June 17, 2013
|Deacon Khoi Tran prays in the chapel of the diocesan Catholic Center. Dcn. Tran will be ordained to the priesthood June 29.|
“My personality type is I am a very organized person. I like to organize. I like to plan things.”
And yet, for most of Deacon Khoi Tran’s life, he has been encountering and enduring events that were unorganized, and usually not the result of a plan.
In 2007, when he was discerning between the Diocese of Dallas and the Diocese of Fort Worth for his vocation path, he knew more about Dallas, because he had been a member of the Redemptorist order. “But,” he said, “ I had heard good things about the Diocese of Fort Worth — the great bishop we had, Bishop Kevin Vann — and then the fraternity among the priests, and seminarians. So that attracted me.
“I prayed to God. I said, ‘God! Father, this is what I am going to do. I am going to give both vocation directors a call and I’ll leave it in your hands. Whoever calls me back first, I will join.’ Father Kyle Walterscheid [then Fort Worth diocesan Vocations director] called me back right away. And then I said, ‘Okay, God, that’s your will.’”
On June 29, Dcn. Tran will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth at Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Arlington.
At birth he was thought to be a “miracle baby,” because, during his mother’s Caesarian section delivery, doctors discovered tumors on her ovaries, that should have prevented conception. The “miracle” continued when 7 1/2-year-old Khoi experienced a dream that portended his vocation. He saw a vision of a priest.
“I couldn’t see his face, because his back was against me, so I only saw his back and then I saw Jesus and Mary there. And then Jesus said ‘I want you to be a shepherd for my Church,’ and the priest seemed very timid, and put his head down, and Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you.’”
“I thought in my head, “Oh it’s only a dream. It’s only a dream.” But he had the same dream repeatedly, so he took it as a sign. “Maybe that is what God is calling me for.”
Dcn. Tran’s family has four members — another son, Khoa, came after Khoi. The family did not have a great start, however. “My parents were married around 1975 [in Vietnam], at the end of the Vietnam War. My dad was put in prison for almost eight years because of his involvement with the war. The communists didn’t call it prison, though,” Dcn. Tran said. “They called it ‘re-education camp,’ where they reeducate you to the new ideology, communism and everything.
“My dad was not supposed to be in there for a very long time, but because he was a mechanic, they got free labor — free labor to fix all their cars. My mom waited for him during that time.” While she was waiting, he said, she secretly studied the faith and became Catholic. His father was released in 1983, and Khoi was born in 1984.
The future priest said his vocation developed during the first nine-and-a-half years of his life, while living with his devout Catholic paternal grandparents in Vietnam, because his parents could not afford to take care of both their children. Four other children — cousins — also lived in the grandparents’ home because their parents had escaped Vietnam and could not take the children with them.
“My grandmother was very holy, very pious, and she taught me many, great lessons in life,” Dcn. Tran said. “Those lessons I still remember and those lessons are still the foundation that I always go back to. My Grandma and Grandpa were the ones who shaped my faith.” His Grandmother was blind, and so, even though they were poor, she saved some money to hire a poor man living down in our neighborhood to take them to Sunday church with his cycle.”
The grandparents instilled that faith foundation, and in 1992 they left for the United States. When they left, young Khoi again lived with his parents until October of 1994, when his father petitioned for asylum.
“We were granted asylum, to come over here, so we came over and reunited with the rest of the family, in Wichita, Kansas,” Dcn. Tran said.
When they came to America, Tran had put aside thoughts of the priesthood. “I kind of pushed that behind, said the young man, whose whole life so far always contained an element of sacrifice, but none seemed to break his sunny, positive spirit.
He finished school in Wichita, and after high school, took off for Dallas where he would join the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) as a seminarian. It was a strong connection to his Vietnamese roots, but a poor community, where, during one year, Tran had to live in a storage shack. Every time it rained, he said, they would have to take a bucket and put it under leaks in the shed roof.
“There were ups and downs,” Dcn. Tran said, with his typical cheerful spin, “but I felt like my five years with the Redemptorists helped me to be more attentive to those who live around me, and to be able to live in a community.”
His grandmother had, after all, taught him some things about living in a community, and about poverty.
“My grandma, she was very humble, and one of the things that she taught me always stuck in my mind.” On the day they departed for the U.S., she asked to talk to her grandson. “Before she left she told me this: ‘Always remember that you are poor because when you are poor you will always need God. And you will always need other people.’
“That was the greatest lesson — that always sticks in my mind. But little did I know, that was the last time I would see her, because she passed away after she got to America.”
The grandparents took pride in Dcn. Tran, and they hoped to see him ordained.
“I always joke with my grandpa — he is living in Wichita now. He’s 93, and he will be at the ordination. He has been waiting for this day for a long time. I joke with him — grandma passed away young. But you are living the years she couldn’t live, in order to wait for me.”
“My whole 11 years in formation, “ Dcn. Tran said, “what God has taught me is ‘Don’t plan anything.’ I thought I planned to be a Redemptorist and I didn’t turn out to be a Redemptorist.
“I like to plan things. But God is very, very creative in his ways of telling me, ‘You know, your life is in my love and that is all you need.’ So now I am a little bit more relaxed. Whatever happens, happens.
“The community life and all the changes and transitions in my life taught me to be flexible, because you can throw me anywhere and I can work. What’s really important is that we bring what we have. We don’t have to be perfect with it. And in that process we learn. We become better through that process.
“So I have lived in extreme poverty,” Dcn. Tran recalled. “I have lived in poverty, I have lived in different types of communities, with different types of people, so all of that helped me to be creative. And to be flexible.
“That’s why if I come into a parish or I come into an assignment, or something, I don’t come with a lot of expectations. I just come and work, whatever it might be.”
“My personality type is I am a very organized person. I like to organize. I like to plan things.” And yet, for most of Deacon Khoi Tran’s life, he has been encountering and enduring events that were unorganized, and usually not the result of a plan. On June 29, Dcn. Tran will be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Worth at Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Arlington.