June 14, 2019

‘Never felt so much love’

Cassandra Guerra, far right in the front pew, listens intently during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 20 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Fortville. During the Mass, she was baptized, confirmed and received her First Communion. (Submitted photo by Gary Potts)

Phil Chung poses with his friend, Maria Johnson, after being welcomed into the full communion of the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Greencastle on April 20. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

GREENCASTLE—As a child raised in the Buddhist faith by immigrant parents from Vietnam, Phil Chung “always felt at a disadvantage.”

“My goal from childhood was to catch up socially,” says the 20-year-old student of DePauw University in Greencastle, who just completed his sophomore year.

He modeled his life after a fictional character in a story told to Buddhist children, “a kid in a village who set his mind to never give up. I made that my mindset.”

So Chung filled his life with sports and leadership roles in high school, and he no longer had time for the Buddhist temple.

He continued that approach at DePauw. Chung attends the university on a scholarship from The Posse Foundation, an organization that recruits and trains young adults with leadership potential from diverse backgrounds and places them on college campuses to initiate change.

He is also president of the university’s Association of Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American Club (AAPIDAC), and chairs his fraternity’s social committee.

Despite all his efforts and apparent success, Chung felt no peace.

“Some nights, I hated being so alone,” he admits. “I look back now, and I see how God didn’t pull me until I was in a position of needing help.”

That pull started last fall when he met Brandon Pangan, a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary at DePauw.

“I invited him to come to AAPIDAC,” Chung recalls. “He said he would, if I came to one of the FOCUS meetings.”

Chung had become interested in learning about religion that summer, so he accepted.

He admired the Catholics he met, and joined the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle.

“I just wanted to improve myself,” he admits. “I’m super skeptical, so I didn’t come to believe in God at first.”

Then Chung attended FOCUS’ SEEK conference in Indianapolis in January.

“SEEK was my first experience with adoration,” he says. “That was when I knew that God will always love me and forgive me. I wanted that. I broke down and accepted his love. It’s a reckless love. I’d never felt so much love in all my life.”

Chung was baptized into that love when he was received into the full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Church on April 20.

And he did succeed in learning more about how faith could improve his life.

“I have more empathy, I’m kinder, more caring, and I made a tremendous jump in being able to understand others,” Chung says.

He now spends time every day reading Scripture and praying, “the most important thing, to me, to really fall into my relationship with God.

“At first I asked God for things. But the deeper part of prayer is, ‘How can I serve you?’ That was a big turning point for me.”

And along the way, God healed Chung’s wound of loneliness.

“I was alone all my life, in high school, in college,” he says. “I was all alone until that moment when I accepted God. And I wasn’t alone anymore.” †


Related: New Catholics from Bright, Fortville, Greencastle and Indianapolis share their journey to the Catholic faith

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