By Joyce Coronel, Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante Magazine
is parents came to the U.S. from Vietnam as refugees, part of a wave of tens of thousands of people fleeing persecution, oppression, and the collapse of the Vietnamese economy. His father was one of those who braved the shark- and pirate-infested open seas rather than stay in his homeland.
Deacon Anthony Dang grew up in Tempe, the eldest of four children, and attended Bustoz Elementary and McClintock High School. His family was active at Church of the Resurrection, where his mother got him involved volunteering at the parish in the religious education program and also signed him up to be an altar server.
Trauma leads to prayer
But it was the uncertainty and anguish of a serious car accident on the U.S. 60 that provoked a teenage Anthony to begin praying the rosary fervently, a practice that eventually led him to discern the priesthood.
“There was a car accident my freshman year of high school with some of my family members,” Deacon Dang said. His father was driving along the busy freeway when he hit the wall. He and his three passengers were all injured.
“My dad, my grandpa, my sister Annie, and my brother Andrew were in the car,” Deacon Dang said. His grandfather sustained fractured ribs, his father suffered severe bruising, his brother Andrew had some teeth knocked out, and his sister Annie had internal injuries that damaged her intestines and required surgery.
Deacon Dang reacted to the crisis with prayer, turning to the rosary. Eventually, his grandfather and sister were released from the hospital.
“Everyone survived, but I was still in the habit of praying the rosary, so I was thinking, ‘I’ll just keep praying the rosary.’”
The habit led him to soul-searching.
“I first heard the call when I was around 16, during my sophomore year of high school. I was praying the rosary when I heard that call to the seminary. It was like my heart was being drawn toward it,” Deacon Dang said.
Responding to God’s call
Doubt crept in though. “I had second thoughts about it. I didn’t want to be a priest. I said, forget about it.’”
During his junior year of high school, Deacon Dang’s pastor, Father Romeo Dionisio, invited him to a day of discernment at Mt. Claret Retreat Center. The tranquil setting tucked against Camelback Mountain proved an ideal setting for a momentous realization, as it turned out. It was there that Deacon Dang was moved by stirring presentations given by Father Will Schmid. Thought-provoking questions posed by attendees were answered well.
“I saw a lot of young men there and met a lot of great priests,” Deacon Dang said. “I felt at home, and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I could be one of those priests that’s over there.’
“After that day of discernment, I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I want to go to seminary.’”
Deacon Dang’s mom, Nhung Dang, had a major impact on his faith journey. “She always encouraged me to be faithful and to learn about God,” he said. “She took me to church for RE and to volunteer at places like St. Vincent de Paul. Just her constant presence and her constant faith and commitment helped me in my faith journey.”
“It’s been like, since he’s little until he grew up, we can see him; he has a vocation,” Nhung said.
“I am happy that he will become a priest. He’s a gift to us. God chose him, and we give back the gift to God.”
Deacon Dang completed his seminary studies at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
“At St. John Vianney, I just felt the community — that includes the seminarians, the priests, faculty and staff — I just felt at home. They have a good spirit of joy overall at the seminary. Just living in community and the huge emphasis on human formation and spiritual formation,” Deacon Dang said.
Like his fellow seminarians, he studied Spanish and will be able to celebrate Mass in that language. The pandemic prevented an immersion program in Honduras, but he was able to complete language classes virtually. “Last summer, I got to go for three weeks as a newly ordained deacon and do mission work there. It was great,” Deacon Dang said.
What about offering Mass in Vietnamese?
“It’s a little tricky. I think I can, but it will take a lot of practice.”
After nine years of study, DeaconDang said he’s excited to be home.
“My heart is at home in the Diocese of Phoenix.”
Meet Anthony Dang
- Favorite saint: St. Anthony of Padua
- Favorite scripture: “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I send them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” -Jn 17:17-19
- Hobbies: Soccer, basketball, watching sports
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