The Divine Word College Graduating Class of 2011 not only features five students of tremendous character who offer much to the world, but it also marks some significant milestones for the college through their personal achievements.
A decade ago, Joseph Tuok—who wrote his own chapter in the tragic story of the Lost Boys of Sudan--was in a refugee camp in Kenya when he got word that he could immigrate to the United States. Two years later he came to DWC. First, he earned his GED and then dedicated himself to achieving a four-year degree. He is being awarded a Bachelor’s in Philosophy with a minor in Cross Cultural Studies—the first to attain that level of academic achievement of the more than two dozen Lost Boys who came to DWC. He has applied to the Novitiate in Techny to continue to discern his call to the priesthood.
Born in San Jose, California, David Cao was encouraged by his family to consider religious life. On the quiet, contemplative side, he found the calm of DWC as a perfect setting to discern that call. He served as President of the DWC Student Senate last year and cantors for Masses.
"I wouldn’t have thought of doing those things at any point before coming to DWC," he said. "My understanding of spirituality has also developed a lot since coming here."
David is being awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and has applied to the Novitiate to continue his discernment.
In August, 2006, Sr. Ana Julita Bele Bau, SSpS was among the first four religious sisters to enroll at Divine Word. The success of that experiment in broadening the make-up of the student body led directly to today’s more diversified student body and a change in the Mission Statement. Though she officially graduated in December and has since moved on to missionary work on the island of St. Kitts, she joins the Class of 2011 and is being awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Cross Cultural Studies.
Stephen Kai—who, shares a similar childhood story with Joseph in having fled Sudan as a small boy—will be awarded a two-year Associates Degree in Cross Cultural Studies. His plan is to apply for a leave of absence from DWC to study agronomy at another college. He would then like to return to DWC to continue his studies and further discern his call to religious life.
A smile comes quickly to Thinh Tran, who was born in Vietnam and came to this country in 2004 as part of an exchange program. He enrolled at DWC in 2007 and is being awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy. Serious about his spiritual life, Thinh has also applied to the Novitiate to continue his discernment. Should he decide to answer the call as a Divine Word Missionary, he said he’s open to wherever the SVD would send him for missionary service.
"But I would prefer a place to be cold. Not too hot for me," he said, since he doesn’t mind Iowa winter. "I prefer cold over hot."
And that truly makes him special—just ask his fellow students.