StaffMeet the staff members of the Newman Center.
|Name||Fr. Peter Do|
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|Bio||In 1977, a baby boy was born in a little Vietnamese hamlet called Ho Nai 4. This small hamlet, or village, is about 20 minutes from Bien Hoa (by moped) or three hours by car from Saigon. A descendant from a long line of Vietnamese Catholics, the baby, named Hoang Do, grew up thinking that all Vietnamese people were Catholics. His family, farmers who originated from the former North Viet Nam, had migrated to South Viet Nam after WWII when the country had been divided into two parts, the northern half being Communist and the southern half being Democratic. The entire town of Bui Chu, North Viet Nam, led by a Catholic priest, migrated south to escape Communist rule. With the Communist victory in 1975, the people of the former South Viet Nam found themselves living a very difficult life. Early one morning in 1984, young Hoang Do’s father awakened him very early and, without giving him a chance to say goodbye to his mother, took him to an awaiting boat a nearby harbor under the cover of darkness. Like all the others who made their break for freedom from the tyranny of Communist rule, they paid a fee equivalent to one’s life savings, in gold, for a trip to a better life. The Do’s, father and son, became what we have long referred to as “The Boat People.” The boat offered no conveniences or privacy to the approximately sixty people on board. As harsh as conditions were, they got worse when, after the first week at sea, they ran out of food. For about four days, no one ate. Then, a fishing boat appeared. The very real threat of pirates, evil men known to commit rape, murder and theft, was a great cause for concern among the hungry, anxious people desperate for a chance at life and freedom. Fortunately, the boat was not a pirate ship but a Thai fishing boat. These Thai fishermen showed kindness to the refugees and gave them provisions to help them complete their arduous journey. Father Do still clearly remembers his meal of rice and fish soup as “The best meal I ever ate.” He considers himself to be very blessed, because most of the boat people did meet with pirates. Arriving at an island in Malaysia, they were not greeted kindly at first. The Malaysian military met them with guns and soldiers, thinking that these folks may very well be pirates. Of course, the number of women and children on board helped the soldiers to realize that this was a group of innocent people. However, this was not a refugee camp, so they had to move on again. They eventually arrived at another island in Malaysia that was designed as a refugee camp. They lived there for six months until their sponsor, his father’s Father, was successful in getting them released to the United States. During those six months, while Father Do’s father would work collecting driftwood, Father Do would remain in the camp. Huddled with hundreds of other refugees also awaiting sponsorship, he would listen to see if his father’s name was called. Normally, this process could take years - often up to five years. However, after only six months, his father’s name was called! Father Do was very excited to tell his father who, due to his own excitement, wasn’t positive that his son had heard correctly. But, it was true! Father and son were going to the United States. Father Do and his father left the Malaysian refugee camp for the Philippines. They waited there for still another six months. Living conditions were very good compared to what they had just come from. Here, they had an apartment. In Malaysia, they had a roof over their heads but no walls. It was all open air. And the RATS! Father Do remembers them as huge creatures. One night he felt something moving around in his blanket, which turned out to be a big old rat. He said that everyone was happy in the Malaysian refugee camp in spite of their circumstances, because they were still alive and had made it this far. Accustomed to hardship under Communist rule, they still had hope of a better life. Unlike Malaysia, there was no real hardship in the Philippines. Father Do remembers the Philippines as having beautiful, crystal clear, sunny beaches. Arriving in the United States in 1985 on his first airplane ride, Father Do and his father made their home in Portland, Oregon. It would be another five years before his mother would be able to join them. Father Do was entered into the 3rd grade where he found that his math skills were superior to his classmates. While they were still learning their “times tables,” he was already into long division. This, he attributes to his father, for during their stay in the Philippines, his Dad would have him complete math assignments to pass the time. His cousin, who was the same age and born in the U.S., was a great help to him. She took him by the hand and helped him adjust to life in America. Although she didn’t speak Vietnamese all that well, they learned to communicate well. Looking back, he is thankful for her and how she helped him get by in those early days. Father Do began studying English as a Second Language (ESL), continuing through the 8th grade. Even now, after many years of speaking English, he believes he doesn’t have a comprehensive understanding of the language. He refers to it as a very difficult language. Interestingly, he says that he speaks Vietnamese with a northern accent because of his heritage from Bui Chu, North Viet Nam. Hoang Do became an American citizen in 1997 and adopted the name “Peter” as his first name because of the difficulty Americans have with pronouncing Hoang. Now, his full name is Peter Hoang Do. Father Do remembers that it was while he was at Grant High School (Portland, OR) that he first seriously considered his calling to the priesthood. He listened to a Maryknoll priest tell his CCD class that “I know there’s one of you in this class that God is calling to be a priest…..” Father Do said “So for strange reason, I was surprised by that. I asked a Vietnamese seminarian about becoming a priest.” However, there was no follow-up and Father Do’s advancement toward priesthood did not gather any momentum until a few years later. While in college, Father Do began to direct his life toward becoming a doctor, although in the back of his mind he still entertained ideas of becoming a priest. He once spoke with the vocations director of the Archdiocese of Portland about becoming a priest, but the man seemed “disengaged,” as Father Do worded it. Perhaps he felt it was because Father Do was so young. As part of his undergradate studies, Father Do majored in Bio-Chemistry. In his third year (1998), he went to Washington, D.C. for his internship, working at the NIH (National Institute of Health). At the NIH he received training in molecular biology and “I fell in love with it, working in a lab. I thought I’d like to become a researcher.” While in D.C., “by chance” he met a Vietnamese vocations director, a Dominican Priest named Father Thien. His aunt, a sister living in Maryland who was in her novitiate at the time, wanted to see him. She arranged for this priest to provide transportation for him so they could get together. It was Father Thien who said to him, “God is calling you. When are you going to answer and enter the seminary?” Father Do clearly recalls coming to a fork in the road at that point. He knew he had to make a decision. While Father Do completed his internship in Washington, D.C., Father Thien maintained contact with him. Father Do returned to Portland, obtaining a BS Degree in Bio-Chemistry in 1999. That year, he began grad school at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He attended school there for two years, earning a Masters Degree in Chemistry. In December, 2000, Father Do returned to Viet Nam for the first time since he had left it in 1984. It was this visit that motivated him to make up his mind about his calling. Unable to identify one particular reason for the timing of this decision, he cites his father’s dedication to him and the sacrifice that he made to achieve freedom for his family. In addition, he spoke of the many times that God had gotten his attention that He was calling him into the priesthood. There were also numerous other reasons which played a part in this decision. However, whatever it was that triggered this decision at this time, Father Do returned to the United States in early 2001 with a renewed zeal to become a priest and spoke with a Dominican Priest in Salt Lake City about his calling. This time, unlike before, there was a remarkably quick response. The very next day, Father Do received an email message from the Vocations Director in Oakland, CA, inviting him to visit the seminary. Father Do took him up on the offer and, in his words; he “was impressed by the life.” In February or March, 2001, Father Do began the application process. Although this process normally takes at least a year, Father Do wanted in immediately. His desire was realized, for on August 15, 2001, during the Feast of the Assumption, he entered the seminary. Father Do said the first year in the seminary was one of learning the religious life – How to pray, about the Order, about the Vows (Chastity, Poverty, Obedience), the Charisms of the Dominican Order, the four pillars (Preaching/Teaching, Communal Prayer, Community and Study). In the second year, he studied Philosophy and in the third year it was Theology. Father Do came to Holy Family Cathedral in August, 2005 in what’s called the “Residency” year. He returned to Oakland, CA to attend the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, “DSPT” for short. The DSPT is part of a larger group of schools known as “GTU” – Graduate Theological Union. Three Catholic orders are associated with this school – Dominicans, Jesuits and Franciscans. There are about seven other non-Catholic organizations affiliated with GTU as well. 1. May 30th: CPE at Providence Hospital (Anchorage, AK) 2. August 2006: Return to Oakland for 2nd year of Theology studies 3. August 2007: Go abroad for 3rd year of Theology studies 4. December 2007: Solemn Profession 5. January 12, 2008: Ordination to transitional Diaconate in Washington, D.C. 6. May 30, 2009: Ordination as Priest! (Father Peter Do!) 2. Why did you become a Dominican? I wanted to be a Dominican because of the order’s emphasis on the common life. I like the fact that we pray the Divine Office together and live in community. I also enjoy the order’s 800 year-old tradition with its emphasis on study, preaching, and the life of the saints of order.