary work by realizing that I have many supporters who give me strength by the sincere words of their prayers and blessings.”

Brother Truong also shares that Father Peter Pham, who serves at St. John Neumann Church in Charlotte, has been a great mentor to him ever since he was a little boy. Father Pham also served as his spiritual director through college.

“Through his presence and listening, my faith continued to mature. During those years of uncertainties, he was one of the pillars that supported my spiritual life,” Brother Truong explains.

His pastor at St. Joseph Vietnamese Church, Father Tri Truong, has also played a pivotal role, he says.

“When I first met Father Tri, it was at the annual Eucharistic Congress in Charlotte during my college years,” he recalls. “I was with a group of friends and the only one with a ‘significant other.’ Father Tri was promoting vocations to the priesthood for the diocese.

102717 Brother Truong Le vocation story “Out of all the fine candidates, he looked over to me and said, ‘You look like you’ll be a good priest.’ I was shocked because he had given voice to that silent and enduring desire to follow God’s call.”

He says he is also thankful that Father Truong has been instrumental in making him feel at home whenever he comes back to Charlotte.

“Every time I come back from a vacation or from mission, he welcomes me with heartfelt hospitality, and that allows me to feel at home in the parish,” he says. “Having a sense of belonging is essential for an itinerant missionary.”

Brother Truong says he could never have imagined himself standing in front of people and preaching. “I was like Moses, finding every reason not to respond to God’s invitation,” he explains.

“However, through the years of formation, God continues to mold me in every way. And I realize, looking back, it is God who first invited me to go on this adventure. It wasn’t so much because of my merits, successes, talents or skills that God calls me.

“But it is precisely in my times of failures and brokenness that I see the power of God’s presence and love – God’s continual ‘yes’ to me, affirming my goodness and forgiving my sins – I dare to continue to respond in my life by letting go and giving more of myself in service of others,” he says.

Brother Truong is currently finishing up his final year of theology at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and he hopes to be ordained to the priesthood on May 26, 2018, at Techny Towers’ Holy Spirit Chapel in Northbrook, Ill.

His first assignment will begin next September in the Australian province of his order – possibly in Thailand or its new mission in Myanmar.

— SueAnn Howell, Senior reporter