Our purpose is to assist the Church in Vietnam and China in the formation and education of religious and seminarians for future work in their own countries and in the United States. Our programs are developed to provide assistance and support for these students.
FSVN develop two flagship programs
The Scholarship Program
We also collaborate with the U.S. religious congregations to advance educational opportunities for about 200 religious sisters and priests from Vietnam by seeking scholarships as well room and board.
Missionaries for the West
The Missionaries for the West results from a happy problem occuring with the Catholic Church in Vietnam. Every year while there are more than hundred college-graduated candidates applying for seminaries in Vietnam, just around 10 percent are accepted due to the lack of facilities among diocesan seminaries there. Since the seminaries in Vietnam do not have adequate facilities to train so many candidates, the Vietnamese bishops encourage them to consider seeking priesthood vocation in other parts of the world.
According to the Ordination Class 2018 report published by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, new ordinands who come originally from Vietnam are about five percent even though the population of Vietnamese Catholics in the U.S. is less than 1% of the total Catholic population in the United States. Vietnamese seminarians make up nearly 12 percent of the U.S. seminary population. This has been consistent through the last decade. Thus the fact that seminarians from Vietnam enter priestly formation and belong to an U.S. diocese or religious institute is not new.
Recognizing the blessing of young college graduated men committing themselves to the priesthood vocation from Vietnam, FSVN has developed the The Missionaries for the West to assist U.S. Catholic Church in fulfilling her pastoral needs while helping college graduated Vietnamese men to fulfill their holy desire of serving the Church.
Currently there are 30 seminarians studying for the dioceses of Albany, Metuchen, Burlington, Portland-Maine, Manchester, and Boston. The bishops and vocational directors have assigned them to various colleges and seminaries throughout the country. So far, one man has been ordained into the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and one is close to ordination in the Diocese of Albany.
The program has been recognized in various local news
Testimonies from Assisting Arch/dioceses
We will ask several bishops/archbishops we have been collaborating with to write a short message about this program.
FSVN Vietnamese Candidates’ Characteristics
FSVN candidates are from Vietnam. They are 27 years of age, on average. They were all raised in a strong Catholic environment, whose parents are Catholic. They are affiliated with a parish, where they are actively participating in parish life and pastoral work. They have at least a Bachelor’s degree in various majors from computer science, engineering, business administration to education, law, and psychology from colleges and universities in Vietnam. Their level of English language proficiency varies from beginner to the advanced.
English Language Preparation
Given that English language is their second language, every candidate will need to take courses in English as a Second Language (ESL) program before they enroll the priestly formation program. The length of studying English depends on the candidate’s English proficiency, taking from one semester to one academic year prior to Pre-Theology. The candidate can take the ESL program either at a college/university or seminary selected by the arch/diocese in consultation with FSVN if necessary.
The Missionaries for the West staff includes a voluntary panel of 4-5 men and women religious, who are specialized in different areas. This panel specifically assesses the men as fitting candidates for traveling overseas, having readiness for priestly formation, as well as if they possess a foundational amount of human maturity and intellectual ability. FSVN is in contact with local pastors where candidates are from, since inquirers in Vietnam must have a strong parochial presence during their discernment. The parish also is intended to provide ecclesial support and prayer.
Immigration & Logistics
The candidates arrive in the United States on the F1 student visa. The F1 student visa is applied for any international students studying in the United States. This legal status could be done through either the seminary or a college, depending on where the candidates begin their study. Once they get to II Theology or some other point before Diaconate ordination, the diocese will need to change the legal status for them accordingly.
Support Prior to Arrival
FSVN will help communicate with the candidates during the whole process. FSVN will work with the U.S. vocational directors and the candidates in achieving documents for visa application, scheduling visa interview at a US embassy for the candidates. Once the candidates are granted their Visas, FSVN will help book air plane tickets to the US and will begin formation in English and American culture. It should be noted there is about a 50% chance of being granted VISA status by the US embassy.
Support while in USA
FSVN keeps in touch with the vocational directors and the candidates after they arrive in the United States. FSVN provides psychological counseling and cultural orientation for the men and others through the annual gathering, usually after Christmas. Annually the seminarians will meet with other FSVN seminarians for 2-4 days recollection over summer. There is also opportunity of 8 day retreats for the seminarians with both American and Vietnamese spiritual directors.
Policy for Acceptance of International Applicants
A U.S. diocese will consider the application requests from International applicants who meet the criteria set by the Bishop of the Diocese. The International applicant must receive a good recommendation from Formation Support for Vietnam (FSVN) during the interview process after a due diligence review by the admission board of FSVN. The applicant must provide all documentation pertaining to sacraments, education, available background checks, and psychological evaluations. The applicant must obtain an FI Visa once the American diocese has agreed to sponsor the applicant. The diocese will provide a letter of sponsorship in order to obtain the F1 Visa. A seminary or university assigned by the diocese will provide the I-20’s form and acceptance letter to English as a second language, philosophy, or theology program. All International Applicants will undergo a psychological evaluation and background check as part of the application process in the United States. All International Students will be enrolled in the English as a Second Language program at the seminary or university assigned by the Bishops or Vocational Directors if they have not proven proficiency in English. Once an International Applicant has completed his studies (College and or Pre-Theology) and has demonstrated his proficiency in the English language he would then go onto Major Seminary for Priestly Formation. If at anytime the International student cannot meet the criteria for formation, the Diocese may terminate the agreement.
Formation Support for Vietnam
FSVN is responsible for recruitment and reviewing potential candidates through its admission committee made up of two priests who have substantial experience in priestly formation and vocational direction, a psychologist, and a spiritual director. We contact the Bishops, pastors, families and friends of the candidates and seek any pertinent information concerning these men.
Once they are approved by the committee, FSVN will present them to any American diocese requesting candidates. FSVN will support these men in terms of visa application at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in Vietnam, traveling plans, and liaison between the candidates and the U.S. diocese. During the time of their studies, FSVN collaborates with sponsoring diocese to ensure that these seminarians understand and follow the guidelines and meet the expectations of their ordinaries/vocation directors/diocese as well as continue to make adjustment to their new environment and culture. FSVN also hosts several annual retreats and conferences for these men, directed by American bishops, seminary rectors, and priests in the U.S. They are encouraged to build up healthy friendships with other seminarians and religious through picnics, vacations, and breaks, organized by the FSVN as each individual diocese permits.