Tuyen Do and Jeff Hebert were all smiles April 8 during their diaconate ordination at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock. But after the Litany of Saints, both rose from being prostrate with tears and emotion, aware of the spiritual significance in this next step toward the priesthood.
“You become today an ordained minister of God’s word, which is another way of saying a minister of God’s will, not your will,” Bishop Anthony B. Taylor said during his homily.
While the men will forever share this next step on the road to the priesthood, their stories of accepting God’s call are oceans apart.
Tuyen Do, 39, grew up in Vietnam, one of 11 siblings. The family attended daily Mass.
“Dad said, ‘Children, you guys have three meals a day, then snack, a lot of things to feed your body, how about your soul? You should come to church one time a day to feed your soul,’” Do said.
All of his siblings are still Catholic, and his mother and many of his siblings still lives in Vietnam. His father died 18 years ago.
“The Church became the center of our society because at that time we see the communist government trying to persecute the Catholic people,” he said.
His pastor would say, “‘We have to teach the people to do good things; we have to speak up, we have to protect the poor.’ … I said a priest is a person who brings happy to other people, and I really want to do that.”
In 2005, Do began to attend seminary in Canada but left after about five years when the culture was not what he expected. He worked various jobs, including as a waiter and manicurist. Do became friends with a seminarian whose uncle, Father Dominic Do, was a retired priest with the Diocese of Little Rock. Do met the priest during a visit to Canada.
“I go to work every day, (go to the) bar with my friends, sorry I do not want to come back,” Do said about his resistance to come back to seminary. But a year later, he contacted Father Dominic Do after “my friend’s ordination in Canada. He laid down there, my heart jumped up again and my body shaking.” He moved to Arkansas in 2014.
Do’s brother Nan Do, who came from California to celebrate the diaconate ordination, said, “Today I’m very happy because my brother chose this way to be a priest.”
Jeff Hebert, 34, also grew up in a family of 11 — six boys, five girls — in the suburbs of Houston.
“My dad always called it ‘organized chaos.’ The thing I remembered most was how important it was to my parents that we get to Mass every single Sunday … We did a really good job if we got there before the Gospel started,” he laughed.
When he was 18, one of his sisters shared about her own spiritual awakening and adult understanding of the Eucharist that opened his eyes.
After stopping at a chapel for confession, Hebert said, “I was crying my eyes out … an elderly woman puts her hand on my shoulder and says, ‘You’re going to be a priest one day.’ I kind of laughed because it was the last thing on my mind.”
He graduated from college, worked for a medical company programing pacemakers and defibrillators before enrolling in medical school at UAMS in Little Rock.
“The Lord kind of just took over, little by little calling me closer until he gave me the courage to say yes,” he said, becoming a seminarian in 2011.
All but one of Hebert’s siblings were able to attend with their families. His parents, Richard and Melane of Spring, Texas, were thrilled for their son.
“We feel we’ve just been blessed as a family and this is the crown jewel of that blessing,” his father said, with his mother adding, “It’s an amazing gift to us. If there’s anyone in the family everyone went to all the time to pour out their heart, it was Jeff.”
During the ordination Mass, Do and Hebert made promises of obedience to the bishop, promises of celibacy and praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Hebert, who attends the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and Do, who attends Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., are scheduled to be ordained priests in 2018.
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