Fr. Tai Le with Prince Albert Bishop Stephen Hero after Le was ordained to the priesthood this summer. Photo courtesy of Fr. Le

Priest in Canada via a road less travelled

  • October 5, 2022

When Tai Le arrived at Vancouver International Airport seven years ago at the tender age of 21, the future associate pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince Albert, Sask., admitted that his first experience being surrounded by Canadians “was overwhelming.”

“It was such a shock to land in Vancouver to see a bunch of people much bigger than me,” said Le with a chuckle.

Le is by no means a short fellow, but in his Vietnamese homeland his 5’10 frame raises him six inches taller than the typical grown man. In Canada, he blends into the national average.

Overcoming the double take with Canadian physical statures was handled immediately, but becoming acclimatized to the people, culture and the infamous winters of our northern land for the man studying to become a priest took some time.

Picking Canada as his new country could be characterized as “a road less traveled” moment in Le’s life. He could have chosen to instead pursue his vocation in the United States, which would have been the more natural choice considering he has family living south of the border.

“I did a lot of thinking, but I decided to go to Canada because I wanted to try something new,” said Le, who turned 28 in July. “For most of my life when I was young, I was under the umbrella of family. Everything was provided for — I was a bit spoiled. I wanted to challenge to see how well I would do in an environment where I didn’t have the support of my family.”

Le’s mentor, Fr. Tri, a priest in the town of Vĩnh Châu, also had a hand in lighting Le’s pathway. Tri had become acquainted with Fr. Cuong Luong, who ministered within the Prince Albert diocese (he recently was appointed to the Diocese of Calgary), and he told the priest visiting his home country of Le’s intention to study abroad. Tri, who Le considers his “honorary godfather,” suggested Luong facilitate a meeting between Le and the then-Prince Albert Bishop Albert Thévenot.

As a youth, Le was sent to stay with Tri on the recommendation of his mother Chi, who thought her son could learn some valuable life lessons through residing with a servant of God. Le said his mother did not anticipate this arrangement sparking a passion to become a priest himself.

She greeted Le’s decision with reticence at first as she wanted him to stay with her in Vietnam. Le has a degree in electrical engineering under his belt from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology.

“It was a bit hard for her to first accept that truth, but now she is very supportive. She calls me almost every day to check on me. She asks, ‘are any of the parishioners bullying you yet,’ ” said Le with a laugh.

His father, Thu, is described by Le as being “quiet like (St.) Joseph.”

“He is very supportive. He showed his love for me through actions more than words.”

St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton was where Le underwent his formation into priesthood. He appreciates his teachers for providing “an environment where you are called to grow and mature every day.” Le, a man who said he enjoys reading intellectually stimulating theology books more than viewing sports or popular entertainment, said the seminary also excels at providing academic instruction.

Ordained a priest on June 10 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Le started serving the diocese over the summer. He is eager to engage enthusiastically with the younger generations of Canadians who are more prone to falling away from practising Catholicism.

“Energy is the gift that God has given to me. I want to use that energy to inspire them. I can relate to them because I know what it was like to go to university and study subjects like science and theology. My scientific knowledge works with what I learned in theology to explain that there is a God.”

Aware of secularization increasingly permeating Canadian culture, Le said “nowadays we have lost the sense that there is something greater than us.”

Practising the virtue of humility is key, said Le, for helping “to know himself” and feel confident in providing service to them.

“I am young, but I have something I can offer.”

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