By Liz Sullivan
For Thanh Ho something was missing. Born in Vietnam as the third child of Tuan Ho and Thiet Tran, Thanh Ho received his Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from San Jose State University and a master’s in mechanical engineering from Santa Clara University. While pursuing his baccalaureate and graduate degrees, he had his dream engineering career at NASA Ames Research Center.
Yet something was missing.
So, he resigned in July 2019 after eight years and joined nine other men from the Diocese of San José in studying for the priesthood at Saint Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein, Illinois.
“I wanted to explore life in the priesthood in 2017,” said Thanh. “I had my dream engineering career and a life ahead of me, yet something was missing interiorly. I feel that I’ve made peace with myself by being here at Mundelein Seminary and giving priesthood a shot.”
A member of Saint Cyprian Parish, Thanh Ho said he’s been influenced by his Uncle Father Thuc Si Ho, Parochial Vicar at Saint Simon Parish. Born in Vietnam, Thanh and his family, which includes three siblings, immigrated to the United States in 1998.
“My uncle is a big influence on me by giving me a taste of seminary life when I was little,” said Thanh Ho. “My family has been extremely supportive of me trying out this ‘priesthood’ route.”
Part of Thanh Ho’s path to the priesthood has been a desire to learn more about his Catholic faith.
“It started with a desire to help people and to learn more about my Catholic identity. A picture of Saint Francis of Assisi was displayed in an art history class, and it piqued my curiosity about his life and service to humanity,” said Thanh Ho. “I was attracted to the habit and scapular and said to myself that someday I want to be like him– to help people. I was in my early 20’s at the time and didn’t know much about religious life, but I knew I had the zeal for helping people.
Then one day, I was out eating lunch with a friend and he casually asked me, “Why am I a Catholic?” To my surprise, I answered something to the extent that, “My parents raised me that way.” I thought to myself that it was a lousy answer, so I inexplicably made a promise to myself that I need to learn more about my faith at a seminary. Why the seminary in particular? It came to mind because I had visited Saint Patrick’s Seminary during my teenage years and saw how joyful the seminarians were, and I wanted that joy. However, I was clueless that the seminary was for forming men to be priests, and I had no desire of becoming a priest; I just wanted to audit a few classes for personal growth and attending other institutions didn’t feel right.”
As Thanh progressed through school, his discernment gained traction.
“My eyes brimmed with tears while gazing at a crucifix and contemplating His love for me; Christ’s love for me put him on the Cross, and my sins put him on the Cross,” said Thanh. “So, I thought to myself, ‘What did I do to deserve such love?” The thought of following Jesus and doing what he did seemed “doable,” and I felt at peace thinking about it. About the same time, the voice in my head was nagging at me to think about the priesthood. The possible call to the priesthood was fostered through receiving the Eucharist daily, attending retreats, and seeking spiritual direction. After attending a retreat, I asked myself, “Why am I not a priest?” To my surprise, in a dream, I told a man that I’m going to be a priest.”
Father Ritche Bueza, Director of Vocations and Seminarians for the Diocese is glad Thanh Ho answered the call to the priesthood.
“Whenever I think of Thanh, I am always reminded of Jesus’ words in the Gospel: ‘If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple,’ said Bueza. “The cost of being a disciple is that Jesus always has to come first. Thanh has always been the bread winner of the family. I am sure it wasn’t easy for him to “give up” the comforts of life to answer the call. But Thanh took the risk and is courageous enough to respond to the call of God. I believe we are very fortunate to have Thanh as a seminarian.”
Thanh’s favorite saint is Saint Joseph, and his favorite Bible verse is from Mark 10:49 – “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.”
To learn more about vocations in the Diocese of San José, please visit www.dsj.org/about-us/vocations.