Fr. Dac Tran, OFM
One of his sons who impresses me as what St. Francis might have been like is a priest named Fr. Dac Tran, OFM. From meeting and talking with him one would not imagine that he has had, literally, some hair-raising escapes. In 1975 at age 22 he fled Saigon aboard a U.S. military helicopter, sustaining shrapnel wounds to the head.
When he arrived in the United States, Fr. Dac settled in Florida and discovered the seeds of his priestly vocation in a simple way. One of the older ladies at a prayer meeting he frequented asked him whether he had ever thought of being a priest. He said no, but gave the matter to prayer. He joined the Friars Minor and was ordained a priest in 1989.
I met Fr. Dac five years ago at a young peoples’ charismatic prayer group at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. I was there with my future wife. Fr. Dac was the spiritual advisor to the youth group. Working with youth is a special emphasis of his priestly ministry.
I remember him greeting us in a Vietnamese accent, as with brotherly Franciscan simplicity he immediately struck up a conversation asking, “So, how long have you two been married?” Since Oren and I had recently met, the prospect of marriage was a remote one. We explained that fact to him, but nothing daunted, he persisted in that line of conversation.
Later, we learned that promoting vocations is a chief interest of his. Indeed he publicly offered to our youth group to assist them to get married, even as he helped his own brother back in Vietnam find the girl of his dreams. Fr. Dac desires to promote holy matrimony and holy marriages. Therefore we invited him to finish what he started, by receiving our marriage vows on April 5, 1997.
Our friendship with Fr. Dac continued. He inspired Oren and me to become Secular Franciscans. He served as spiritual assistant to the St. Anthony Fraternity in Boston at the time. This was but one of the duties in his busy schedule: he also participated in celebrating one of the dozen daily Masses at the shrine. He heard confessions, promoted outreach to youth, encouraged devotion to Mary by conducting pilgrimages, served as full-time hospital chaplain and also advised the Vietnamese youth group.
Fr. Dac is a much-loved priest in the Boston’s Vietnamese-American community. During our own years of Franciscan formation in the St. Anthony Fraternity, there was a large group of Vietnamese-American Secular Franciscans that attended our fraternity meetings until they were sufficiently formed in the Franciscan way, to support an independent fraternity. When Fr. Dac said Mass for our monthly meetings, he always encouraged the Vietnamese brothers and sisters to sing various parts of the Mass in their native tongue. The beauty of its meter and melody in helping make Jesus Eucharistically present was such to make one wish one knew the language.
When the Vietnamese-Americans formed an independent fraternity, Fr. Dac was obliged to resign as our spiritual assistant in order to attend to increased demands on his time from the Vietnamese youth group. Our fraternity missed him sorely, but we are consoled that he now serves as the presence of Jesus and Francis to the upcoming generation of Americans that has Vietnamese roots.
I thank God for the grace of knowing Fr. Dac Tran. The witness of his Gospel simplicity really makes me feel the presence of Jesus in him. In his homilies he used to urge us to recite a Hail Mary after each communion, to ask Mary to protect today’s kids from evil. I hope Fr. Dac gives many more years of intense Eucharistic, Marian service to the People of God.
by Justin M. Paulin
The Homiletic & Pastoral Review
March 2002, My Favorite Priest
—This essay was written in 2002 when Fr. Tran was serving the Vietnamese-American community in Boston. It appeared in the December 2002 issue of The Anthonian magazine.