“I’m really eager to serve here,” said Father Peter Tuyen Tran, the new pastor of St. Joachim’s Church of Meshoppen and St. Mary’s Church of Wyalusing.
“The people here, they need me,” Tran continued. “My will is to serve God and Christ.”
In March 2018, Tran, formerly associated with the Catholic Church in Canada, was accepted by the Scranton Diocese to work as a Senior Priest. After serving at a few other locations, Tran was appointed in August as Administrator of Our Lady of Perpetual Help - which includes both parishes.
Born in Vietnam in 1951, Tran decided he wanted to become a priest when he was 11.
“They sent me to seminary in Vietnam,” he explained. “I was fascinated by the trappings of office.”
Although he wasn’t too serious at first, his desire to become a priest solidified when he was in his 20s.
However, the fall of South Vietnam to the North in 1975 delayed his being ordained.
“From 1975 to 1988, no one was ordained,” Tran said, explaining the Communist government refused to give permission.
“Life after the fall was very tough on my people,” he said.
Tran attempted four times to obtain permission to become ordained. He spent time in jail as a result.
Although there were practicing Catholic priests in Vietnam at the time, they were not allowed to say Mass or celebrate openly.
The system was so corrupt that often the only way a person could get something was to bribe a government official.
Tran finally decided to leave the country and escaped by boat to Malaysia in 1988. There he remained in a refugee camp for three years, until a Canadian delegation from the Roman Catholic Church arranged for his emigration in 1991. There he studied at St. Joseph’s Seminary at Edmonton, Alberta for two years.
“I was ordained on Jan. 22, 1993,” Tran said proudly.
Through the years, Tran has served in various capacities in Alberta, and Ontario, Canada.
In 2016, Tran said, he decided he wanted to pursue his doctoral degree in Canon Law. Because his bishop refused the request, Tran decided to retire and pursue the matter on his own.
Studying at the Pontifical University of Lateran in Rome, Tran earned his doctorate in Canon Law, graduating Manga Cum Laude.
When he returned to Canada, Tran said, his bishop refused to reinstate him, because he had retired.
Although Tran is clear and articulate, it’s evident that English is not his first language. It’s sometimes necessary to listen carefully and occasionally ask him to repeat something.
“People are very giving to their priest,” Tran explained being after asked if there’s been any problems communicating. “They are very willing to help out.”
Tran also said he has experienced no problems with the congregation or other people in the area because he is from Vietnam.
“I get a good support from the people,” he said.
Tran also said he intends to serve the parishes for the next seven to 10 years.
“I don’t intend to retire - to really retire - until I’m 75,” he said.