BORN INTO a peasant family in a rural area of Central Vietnam, I am the second of five children. Growing up, I had to work very hard as a farmer.
I attended primary and secondary schools at a neighboring village. I was good at natural science subjects, such as math, physics and chemistry. When I got to high school, my interests expanded to include literature, history, geography and English. I was a boy of contrasts in school. In general, I was very quiet and did not talk much. Yet, once I participated in any activities of my class, and I always showed enthusiasm and zeal.
When I was in fifth grade, I became an altar server in my home parish. By observing my pastor’s life, the desire of being a priest came to me. It is this desire that has directed my behaviors, thoughts, and actions.
After I finished high school in 2001, I took an examination for university study in Saigon City, but I did not pass. This was the turning point in my life as I realized that God wanted me to focus on my vocation to be a priest. The following year, I took another examination in Hue City, and I passed.
I began my student life with a definite attitude toward my vocation. In my diary, I wrote: “From now on, I consider the university as a seminary and I am as a seminarian of that ‘seminary.’”
This was my own spiritual direction during my time studying at the university, and I observed it very seriously. I attended Mass every day. I studied catechism at Cathedral Parish of Phu Cam, the home parish of Blessed Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. In addition, I was a member of the Non-resident Seminarians of Hue City and we all met once a month to discern our vocations.
After I graduated in 2007, I took an entrance exam to enter Vinh Thanh Major Seminary, Diocese of Vinh, and I passed. I was trained and educated there for two-and-a-half years.
In September, 2010, my bishop and the faculty of Vinh Thanh Major Seminary sent me to study abroad in the United States under the sponsorship of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
After studying philosophy at St. John’s University, Jamaica, I began my theological studies in St. Joseph’s Seminary.
I was ordained a transitional deacon on March 24, and graduated from the seminary last month. The next step is ordination to the priesthood.
Deacon Cao will be ordained a priest on June 30.