Growing up in a large Catholic family in Vietnam, Lam Tran felt his first call to priesthood through the examples of his parents and siblings.
“My Dad was a catechist in my home parish for around 25 years. He had a strong love of serving God and his people by teaching the Word of God and catechism,” Lam said.
“He is a wonderful example of living faith and maturity for me and all members of the family, as well as for many people in the parish and those who meet him.
“His example of faith and love of serving others [produced] the same love of serving others in me. He inspired and motivated me to think about my priestly vocation at an early age,” he said.
Lam is one of the five first-year seminarians at the Diocese of Parramatta’s Holy Spirit Seminary at Harris Park.
Lam, 26, is the youngest of nine children and grew up in Trung Nghia, Ha Tinh province, Vietnam, arriving in Australia in 2016.
“Both my dad and mum had important influences to the life and faith of my brother and sisters and myself,” Lam said.
“They taught us to recite daily Christian prayers. They always encouraged us to go to church every day for daily Mass in the early morning and evening prayer, receive the sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and attend the catechism class at the parish.
“My mum had a strong devotion to Our Lady through the rosary. For my mum, Our Lady has an important position in her living faith. She taught us to know how to say the rosary at an early age.
“She would often advise her children to have a rosary in their pockets to remind us that the rosary is a ‘spiritual weapon’ to protect our lives wherever we are and whatever time it is, and also remind us to allow Our Lady to journey with us every time and to say the rosary when they can.
“For me, my eldest sister has a great influence to my life. She desired to be a religious sister at a very early age, while she was at home. Her desire is expressed through her daily life and she gave me an extreme inspiration to think about a priestly vocation.
“My family became the first seminary where I recognised and nourished my priestly vocation. Consequently, all my family members are my first formators,” Lam said.
Lam said he was blessed to be a part of his parish in Trung Nghia, where he enriched his Christian life through altar service, as an organist, and his involvement with youth and vocation groups.
“I always realise and remind myself that, on my continued discerning journey of priestly vocation, there is not only God and myself, but also all my family members are journeying with me. They are accompanying me through prayers and encouragement,” he said.
Whilst attending an ordination Mass at the age of 15, Lam knew that his calling in life was that to priesthood.
“It was an overwhelming, touching and inspired moment. When I was listening to the Litany of the Saints, there were no words to describe my emotion at the time,” Lam said.
“I will always keep that special moment in my heart to remind me to keep me faithful with my vocation journey as well as to strengthen me whenever I face challenges on this journey.
“I think God’s voice called me to the priesthood. Not a human voice, but a divine voice. I felt this special call to be a priest of Christ in my heart. I always feel extremely peaceful whenever I think about it.
“My decision to become a priest wasn’t a shock to my family, because they knew through my style of life and personality.
“My friends had a different reaction to my decision [to join the priesthood] compared to my family. My friends didn’t believe that I was deciding to give up all earthly things to follow Jesus. They were shocked,” he said.
After completing a degree in Economics and Finance at university, Lam began working as a volunteer for Caritas in his home diocese.
“It was a wonderful experience for me to deepen my vocation through serving others and to understand the lives of others, and especially to see God in others,” Lam said.
Having been in the seminary for a few months now, Lam believes that he is being formed and transformed into a ‘man of communion.’
“It’s a different style of life in the seminary compared with an outside life, because it is unique, but that doesn’t mean abnormal. It is unique because we are living a life of sacrifice.
“We are in the seminary to be present with Jesus, who we are following, to listen to Him and also to discuss with him our vocation as well.
“We seminarians are called to sacrifice our own life for others, sacrifice all earthly enjoyment to freely follow Jesus, sacrifice our own interests in order that we can be formed as Christ’s disciples for others.
“My spiritual and prayer life has grown more deeply. The seminary is the place where I encounter with God and listen to Him easier.
“I feel that the seminary has become my spiritual family. My vocation journey is between myself and God, but it doesn’t mean we’re alone. I have brothers who are different ages and from different backgrounds and we have very supportive staff here.
“Being in the seminary is helping me to form myself as a ‘man of communion.’
“In trust, joy, peace and happiness, I am holding Jesus’ hands and walking with him on the way that He is leading.
“I enjoy the pastoral work in the first year. With the great assistance of Fr Fernando [Montano, parish priest of St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill], we go to state primary schools and learn and practice teaching students catechism.
“Fr John Hogan is a kind, generous, caring and merciful person. He always accompanies every seminarian on every step of our journey.
“He is a true example of a good priest. He always shows and guides us in the model of Christ’s priest by his priestly life,” Lam said.
Lam’s message for men considering a vocation to the priesthood is to listen to what God is saying.
“I would like to advise them as I often remind myself, that God is the person who is always calling people to follow Him,” Lam said.
“So men need to open their hearts to listen to God’s voice, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“When recognising that God is calling you, especially to priestly vocation, do not be afraid, but respond ‘yes’ to His call in confidence, as Mary says her ‘fiat’ to God’s will.
“After saying ‘yes’ to God, let us hold His hands and walk with Him in full trust, joy, peace and happiness on the way that he is leading.
“God has a great plan for each of us.
“Do not be afraid,” Lam added.
To find out more about a vocation to priesthood in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit https://parracatholic.org/vocations/, contact the Holy Spirit Seminary or Director of Priestly Vocations, Fr John Paul Escarlan – email@example.com