A Vietnamese Jesuit among Thai youth

Pham Ngo Hoang Dung, known to all as Dzung, is a young Vietnamese Jesuit priest who committed himself to the Region of Thailand. Before his ordination, he had already done three years of “regency” or involvement in the Jesuits’ apostolic work and community life in Thailand. He returned last autumn as dynamic as ever. We met him at the Seven Fountains Spiritual Centre and asked him what brought him to Thailand.

To be a missionary

After I finished my philosophy in Vietnam, I was sent to Thailand for three years of apostolic work, the regency. During my time here, I felt I wanted to be a missionary. The Thai people made me feel welcome, especially the youth. I got along well with them. Moreover, the Jesuit community greatly supports me and gives me a chance to learn and grow. In a word, the love of the Thai people brought me to minister in Thailand. As a young priest here, the silent prayer, the care of the community, and the smiles on the face of the youth have fueled my passion for working, accompanying, and being present with them.


Dzung Pham SJ, in front of the photo tree of student ministry activities.

Chaplain for all

I am a Catholic priest and a “university chaplain”, but I do not only dedicate my efforts to Catholic students. I welcome all students of other religions, such as Buddhism and animism. All are welcome to join our activities. Most of our network students are from indigenous groups such as Karen, Akha, Hmong, Lahu, and Thai Yay. Our chaplaincy activities have a variety of purposes: they lead the students towards true friendships (e.g., Sports Day), they allow them to share their love with the poor (especially at Christmas and Children’s Day), and they give them tools for building their spiritual lives (with prayer time and the “Retreat on the road” project).

To be transparent, I could add that I notice that the youth in Thailand now do not care much about religion. For instance, attending mass does not seem to be their priority. They are not interested in religious activities as such. It drives us to be creative and to offer different ways to support their spiritual growth. In this context, the Jesuits of Thailand believe in the Youth Ministry, and here at the Seven Fountains community, our young priests are sent to work full-time with the youth. It is encouraging.


Sports Day; sports unite young people all over the world.

Special care for students in need

Another of my responsibilities is to be the director of the Sponsorship Fund Project. It is a venture created by the Jesuit community of Seven Fountains. Fr. Miguel, the Regional Superior for Thailand, started it with expatriates (foreigners living in Thailand) in 1997. It grew over the years and now helps students, from kindergarten to the university level, in several places across the North of Thailand. We offer partial scholarships, for instance, up to 50% of the tuition fees, uniforms, books and school supplies.

The recipients are chosen according to their economic conditions and desire to study. We will support them if they are in poverty and show a great willingness to learn. In addition, we are setting up something new: a forum to help scholarship recipients and their sponsors to meet, including visits to the villages and the schools.


Children’s Day - an opportunity to share with the poor.

For tomorrow’s leaders

Reflecting on my role as a Jesuit priest among the students - mainly those who attend university - I think that the greatest need among the youth of Thailand is for them to meet a good leader and to find an open place where they can attain happiness and meaning in their lives. I try to be this “good leader”. It means caring for them and allowing them to get involved, learn and grow.

The leader has to be patient enough to accompany them and forgive them when they make mistakes. The activities should be well organized with a clear purpose, raising the interest to join. As much as possible, there is room for the young people to be among the organizers in each activity. This way, they learn to be the leaders of tomorrow.


« Retreat on the road”, on a motorbike for two days: fraternity and prayer.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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