From Vietnam to Virginia, Deacon Vu Is Ready for Ordination

Deacon Joseph Vu has been on the move most of his life. His road to the priesthood included stops in Vietnam, Alabama, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Maryland and finally Virginia.
"It doesn't matter where you are, you have to make the best of where you find yourself," said Vu. "Just live the moments and enjoy yourself."
Vu was born in Kim Bich, Vietnam, on Nov. 2, 1965. He escaped from Vietnam with his two older sisters when he was 16 years old. The family spent two years in refugee camps in Thailand and Indonesia before coming to America in 1984.
Vu's father died in 1983, but his mother and four younger siblings still live in Vietnam. Now that he is an American citizen, it is relatively easy to return to Vietnam to visit his family, which he did last year.
When Vu arrived in America, he and his sisters were members of St. Robert Parish in Atmore, Ala. He graduated high school in 1986 and applied to be a seminarian with the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala. He studied at St. Joseph Seminary College in Louisiana and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. After five years of seminary preparation, Vu decided to take a leave of absence.
"I felt that I wasn't ready for it," he said. After making this decision, he moved to Florida and worked odd jobs for a year. From there, he moved to Orange County, Calif., in 1998, where he spent several years doing social work. While there, he was a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Garden Grove, Calif.
After spending more than 10 years moving from place to place, Vu decided to become a priest for the Diocese of Arlington. He had met several people from the diocese when he studied at St. Charles. He also liked the idea of making a fresh start.
Starting new in Arlington would be a challenge, but Vu was ready for it. Since the diocese is growing rapidly, he sees the great number of Catholics and a need for more priests.
Vu finished his seminary studies at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., then spent two pastoral years at St. Philip Parish in Falls Church and Queen of Apostles Parish in Alexandria, where he currently serves.
Vu considers himself very blessed in the love that the people have shown him at those parishes. Without these experiences, he doesn't think he could have made it this far.
"The people know that I have shortcomings and love me anyway," he said. The people he works with are the most important part of his life. "Cry with the people, laugh with the people and go from there."
Although he knew no one in the diocese when he arrived, Vu was certain he would make new friends, and he has.
"I can't exist on my own," he said. "The journey itself would be impossible without friends."
The priests serving in these parishes were also instrumental to Vu. They have given him "wise advice" and supported his journey lovingly.
Vu feels that he was truly "called" to be a priest.
"It's not just you," he said. "There's something inside of you that won't go away, no matter how hard you try to escape from it."
As Vu thinks back on his journey thus far, he knows there have been many people who have helped him along the way.
"I'm just thankful as I move into the priesthood," he said.
As his ordination approaches, Vu is looking forward to celebrating the event with all the people who have helped him along the way. He plans to have several ordination parties including ones at St. Philip and Queen of Apostles Parishes and even back home in Vietnam.
"The priesthood is something to be shared with the people," he said. "The people can celebrate with me. After all, we are on the same journey and support one another." Angela E. Pometto can be reached at apometto@catholicherald.com.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2006