Br Stephen Tran

Br Steven Tran was born in Vietnam in 1974, came to Australia with his family, professed First Vows in 2007 and is a lay brother. He is currently living in the South Melbourne fraternity and is involved with running Open House and the Friar's Van ministry. He also assists with the faith formation of young adults. The autobiography below was written towards the late-2000's.

Before I resigned from my job to join the Capuchin Friars, I left my work colleagues with this message:

“We all exist for a reason,

There is a purpose for each and every one of us in this world,

May we come to know the reason for our existence

And discover the purpose and meaning for our lives.”

I guess at the end of the day after all I have done and said, I was left with this thought, the meaning and purpose of life. 

The story of my vocation has been a life long journey. I was born in Vietnam into a big family of 9 children, 4 girls and 5 boys. I am the second youngest in my family. We came to Australia in 1984 when I was 11 years old. I grew up in Western Australia, Perth and I did the rest of my Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Education (BSc, Dip. Ed.) in Perth. 

I remember as a young child, during my Primary school years, I loved to come to Mass. I do not know how or why. Every morning I would attend Mass before school starts. Even during the school holidays, I would walk to Church which was next to my school to attend Mass. Often during the Holy Mass I felt a great sense of joy from within to the extent that I thought to myself I could live this forever. To this day I am very thankful to God for having made my childhood’s dream and desire become a reality. 

As I was growing up in Perth, one of my older brothers entered the seminary. During his enquiring months, I recognised a deep sense of joy and enthusiasm within him and a great sense of freedom in the Spirit in his life. I often wondered how and why he was like that.  In 1992 he entered St. Charles Seminary, of the Archdiocese of Perth. Over the next few years I became more curious about priesthood.  I came along to several vocation enquiry days at St. Charles Seminary over the years. Hence, the seed of the search for the meaning of life was sown.

Towards the end of my university years the idea of priesthood still lingered in the back of my mind, but I was still not sure if this way of life was for me.  I completed my studies in 1999 and I thought may be I should work for a few years and see where the Lord would lead me. I worked two years in Kalgoorlie for a mining company in a laboratory as a Chemist. In 2002 I moved to Melbourne and lived with my sister and her family while I worked for an environmental company analysing water for another two years.  

Having worked for a few years with a little more experience of life and a deeper sense and understanding of the meaning of love and life, I began to search for a deeper meaning and purpose for my life.  I reflected on the wonderful mystery and gift of love. I believe true love transforms One to become a better person.  True love can lead One to holiness. True love allows One die to Oneself for another.

My inner conversion experience was through this love. Love has brought me back to confession and Holy Communion.  True Love has allowed me to surrender everything to God. True Love has helped me to search for a deeper meaning in life. I surrendered myself to God and searched for His Holy will for me. I handed over to God my heart, my mind, my body, my soul, my desires, my dreams, my wishes….

One Saturday evening, it was the Vigil of the Good Shepherd Sunday.  I drove to the Church near home. It was rather dark. Everyone had already left after the Sunday Vigil Holy Mass.  I sat in my car wondering what I should do.  I decided to take out the book, ‘The Catechesis of St. John Vianney’. I opened it randomly and it landed on Chapter 9 which was about the Priesthood.  As I read it, I felt a deep sense of the needs for Priests in our Christian life.  It became clearer to me that without Priests, there would be no Holy Mass, hence no presence of Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Without the Blessed Sacrament, our souls would not be able to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ.  There would be no presence of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in this world.

From this night on, every time I see a poster that advertise vocation to the priesthood and religious life, something stirred up within me, like a new shoot sprouting, trying to push its way through the soil to reach the living light. I felt a strong attraction towards religious life, but I was unsure whether this was God’s will for me.  I attended to Holy Mass more often during the week. Hoy Mass became more meaningful to me.  Some times I felt very emotional during Holy Mass, especially at the consecration of the bread and wine, and most especially at the elevation of the Body and Blood of Jesus, to the extent I would get goose bumps.  At times, when I came up to receive Holy Communion, my heart beat faster and faster as I came closer and closer to receive Jesus. When I received Him in the palm of my hands I just wanted to stand there and adore him longer and longer before I received Him.  I pondered on what great love Jesus has for us.  What privilege we have, not only are we able to stand before His presence, but we are also allow to come up to receive Him in our hands and consume Him into our bodies.

One day I had finished work early. I did not really want to come home because I knew I would not be able to read the book by St John Vianney as I would be distracted by my young nephews and niece. I wanted to find a quiet place where I could sit down and read. Then I suddenly thought of the Cathedral. I drove there and as I came to the side of the Cathedral to find a bench to sit down, I noticed the Cathedral’s door was open. In my curiosity, I decided to come in to have a look. When I got in, to my great surprise, I saw the Blessed Sacrament was exposed.  I knelt down and bow to the Lord with a very grateful heart for having found him at this time of the evening. This was a totally unexpected, joyful surprise for me. I stayed and prayed, poured out everything in my heart and my soul to Jesus.  Later I learnt that this prayer group, Six Thirty, had been operating for the last three or four years every Thursday evening. It was at this same evening that I met couple of friars in brown habits that belong to the Franciscan Capuchin Order, Fr. Denis and Fr. Robert.

I remained in contact with the Friars at St. Anthony Friary in Hawthorn and came to several ‘Young Men Reflection Night’ as I continued to discern about my vocation. In May, 2005 I applied to join Postulancy, which commenced early December of the same year.  After 9 months of Postulancy in Sydney, I was enrolled to do Novitiate in the States for the whole 2007.  I have recently come back to Melbourne and received my Temporary Vows on the 8th December, 2007 at St. Anthony Shrine and now continuing my formation with the community of St. Anthony Friary. The Journey of my vocation continues and so far there have been many blessings seen and unseen. Following the footsteps of St. Francis, imitating Jesus, living the Gospel way of life has not been all easy, but these have been the best years of my life, always calling me to reach out beyond myself to give, to love and to serve as a minor, lesser brother. I thank God each day for the gift of this vocation. ‘Praise and Thanksgiving always to Our Lord Jesus Christ’.

Go to: Our Men in Formation