By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published July 16, 2009
Father Dominic Tho Tran, 37, has come to the priesthood in Atlanta, Georgia, truly from the other side of the globe.
Born in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, a military area during the Vietnam War, he was a toddler when the war ended. One of eight children, the greatest impact was that for five years he didn’t have the presence of his father, an officer who was sent to prison for his role assisting the United States and the government of South Vietnam.
Still his family was able to practice their Catholic faith, Father Tran said.
“It was peaceful after the war, but the communists have restrictions. They allow us to go to the church, but sometimes they restrict big gatherings, so we have to ask for permission. Daily Mass or Sunday Mass, we don’t have to ask, but a special day we have to ask. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.”
A pastor introduced him to music, said Father Tran, who plays the organ and the piano. He took about four years of classical music training and then continued to improve by teaching himself. An altar boy, he sometimes also played for the church choir.
He graduated from high school in Vietnam. When he was about 25, his mother and father, Ri Ha and Canh Tran, one of his sisters and he were resettled in Atlanta, sponsored by the International Rescue Committee.
At that time, he began to pursue higher education and the thought of becoming a priest grew in his mind, he said.
“It was gradual. I thought about that and gradually I decided to quit my job and go to the seminary,” Father Tran said.
Perhaps the example of saints, whose lives he loved to read about, inspired him, he said.
“I love to read biographies of saints. Maybe I learn from them. And I read the Bible too. “
A member of Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Norcross, he went to the Divine Word Seminary College in Epworth, Iowa, where he received a degree in philosophy in 2005. After that he decided to come back to Atlanta and study for the diocesan priesthood here. He received a master of divinity degree this year from St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa.
Music is a language that has easily been with him wherever he went.
“Sometimes I just play for entertainment and to entertain myself. … When I was in the seminary I played guitar, bass, flute. I played a lot of instruments, some good, some not. I enjoy music.”
Father Tran celebrated his first Mass at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs Church, with his parents and two of his sisters among those attending. He hopes in 2010 to go back to Vietnam for a visit and to celebrate the sacraments there with his other five brothers and sisters.
His inspirations are St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Although he said he expects to have difficulties in the years ahead, “I am excited about helping the people by saying Mass, doing the sacraments, and helping the elderly, the prisoners, the youth.”
First Assignment: Transfiguration Church, Marietta
Father Dominic Tho Tran
Education: Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Divine Word College Seminary, Epworth, Iowa, 2005. Master of divinity degree from St. Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, Pa., 2009.
Hobbies and Interests: Playing music, singing and running
Particular Ministries of Interest: Ministering to the prisoners and the elderly
Favorite Quote: “Keep the joy of loving God in your heart and share this joy with all you meet especially your family. Be holy – let us pray.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta)
Most Admired: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta