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I am Brother Hieu Pham in Vina, California. I was born and grew up in a large family in central Viet Nam, the fourth of seven children.
I believe God had a big influence on my call as a monk. When I was five, I went to live with my grandmother, who helped the parish priest at his house; I also helped her and the pastor. At the time I had no idea what a vocation was -- or a monk or even a seminarian. It was then I learned a little bit about discipline, life and ministry to the Church under the care of a pastor. After two years I went back home to live with my parents until I finished High School. In my senior year, my pastor encouraged me to be a religious as a monk or seminarian. After I graduated, I decided to join one of the Cistercian communities of the Common Observance, but I realized that I did not really feel called to it. So I went back home to help my parents. In 1999, I went to study music in the Catholic Music School of Sai gon for a year. Midyear 2000, I went back to my hometown and served my parish for two years. In August 2002, I entered the Common Observance community at Chau son Abbey in Viet Nam. That time I felt God was calling me because I felt happy and at peace living there.
After living in Chau son Abbey for two years as a postulant, our Abbot Dom Francis asked me if I was interested in going to New Clairvaux Abbey, a Trappist Monastery in the United States. I had 6 months to pray and discern God’s will for me. After deciding it was the right thing to do, I sensed a growing conviction and I decided to go. I came to the US on February 20, 2005 and have been living at New Clairvaux Abbey for six years now.
Many people, including friends and relatives have asked me why I chose to live the contemplative life. They have told me that I would probably prefer living as an active religious rather than the contemplative life. Fortunately my family has respected my choice and supported my decision. I know they miss me especially during family gatherings and major celebrations. In my culture, there is a tradition that when there is a big event, such as the Lunar New Year, every family member comes back home and gathers together, even when they live far away.
So here I am at New Clairvaux. Even though I have had many struggles and difficulties with language, culture, and so on… more and more I find peace and joy in my commitment to God and to my brothers at the community of Vina. With God’s help, I hope to be faithful to my vocation.