As the date for his ordination draws near, Kieu is happy and eager to begin serving God as a priest.
“I don’t know if I have all the answers or if I have prepared enough,” Kieu said. “I struggle with it, but I am open to the Holy Spirit to guide me. I know that I can handle all these things, the demands, with the help of the Holy Spirit.”
Kieu was interested in becoming a priest from a young age and escaped Vietnam in order to do so. At age eight he escaped Vietnam, survived a hurricane while staying on a small island off the coast of Thailand, and finally made it to mainland Thailand in 1983. He remained in a refugee camp until 1988, when he was given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States.
In 2000, Kieu began to answer his vocational call to the priesthood. He earned his undergraduate degree at Divine Word College in Iowa in 2005. Soon after, he became a novice in the Society of the Divine Word in 2006 and studied for two years.
After spending some time in formation with the Divine Word Missionaries, he prayed for guidance and direction.
He later came into contact with Father Toan Pham, who at the time was still a seminarian, and was encouraged to consider the diocesan priesthood for the Diocese of San Bernardino.
After further discernment and prayer, he applied and was accepted to enter into formation for the diocesan priesthood.
Once admitted, he began to explore the diocese, the different ministries present at the Diocesan Pastoral Center and at parishes.
During this time he visited the Eastern Coachella Valley community of Mecca.
“I was there with Sister Gabi Williams and I saw how they lived, and saw poor conditions,” Kieu said. “It is because of those types of things that I have been called to serve. I want to serve those in need, wherever they are.”
Following his initial formation at Serra House, he began to study theology at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas.
Kieu served his internship year at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, Temecula. There he immersed himself as best he could in different ministries, trying to get a feel for what parish life will be like.
“It was a challenging experience, but it helped me a lot,” Kieu said. “I learned from the people and was a part of different ministries so I will be able to know how to help people in different areas.”
He was ordained a transitional deacon in December at St. Catherine before returning to Assumption Seminary to complete his studies.
“I have had my ups and downs, but I have gone where God wanted me to go,” Kieu said. “I’ve called on God and the Virgin Mary to be with me. What I know is that in this diocese, I feel peace and at ease.”