Priest shares personal journey from Vietnam to St. Joe’s, Waconia
It is said that God often works in wonderful, mysterious ways and that might be an
appropriate way to describe the life journey taken by the Rev. Bennet Tran, who began his ministry at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waconia this past July.
“I am originally from Saigon, Vietnam. I was born and grew up there,” said Tran, who replaced the Rev. Larry Blake, who was deployed into active duty as a military chaplain this summer after performing six years of ministry at St. Joe’s. “I was a refugee, some older readers might remember the term boat person, who escaped Vietnam and came to the United States by way of a refugee camp in Hong Kong,” he said.
Once in the United States, Tran lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., and after finishing school, Tran worked at a regional bank for several years. He moved to the Twin Cities area in 1999, living in Lakeville and working in Eagan. Although Tran had a successful career in the banking industry, he decided to start attending seminary in 2002.
“For us in the Catholic tradition, it’s a concept of being called, feeling God calling us, and in my case, feeling God call me into the priesthood,” he explained. “For a number of years, I was happy with what I did. I worked at a good bank and I was a pretty good banker. By every measure, I was successful. I had all my needs and most of my wants met,” he said. “But there was a sense of something more, that I wasn’t whole, so I finally said, ‘You know what, God, I’m finally going to give you a chance.’
“I remember when I left my work in Eagan, my colleagues and I had a pact on how long will Bennet last at the seminary before they kick him out,” Tran recalled with a smile. “The longest anyone thought I would last was a year; I would survive one year. That was kind of my thought process. I will give God a chance to work on me. If it doesn’t work, I would leave … but here I am.”
Over the years, Tran has completed an impressive amount of education. He has degrees in Business and Psychology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids and attended graduate studies in management at St. Thomas Aquinas College, also in Grand Rapids. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, a graduate school of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
Tran was ordained as a priest in 2008. His first assignment was at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Anoka and he served there for three years before going to St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church in Brooklyn Park. After one year there, Tran was assigned to Waconia.
“Priestly life is even better than I can imagine,” Tran said. “I feel very fortunate to be assigned here at St. Joe’s in Waconia. I’ve been very impressed with the faith community here in Waconia and the community as a whole. I’ve had the opportunity to meet area ministers and I was very impressed with them and the level of cooperation among the clergy of the different faith communities.”
Tran has been enjoying the small town vibe that Waconia is famous for and he said he was impressed with the community spirit displayed during Nickle Dickle Day.
“For a community to put on a good community event like that, it’s a good testament to the people of this community,” he said, noting how excited he is to be in Waconia. “(St. Joe’s is) a wonderful parish and a beautiful school, just a really vibrant faith community on both sides of the street,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing many wonderful things here. As Waconia grows, I want to position ourselves to be a welcoming community and continue to grow with the city.”
As St. Joe’s serves approximately 1,200 families and 4,000 members, Tran said he hasn’t had much free time as he has become acclimated to his position at St. Joe’s but when he does have a few hours free, he enjoys going to the movies and spending time outdoors.
“I’m thankful there’s a movie theater I can walk to just down the street,” he said. “I hope to do more biking next year and getting out on Lake Waconia.”