In the summer of 2005, Bao Nguyen, S.J, a scholastic (a Jesuit seminarian) of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus at that time, made a visit to Vietnam six years after leaving his homeland. What struck him most on his return was the challenging situation facing the Vietnamese Church and its people. He witnessed the reality of Vietnamese young people who had no opportunities to achieve a good education. He also saw the increasing number of Vietnamese religious who still had no access to further professional training. Coming back to the United States he was moved by those images and knew that he must do something to make some contributions to the Catholic Church for his country. He believed that the best way to help the Vietnamese people was through the personnel training of those working in the Church, and the most fervent of these would be religious and priests.
He talked with his provincial about his dream for improving education of the Vietnam Church. Education is surely the primary mission of Society of Jesus since its foundation. After he received the permission from his provincial, he started communicating with presidents of some of the Jesuit universities and as well as other Catholic schools in the United States. He shared with them his mission vision for Vietnam and invited their help in the form of some scholarships. His mission vision attracted these presidents, and they were willing to grant those scholarships for Vietnamese religious and priests since they considered this task as part of their mission of evangelization in developing countries like Vietnam. He then talked with some Vietnamese bishops and superiors of religious congregations in Vietnam about these scholarships. Certainly, the bishops and superiors were excited, and decided to send their people to pursue further education in the United States.
By the year of 2010, Father Bao Nguyen had been able to bring about one hundred religious, seminarians, and priests to study in American seminaries and universities. With the support of many lay people, college and seminary professors, and religious superiors the opportunities have continued to grow. He sought the advice of several of them who came to form first a board of advisors, and then the board of directors of what grew into a more established institution. This group formed a non-profit organization, namely Formation Support for Vietnam, in 2010.
Truly the founders’ dream still inspires many presidents of universities and seminaries in the United States to continue to offer their support in terms of scholarships. But the work has expanded to include opportunities for spiritual growth as well in a growing program of retreats. Community is also fostered in regular meetings of the students to reflect on their experiences and to begin to know one another in order to further their future work in Vietnam. It has become the mission of all those who love Vietnam and its Church, not simply Presidents, but bishops, priests, religious and a very supportive laity. In 2017, Formation Support for Vietnam extended its assistance to priests and sisters from China studying in the United States. In that same year, Formation Support for Vietnam could count more than 200 religious sisters and brothers, seminarians, and priests studying at colleges and universities in 24 states in the United States.