Tien Hung Duong is the son of Sach Minh Duong and Toa Thi Pham. He is a graduate of Thanhda High School, Vietnam; and Saint Joseph Seminary College, St. Benedict, La. His home parish is the St. Joseph Vietnamese Catholic community. He earned a master of divinity degree from Saint Vincent Seminary in 2000, with honor.
This story is from the April 21, 2000 Catholic News and Herald of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina. Reprinted with permission.
By Joann S. Keane
Tien Hung Duong is alive by the grace of God. Eight years ago, Tien and his younger brother attempted a daring escape from oppression in Vietnam. They failed. The two Duong brothers were returned and jailed. A determined Tien escaped a second time with his older brother, making their way to a refugee camp in Indonesia.
In Vietnam, Tien went to minor seminary, that is until the government closed the seminaries. “The more they forbid people to become priests,” says Duong, the more determined he became to someday be ordained.
It would be two and a half years before Tien would leave the encampment. Malnutrition took its toll, and Tien was temporarily paralyzed, unable to walk. All the while, thoughts of priesthood remained. Tien prayed and prayed. He could not walk, and asked, “God, why” Why me? You brought me safely to the free country. I want to be a priest, but how can I serve if I am paralyzed?”
His epiphany came when he realized, it wasn’t God wanting him to be like this. “It’s just a challenge,” recalls Tien. “I just prayed and prayed.” He exercised and got himself back on his feet.
Tien had hoped to reach America, and be able to sponsor his parents and nine siblings. Instead, his family would reach the United States first. Through resettlement by the United States Catholic Conference, the Duong family put down roots in Charlotte.
The family sponsored Tien and his brother Duc, allowing them entry into the United States. The brothers entered seminary together, spending their first couple years in Louisiana before transferring, Tien to Saint Vincent, Duc to Washington, D.C. A younger brother is studying to become a Vincentian priest in New York.