Fr. ‘Tino’ Tran feels at home at Sacred Heart Parish

This article originally appeared in the summer 2024 issue of the Western Province’s quarterly newsletter, The Vincentian.

Sacred Heart Parish in Patterson, CA, has had a Vincentian as pastor since 1955. The latest, Fr. Nhan “Tino” Tran, C.M., was named to the post in early March after seven years as Parochial Vicar and Parochial Administrator, respectively.

He stands in front of the church after Mass for a line of parishioners who wait to shake hands or receive a blessing. The tidy town of 24,000 sits next to the green Sweetwater Mountains, palm trees lining the street into town.

“I love it here,” Fr. Tino said. “It is an active parish and still growing, and the people here are very good, very generous.”

Fr. Tino came to the U.S. from his native Vietnam in 2001 at the age of 37. Prior to this he worked at an Internet café, the last of a string of jobs he held before making the one-way trip to the U.S. While still in Vietnam, he had considered but could not act on a call to a priestly vocation. He credits his vocation to his aunt, a Daughter of Charity, who inspired him with her goodness and charity.

“I had the idea to join a monastery, but I did not have the opportunity because of the communist government’s restrictions on religious orders,” he said.

Fr. Tino’s immigration to the U.S. followed that of his parents and brothers, who moved to the U.S. in 1993. His father passed away in 1999, and his mother recently turned 96. In those early days, he went to community college to study English and sought out the Vincentians, which he joined in Los Angeles as a brother.

“Fr. Hoan Nguyen (also from Vietnam) took me around with him, and as a brother I could visit the people and help them materially, but I could not give them the sacraments,” Fr. Tino said. “That is what inspired me to become a priest.”

He was ordained in 2010 and served in parishes in Dallas, St. Louis, and Los Angeles before his assignment to Patterson. The parish, he said, embraces the members of the community in need, regularly answering the call to contribute toward efforts for the less fortunate.

The parish operates St. Vincent’s Thrift store and collaborates with the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other local entities that provide services for the needy. And they fill the church throughout the weekend Masses, including a Spanish Mass at the school gym whose size can accommodate the larger crowd.

Afterward, they line up to spend a few precious moments with the celebrant, not heading to the parking lot until they have had their turn with a handshake, a hug, or a blessing.