Report from the Bronx

Andrew Tran-Chung Updates Us on Our Redemptorist Pre-Novitiate Community

by Andrew Tran-Chung

It was a cold and windy day, but we braved it on the ice as Fr. Quy Duong, C.Ss.R., wove between us performing impressive skating tricks I can’t imagine ever mastering. We had just returned from our beginning of the semester retreat at San Alfonso in Long Branch, NJ, where Fr. Quy led a discussion and exploration of synodality— its impact on our formation as Redemptorists, our diversity as Christians, our vocational call to mission, and its ability to overcome polarization and conflict – it’s ability to unify us.

Our retreat wasn’t just conferences, prayers and liturgies because Fr. Quy built in periods for us to discuss and share our experiences with synodality, whether or not we actually knew it. We shared new creative ways to evangelize, reflected on the way our community interacts, and recognized the importance of collaboration in the mission of the Church. Of course, the picturesque setting of the Atlantic Ocean is something I always will be grateful we had the privilege to experience.

On the first day of our retreat, we proposed that he teach us how to ice skate. He really did try. When Cody, Son, Sean and I gingerly stepped on that ice, we hugged that railing so tightly— actually, it was just me hanging onto that railing. Sean skated off, Cody followed, and Son was close behind. But when Fr. Quy stepped onto that ice, it was like watching the Winter Olympics. And was I ever struggling. I think I made it around that small rink maybe three times without hugging the railing. They even decided to do a train on the ice – one of the most terrifying things I’ll ever do. I think that’s when I really learned what synodality means – there was so much debate over whether we were even going to do that train, mostly coming from me. I objected to even considering the idea. At least the pictures look great.

As we started classes at St. John’s University and getting back into our ministries, the snow continued. Granted, the snowflakes aren’t sticking, but the hassle of having to scrape ice off the car windows, deal with cars not starting because of the freezing temperature, and the risk of slipping down icy staircases don’t make it any easier. I’ve also had the hardest time convincing the guys to go running with me again. It’s only 20 degrees outside, but that’s beside the point. If they can survive St. John’s windy campus, a six-mile run isn’t that bad, right?

Our student antics never end, regardless of where we are. With Fr. Jim Gilmour and Fr. Greg May joining us this semester, we’re just as comfortable and lively as ever. Especially with Fr. Richard Bennett, Fr. Bill Bueche, Fr. Peter Sousa, and Fr. Frank Skelley, there is never a dull, or quiet, moment – in our dining room, or even in the hallway leading to the chapel. I think this semester is shaping up to be a good one, and we have many, many things to look forward to. Spring Break is coming up at the end of the month, and we have started rehearsing for Holy Week. All we have to do then is fly through April, start May with finals week, graduate on May 19 and go to the Student Gathering in Tucson. The next four months are going to fly by as quickly as the last semester did. Cody, Dang, Son and I are trying to enjoy the last few months we have as postulants before – God willing – we enter the North American Conference Novitiate in Mexico. We’re finishing up our degrees and beginning the process of applying to the novitiate. As for Sean, Huy and Juannier, I hope their first year has been just as memorable and fruitful as mine was. We’re counting on them to continue this amazing community for students entering in August.

Whenever I get to share news about the amazing crew we have here in the Bronx, I always reflect back on the amazing moments we have together in our community. Whether it was my first year or now my third, community has always been one of the greatest parts of formation and of Redemptorist life. It’s been cold and we’ve been huddled up a lot in our very warm house, but our times spent together will always been something that I cherish, whether that be in our kitchen or just lounging around in our hallway until 11:00 pm. We really are stronger and better when we do things together. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Student Biographies:

Andrew Tran-Chung: I was born and raised in Houston, and my brother and I were always involved at our parish—daily Mass, serving at the altar, food drives, and many more activities. My parents always supported us, whether that was driving me to school at 5:00 am for my breakfast club with friends or to hours-long rehearsals for the Easter Vigil. My parents grew up with the Redemptorists in Vietnam so they raised us as a Redemptorist family, despite the fact that we belong to a diocesan parish. I always saw Redemptorists wearing their habits in ministry worldwide, whether they were in the mountainous forests of Vietnam working with indigenous people or participating in ordination celebrations at Holy Ghost Parish. I saw Redemptorist missionaries always adapting to new environments, remaining fearless of trying new things, and finding new ways to serve our brothers and sisters. As I’m finishing my third year in the Bronx, I’m grateful for the incredible privilege to learn new skills, explore different ministries, and meet incredible people, from Partners in Mission to the priests and brothers that make up our Redemptorists family. This past summer I worked with the incredible team at Immaculata University— Fr. Royce Thomas, Sr. Laura Downing IHM, and Amanda Bielat—and I learned what it really takes to do campus ministry well in serving students around my age. I also was able to join Fr. Aaron Meszaros last December for a Co-Redemptorist Preaching Appeal weekend in Tucson. But honestly, one of the most important things I’ve really learned through three incredible years in formation is that our mission to serve the most abandoned is nourished by our communities – by those who will be there for me through it all.

Sean Wu: I was born in Boston and felt a call to the priesthood ever since I can remember. My grandmother had a special devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and my mother brought me to the Basilica dedicated to her in Boston on several occasions. My high school was a short walk from the Basilica, and I would often stop in to pray and participate in daily Mass. It was also during this time that my home parish started a youth group and I met Dang Nguyen, who was discerning a vocation with the Redemptorists. I had originally felt called to be a diocesan priest and hoped to enter the seminary after high school, but I decided it would be best to spend a couple of years in college and work before I made such a life-changing commitment. It was during this time that Dang suggested I call the vocation directors for the Redemptorists. After putting off the idea several times, I finally gave them a call, providentially on the feast of St. Gerard Majella. Over the past couple of years I got to know the Redemptorists better by going on vocation retreats and staying in their communities. Through these experiences I was inspired by how down to earth and personal the priests and brothers are, so I applied and by the grace of God was accepted. In the Bronx I have not simply found a community but truly a family. I have found in this community a group of men who are supportive of each other and who are committed to bringing the Good News to the most abandoned. The best part is I do this weekly in my ministry teaching catechism to students seeking to be baptized and confirmed. In addition to our outreach to people experiencing homelessness on our Wednesday Hope Walks, the simple act of bringing food and engaging in conversation and prayer brings immense joy to the people we encounter. Please pray for all of us, and know that in turn, we are praying for you.

Cody Hill: I am the youngest of three siblings from a devout Catholic family of five in Biloxi, MS. I served 10 years in the Army National Guard and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. I have always had a natural inclination for assisting the poor, forgotten and unloved. The charism of the Redemptorists fits this part of my character perfectly. The Redemptorists came to my area in a time of need after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. My family – actually, our entire parish—instantly fell in love with the Redemptorists and their charism. I was given the opportunity to pursue this calling, thanks to the support of my family and my community. I am in New York participating in the formation program, learning what it is to be a Redemptorist and working alongside them. During the day, we attend St. John’s University. This year, I’m on the Hope Walk and I have the incredible opportunity to minister to people who are homeless in our neighborhood. This has helped me to explain Catholic doctrine and teachings in a simple way. I look forward to continuing my vocation journey, and I ask for your prayers and support.

Son Lai: I was born and raised in the countryside of South Vietnam. When I was 18, my family and I moved to the United States to be reunited with relatives. I am the fifth child in my family—I have three older brothers and one older sister, and one younger sister. Before joining the formation program, I operated a small business with the assistance of my family. For many years, I worked in a rewarding career, but I never truly felt at peace. I became more involved in the Church and began to sense a call from God. I had a long struggle with myself and many conversations with the Redemptorist Vocation Director, who assisted me in understanding how God wants me to live and function in this world. I ultimately made the decision to join the Redemptorists in August of 2021. This year is my last semester at St. John’s University, majoring in philosophy and minoring in theology. Being a Redemptorist seminarian is a blessing. I’m satisfied with where I am, and I am happy with the opportunities that I have gotten by uniting my own will with the will of God. I like being with my fellow seminarians. I think it’s important to highlight that we all come from various cultural backgrounds, which is a blessing because we can all learn a lot from each other as we accompany one another. Please continue to pray for my brothers and for me as we follow in the footsteps of St. Alphonsus.

Dang Nguyen: I am from Boston. I initially applied to the formation program in early 2019 and hoped to enter the formation program right after high school, but my life took a different direction. For a long time, I wanted to walk away from the Redemptorists, away from a potential vocation. I wanted to start over with a refreshed perspective after I finished my work in university. During the uncertainty of the global pandemic, I realized my vocation and God sent a Redemptorist to my side to help guide me in ways no one ever had before—this time, to Him. I was ready. He entered into my life with the utmost gentleness, always reassuring me that I should never feel forced to follow this path. However, by his life and action, for what he has done for me and others, there is no one else I would rather follow. Just by being himself, he revealed to me exactly who the Redemptorists are. With no words, he convinced me that I should be with them. He was real, authentic: a true Redemptorist. In a small post dedicated to him, I conclude: I continue to follow him because I want to be where he is, and just like a son’s dream: I want to be just like him when I grow up. He is Fr. Francis X. Tran Quang, C.Ss.R.

Huy Pham: I was born in Saigon, Vietnam and moved to the United States at the age of three. We settled in Massachusetts for a few years and then lived in Indiana for 19 years. A year before I entered the Bronx community, my family decided to move to Fort Worth, TX to be close to other family members. I have a younger brother. My devout Catholic family attended Mass every week and was involved in the parish as much as possible. I’ve had a few callings to a vocation in the past, but never bothered to answer them as I wasn’t as strong in my faith. During my years in college, my faith became stronger, and I started opening up my heart to answer God’s call. After answering my call to the priesthood, I explored several different opportunities to find where I belong, and I chose the Redemptorists. They stood out to me because of their charism in serving the poor and preaching the gospel to the most abandoned. I am currently in my first year of formation in the Bronx. I lived in a small town in Indiana for a long time, and had to adapt to a big city like New York. It is not easy, but I’ve learned how to adapt easily because the Redemptorists move around in ministry and must adapt to their surroundings as well. Please continue to pray for me as I continue my vocation journey to discern God’s will.

Juannier Rodriguez Matos: My name is Juannier Rodriguez Matos. I was born on July 11, 1989 to a Catholic family in Baracoa, a municipality of Guantánamo, Cuba. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology with a specialty in malacology, and a diploma in anthropology. I worked as a freelance journalist and human rights activist. I managed to go to Panama for World Youth Day in 2019. At the end of the event, I came to the United States as a refugee and settled in Houston. My parents, my sister, my nieces, and my brother-in-law now live there. I worked washing cars, in a grocery store, and providing maintenance at oil companies, refineries, and power plants. If you ask me how I became interested in the Redemptorists, I will say it was the work of the Holy Spirit. I started going to Sunday Mass at Holy Ghost Parish. There I talked with my friend, Fr. John Gouger, and told him about my previous experiences. He invited me to get to know the Congregation … and here I am. I came to the Bronx in August of 2023 and began a program of intensive English at St. John’s University. I am part of the formation community discerning God’s call to be a Redemptorist missionary. Only God knows why this is happening, but I want to be a missionary. I want to go where no one else wants to go. I want to take the gospel wherever God sends me. I am not afraid; I am a happy man. Please pray for us and for all seminarians.


The Redemptorists are grateful for the support and generosity of the members of the
Co-Redemptorists Association and for all those who support Redemptorists Vocations.
Please continue to pray for our seminarians.