Brother Hieu PhamNew Clairvaux Abbey

“To live a religious life…”

I am Brother Francis Hieu Pham in Vina, California. I was born and grew up in a large family in central Vietnam, the fourth of seven children.

I believe God had a big influence on my call as a monk. When I was five, I went to live with my grandmother, who helped the parish priest at his house. I also helped her and the pastor.

At the time I had no idea what a vocation was — or a monk or even a seminarian. It was then I learned a little bit about discipline, life, and ministry to the Church under the care of a pastor.

After two years I went back home to live with my parents until I finished High School. In my senior year, my pastor encouraged me to live a religious life as a monk or seminarian.

After I graduated, I decided to join one of the Cistercian communities of the Common Observance, but I realized that I did not really feel called to it. So I went back home to help my parents.

In 1999, I went to study music in the Catholic Music School of Saigon for a year. Midyear 2000, I went back to my hometown and served my parish for two years.

In August 2002, I entered the Common Observance community at Chau son Abbey in Vietnam. That time I felt God was calling me because I felt happy and at peace living there.

After living in Chau son Abbey for two years as a postulant, our Abbot Dom Francis asked me if I was interested in going to New Clairvaux Abbey, a Trappist Monastery in the United States. I had six months to pray and discern God’s will for me. After deciding it was the right thing to do, I sensed a growing conviction and I decided to go.

I came to the United States on February 20, 2005 and have been living at New Clairvaux Abbey for six years now.

Brother Francis Pham: "To live a religious life..."Many people, including friends and relatives, have asked me why I chose to live the contemplative life. They have told me that I would probably prefer living as an active religious rather than the contemplative life.

Fortunately my family has respected my choice and supported my decision. I know they miss me especially during family gatherings and major celebrations.

In my culture, there is a tradition that when there is a big event, such as the Lunar New Year, every family member comes back home and gathers together, even when they live far away.

So here I am at New Clairvaux. Even though I have had many struggles and difficulties with language, culture, and so on… more and more I find peace and joy in my commitment to God and to my brothers at the community of Vina. With God’s help, I hope to be faithful to my vocation.

Contact a Vocation Director to learn more about the Trappists or pursue your vocation.