As the Year for the Priest draws to a close, the Society of the Divine Word Chicago Province celebrated the ordination of two new priests. Most Rev. Dominic Carmon, SVD, retired auxiliary bishop of New Orleans, ordained Tinh Van Nguyen, Francis Kwabena Damoah and two men from China at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Techny, Ill., on May 22.
Fr. Nguyen, 43, took a winding road to the priesthood. As a youth, he “wanted to study, do well and climb the corporate ladder.” One of 12 children, he was the first in his family to go to college. Born in Vietnam and raised in California, Fr. Nguyen attended California State University in Sacramento and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Feeling that he hadn’t tapped into his potential, he joined the U. S. Navy after college, trained with the Navy SEALs and became a catapult specialist, one of two shipmen who are responsible for the procedure that launches a fighter plane from the aircraft carrier deck into the skies.
After two years of active duty, Fr. Nguyen returned to California and took classes towards an associate degree in business communication at Heald Business College. Before joining the Society of the Divine Word in 2000, he worked for information technology companies.
“It’s still a journey,” Fr. Nguyen said. “It’s still exciting like the first day [at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa]. I can’t tell what will happen tomorrow.” Fr. Nguyen’s first assignment will be in the United States Western Province.
Francis Damoah, 53, joined the Society of the Divine Word in his homeland of Ghana. He professed vows and became a member of the Society of the Divine Word in 1992. As a brother, he worked as a tailor and attended the University of Ghana to study comparative religions.
Fr. Charles Boykins, who is now retired and living at the Techny Residence, met Damoah when the latter came to the United States to work in Mississippi. “He became involved in youth ministry and helped with the liturgy on Sundays,” Fr. Boykins said.
He added that Bishop William R. Houck, then bishop of Jackson and now bishop emeritus, gave special permission that allowed the then-Brother Francis Damoah to deliver reflections on the Word during Sunday Mass. “He always wanted to become a priest,” Fr. Boykins said of Fr. Damoah. “He’s a good organizer.”
Upon arriving in Vicksburg, Miss., Fr. Damoah enrolled in Heinz Community College. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Jackson State University and then entered Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He completed his theological education at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Since October 2009, he has served as a deacon at St. Anselm on Chicago’s south side. Fr. Damoah will return to the United States Southern Province for his first assignment as a priest.