By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

At the height of his wrestling match with God over whether to pursue a vocation to the priesthood, Father John Vu cried out in prayer “give me a sign” and collided with the Holy Spirit.  

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Bishop Michael G. Duca lays hands on Father John Vu while praying a prayer of ordination on May 25 at St. Joseph Cathedral. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

Bishop Michael G. Duca ordained Father Vu for the Diocese of Baton Rouge on May 25 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge.  

One of two siblings who now answers to the name of “Father Vu,” Father John Vu said his journey to the priesthood began as a 10-year-old youth in his home parish of Sts. Anthony and Le Van Phung in Baton Rouge when a priest said, “Anyone who thinks they have a vocation stand up for a blessing.”  

“Me being a 10-year-old, I thought he said ‘vacation’ so I thought, ‘Yeah, I would love a blessing for my vacation, who wouldn’t?’ So I stood up,” mused Father Vu.  

Throughout high school he had this “nagging feeling” that God wanted him to give his life to him.  

During his freshmen year, Father Vu was surprised when his brother, Father Joseph Vu entered seminary at St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict. Father Joseph Vu now serves as pastor of St. Philomena Church in Labadieville, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Plattenville and St. Anne Church in Napoleonville.  

“He’s very interactive with people and into his faith, but for some reason, he was the last person I would expect to join the seminary. It was kind of like, ‘(God) are you calling me to follow as well? Do I have a calling?’ ” said Father Vu, who is close to his brother.

But he pushed the thought to the back of his mind. 

“One of the best ways to help people was to become a doctor. That is why I love science and pursued a degree in biology,” Father Vu said.  

While studying at LSU Father Vu still attended Mass and said night prayers with his family when he was at home, but otherwise fell away from the faith.  

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Bishop Emeritus Robert W. Muench gives Father John Vu a fraternal kiss to welcome him to the brotherhood of priests.

 

“It was all superficial,” said Father Vu. “There was nothing below the surface. I did it out of obligation because my parents wanted me to.” 

Father Vu said while it was “all about technology and medicine” and God had no place in his life at that time, he still saw his parents had happiness through their faith.  

With that mustard seed of thoughts about seminary in the back of Father Vu’s mind, the issue was confronted, literally head on, during a Christmas break road trip to California with his friends.  

“I remember clearly it was 3:30 a.m.,” said Father Vu. “I was the one driving and everyone else was asleep. I used the opportunity to pray to God and I thought, ‘God if you want me to enter seminary, you’ve gotta give me a sign.’ ”  

And that’s when a “sacrificial deer” jumped out into the path of the car, and Father Vu hit it going 75 miles per hour.  

“Even though I could have died, I was able to get a hold of the car and pull it over to the side. Everyone else was like, ‘What’s going on?’ because it was a heavy impact because it was a big-sized deer.” </span id=”16″>

“And I remember thinking, ‘I think I just hit the Holy Spirit.’ ” 

Father Vu was enveloped with an overwhelming sense of peace.  

“Everyone else was (saying) ‘What are we going to do?’ We barely had cell phone signal. And I can still remember the stench because we had cut the deer in half. Our car was pretty much totaled and there were blood and guts everywhere … in the engine compartment … the headlights were busted.  

“I thought, ‘Well this is definitely the sign, whether it was the kind of sign I wanted or not.” 

The group completed their trip to California, and Father Vu continued to reflect on the accident.  

Yet he still hesitated to enter seminary as his graduation day from LSU approached.  

Having told no one about his “inkling” to pursue a path to priesthood, Father Vu called the person whom he knew would understand the situation best, his brother (Father Joseph Vu).  

His brother was overjoyed and said he would help him apply for seminary.  

Procrastination slowing Father Vus’ footsteps, a meeting was finally set up on his graduation day with Father Matthew Dupré, then vocations director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. 

“My parents asked, ‘Why aren’t you going to walk at your graduation?’ and I said, ‘I think I have a more important meeting to go to.’ ”  

Father Dupré told him they would get the application to St. Ben’s started, but with the registration for fall classes about to close, Father Vu might not be able to start until the spring semester.  

“I thought, ‘You know if I am going to have to wait until the spring I might as well (continue on) with school and not worry about it at all.” 

But to his surprise, Father Dupré got him in for the fall semester. 

That first year at seminary, Father Vu remembers his time revolved around praying about his vocational call. Otherwise, he isolated himself from others. 

About a year and a half into his studies at St. Ben, he confided his conflicting feelings to his spiritual director who said, “Since you are already here, why don’t you assume you already have a vocation and work towards that.” He reasoned Father Vu would receive graces from that and God would naturally tell him whether priesthood was meant to be. 

“He told me ‘Give it everything you got and God will respond,’ ” said Father Vu. He emphasized that he felt free after “letting go” and developed spiritually and as a human being.  

“I came out of my shell and shared my talents and gave more of myself to the community,” said Father Vu. “And when I saw that my talents were appreciated and encouraged it helped me understand the parable of the talents and that your talents aren’t for you alone.  

“And there’s nothing more that I want to do than just serve his people and serve God through his people.”  

Eager to start first assignment July 1 as parochial vicar of the cluster parishes of St. James Church in St. James, St. Philip Church and Our Lady of Peace Church in Vacherie, Father Vu said, ‘I’m excited, very anxious – a whole range of emotions and joy that God chose me even though I’m unworthy. Just having that faith that he no longer calls me a slave but friend and he finds me worthy and having that confidence in him that he will do great things through me.” 

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Father John Vu smiles as he is vested with assistance from his brother, Father Joseph Vu.