Speaking their language: Osan chaplain conducts Mass for Vietnamese community

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Stacy D. Foster
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Sometimes people just need somebody to talk to. It helps if that somebody understands and speaks your language. Air Force chaplains are often that ear and that voice.

For one chaplain here, being able to speak Vietnamese helped fill the needs of a community outside the gates.

Chaplain (Capt.) Thienan Tran, a 51st Fighter Wing Chaplain, provides Catholic services and general chaplain assistance to Airmen in the 51st Fighter Wing and anyone who needs his support.

He can often be seen at morale events hosted by the chapel, handing out candy and getting to know Airmen and their families around the base.

"Sometimes the simple things are the best things," Tran said.

What most people don't know is that the Vietnamese-born Catholic priest has been doing much more than just a "simple thing."

In his spare time, Tran holds Catholic Mass for Vietnamese labor workers in the Republic of Korea.

Before arriving at Osan, Tran had kept in contact with a fellow Catholic priest who asked Tran to consider serving two years in the Republic of Korea and minister to the more than 26,000 members of the Vietnamese community.

"At first, I thought one year away from my family would be difficult," Tran said, "but after I prayed about it and talked with my family, I decided to serve the extra year."

Tran soon realized how his choice was having a positive impact on the community. Many members had previously attended Korean Catholic Mass, but could not understand the entire service.

"I was impressed with the enthusiasm the community had, and how much they desired to have Mass in their native tongue," Tran said. "It is very important to the Vietnamese Catholics to have a spiritual leader in their community"

Tran then developed a plan to reach more communities throughout the ROK.

"We have around six Catholic priests, including myself, who speak Vietnamese," Tran said. "We have dispersed to provide as many opportunities for Mass as possible."

Tran visits two different communities on the first and third Sunday of every month and plans to help facilitate more help when his time on the Korean peninsula is complete.

"As a priest, when I see the needs of people, it's my honor to be able to meet them," Tran said. "It's a gift to me to be able to serve the people."