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FYI Exclusive: Introducing Manh Tran, S.J.
Santa Clara University’s newest campus minister has been told he is not a typical “priest.” With the nickname “Manhster,” that isn’t very hard to believe.
Manh Tran, S.J., is SCU’s new director of Christian Life Community. He joined SCU’s Campus Ministry this fall, after working six years for Campus Ministry at Loyola Marymount University. During that time, Tran not only gained expertise with the Christian Life Community program, but he also built close relationships with the students.
“Students at LMU often told me that I’m crazy and wild, that I truly live out my nickname,” Tran said. “I do not know how true that is, but I do strive to discover and live out God’s dream for me. I try to discover and live out my ‘real’ self.”
As part of Tran’s new position, he will be rejuvenating Christian Life Community at SCU. CLC, an international organization with chapters in more than 60 countries and on every continent, is based on the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The program is centered on three principles: spirituality, community, and service.
According to Tran, using these three principles of CLC, individuals will be able to follow the Jesuit way to discover one’s “real” self.
“CLC is the only organization that offers intensive Ignatian Spirituality,” he said. “CLC sees Ignatian spirituality as a pathway to God. It is a way of discovering our personal vocations and living out God’s dream for each one of us. God wants us to live fully and desires to share life with us, which often take places through community, prayers, and services. These three aspects of life become the three core values of CLC.”
As a part of CLC, students will meet weekly in small groups of between five and 10 members. At these weekly meetings, they will pray and share weekly experiences. Other events they gather for include bowling, dancing, poker games, Praise and Worship services, Taize, and doing community service.
Tran stated that there are three main challenges for students when it comes to CLC: busyness, secularism, and lack of integration.
“Besides being full-time students, there is pressure to live out the magic “three,” namely joining the Greek Club, Service Organization, and other clubs on campus. Many students also have to work part time to survive,” Tran said. “Secondly, secularism is a huge challenge that we all face. Students, myself included, often buy into hedonism, individualism, consumerism, relativism, ‘hook-up culture,’ and ‘I’m spiritual but not religious.’ The third challenge is the lack of integration among faith, justice, and education. Many students volunteer to do community service without seeing the connection between faith and justice.”
According to Tran, his personal college experience was less stressful than higher education is today.
“In my personal opinions, I find life now as much more complicated and pressured compared to my college years (1984–88),” he said. “Many students now come from broken families and are faced with many other challenges similar to the big three.”
Tran believes, however, that a Jesuit education helps students search for truth and freedom.
“As Jesus mentioned, ‘The truth shall set you free’ (John 8:32). College students are often faced with important life questions such as ‘Where are we from?’ ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is my purpose in life?’” Tran said. “Jesuit education carries such a rich Catholic tradition and Ignatian spirituality that can help students discover the truth to their questions. If we do not share with students about Catholic teaching and Ignatian spirituality, we are not different than other public or private universities. CLC plays an important role in searching for truth because it provides sacred spaces to explore and wrestle these important questions with one another and God.”