Br Can Tran, the first brother from our community from Vietnam just did a long ministry immersion experience in Australia as part of his initial formation program. He shares the delights and the experience with our community there, and what it meant for him living and doing ministry there.

When I arrived in Australia I felt very nervous. I had just completed two years of studying philosophy in The Philippines and was wondering how I could bring the message of God to others. I endeavoured to adapt myself to the new environment; I tried to cope with the cold Melbourne weather, eat Vegemite, enjoy a VB beer and experience all the other things Aussies enjoyed. As I look back I can say that after two and a half years I have achieved everything I set out to do; I even obtained my driving license and contracted COVID-19. During my time in Australia, I was touched by many different experiences. I had an opportunity to meet many people in our parishes of St James the Apostle, Hoppers Crossing North, and St Bernadette, North Sunshine.

Many people shared with me about their journey to Australia, often in a small boat. I admired them as they shared their story, tears running down their cheeks. They had lived tough lives, but were able to overcome their difficulties. Various refugees shared how, travelling by boat, they endured hunger and thirst. They all shared the same prayer: “Lord, please, help us survive; without you, we will surely die.” I listened to them with all my heart. I could do nothing for them except to be present, listen and empathize with their stories. I could not help but feel that their stories were similar to that of the people of Israel in Egypt, with God looking after them.

I was also present as one parishioner lay dying in hospital. This was not an easy moment for me as I sat with the grieving parents, relatives and friends. The encounter with human suffering reminded me that life is short and beautiful and that we need to live mindful of God’s presence, thanking God each day. I met with a number of successful Vietnamese businesspeople in Melbourne. I asked one of them: “How did you become successful in life?” He replied: “The successful person needs to look after two elements in life, he needs to keep his family healthy and to take care of his work; both need to be kept in a balance.” This thought touched me.

On my way home I reflected on what would make me successful in my faith journey, especially as a minister of the Kingdom of God. I concluded that the successful pastor needs to pray and be close to the People of God. I felt strongly that this needed to be the standard for my ministry in the future. I too needed to keep these two elements in balance, without one of them it would be hard for me to find joy in ministry. The more I pray, the closer I get to God and to his people. When I bring the people into the presence of God, I will recognize that God is real and that he lives in us.

Unfortunately, due to the various COVID lockdowns, I had to spend a lot of time inside; Melbourne has the world record for the longest period of COVID lockdowns. During these lockdowns, I took the opportunity to continue to learn English and to start playing the guitar. I was happy to discover this new talent. Due to the continuous lockdowns, I limited in the number of people I could meet, and in the ministry, I could do. I believe that God gave me enough time to meet with people to help me in my faith journey and these experiences strengthened my faith in God’s love. I can now say that my vocation is stronger and clearer.

I thank my Paulist Missionary family in the Australian region, who accepted me and gave me the opportunity to join them in ministry in their beautiful country. Thank you to everyone who supported me through prayer, teaching me English and various other opportunities. I can never pay you back for what you did with me. I can only assure you that I will offer you all my love and care as I remember you all in my daily prayer. I ask the Lord daily to continue to be with you and to shower you with his blessings. I also kindly ask you to continue to pray for me as I continue on my faith journey.

The article first appeared on ‘The Link,’ Series 3 Issue 4 (May 2022), a newsletter of the MSSP Australia Community.