Diocese of San Jose Priest Ordinations 2019

This is the second Priest Ordinations Mass that I have attended. It has been 2 years since I have attended a Priest Ordinations Mass. 

It was the same Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph that I have attended multiple Masses during the weekdays for over half a year. However, I felt a different sense of peace and hope as this Ordination Mass went on.

Congratulations to the newly ordained Fr. John Hoang and Fr. Victor Trinidad!

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset



Camp Drawing 2019

This month’s theme for the VEYM DAC (Digital Assets Collection)/TNTT Arts Team is Camping. I initially had many concepts in my head, but had a difficult time transferring it down on paper. Maybe it is the lack of completion of my imagination or maybe it is the lack of drawing skills. I did draw another concept before this final one, but I decided not to pursue it since it would have probably taken twice as long to finish. In the end, I chose this concept because I felt that it captured what I thought of camp.

When I think of Camping, I think of the spiritual peak of the camp, which is Hành Trình Đức Tin (HDDT). I remember the first thing we have to do is receive and decode a morse or semaphore message. Sometimes, it could be both going at once. Back when I was a Đoàn Sinh, I would be one of the fastest people to decode the morse or semaphore messages. Being the first one to decode was crucial because it basically dictated whether or not our đội will come in first for HDDT. It meant winning.

That is what I wanted to capture here: the concentration, the competitive spirit, the adrenaline rush. I felt all that while I wrote down the message and decoded it as quickly as I can.

Last year during camp, I was assigned to Ngành Thiếu, but that obviously did not stop the Nghĩa Sĩ kids from noticing an unfamiliar female Huynh Trưởng performing Semaphore so quickly that it was nearly impossible to record. This year, I am helping out with Ngành Nghĩa Sĩ and I was assigned to review Semaphore with them. During my lesson, the Nghĩa Sĩ kids were very attentive because they remembered how fast the semaphore was during the previous camp. They wanted to get used to my speed so that they would be prepared for this year’s camp. A good number of them were very focused. This drawing reflects those kids during my review lesson.

Coloring using Adobe Photoshop CS6

I really enjoyed teaching the Semaphore review lesson because the Nghĩa Sĩ kids quickly started recognizing the letters and decoding out loud as I performed the message. I beamed with pride and thought, “This is how good they should be!” I was proud of them.

After that lesson, I knew my Nghĩa Sĩ kids were ready for camp.

One of my art friends complimented on the foreshortening and I had to give credit to the reference I was using. It is a photo from an HT training camp that took placed in Miền Tây Nam. Training Camp in Miền Tây Nam, specifically Liên Đoàn Nguồn Sống, has a special place in my heart.

Liên Đoàn Nguồn Sống’s Xuất Hành XXIX (August 2018)


VEYM Heroes Initiative 2019

Last month, my brother, Socrates Pham, was given the opportunity to make a video promotion for the VEYM Heroes Initiative and I offered him my help because I know how difficult video projects are. It has been a while since I have been in front of the camera so I was a little rusty while filming! But it was fun nonetheless!

Unfortunately, my brother did not know that you are not supposed to have direct sunlight on your face while filming… Can you catch when there’s direct sunlight on my face?

I also had the opportunity to finalize the flyer for the VEYM Heroes Initiative as the original designer became unavailable. There was a lot more extra work put into this since I tried to keep the original design as much as possible, but I also needed to include the changes that VEYM wanted. There were probably 10+ revisions to this flyer. Here is the final version:


Ultimately, I am happy to have the opportunity to help out with this VEYM project.



I tried to pray for someone who has betrayed and deeply hurt me. Someone who constantly lied to me despite the many times I gave my trust over and over again. Someone who bad-mouthed me behind my back and right in front of my face.

With great pain and sadness, I asked, “Why?

And then I heard:

[…] “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

He asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. […]”

-Acts 9: 4-5 (NRSVCE), The Conversion of Saul

I felt a sense of peace as I came back and recognized the Eucharist in front of me.

How I studied for the EIT Exam

Like most people, I am definitely not a very good test taker, especially when it comes to exams like the EIT.

For those who do not know, the EIT (Engineer-In-Training) exam is basically the first step to becoming a licensed Professional Engineer. We need to pass this 5.5-hour exam before being eligible to take another 8-hour exam. (NOTE: This post applies for 2017 until the next big change). In recent years, the EIT was renamed to FE (Fundamentals of Engineering).

I had to take the FE Civil exam twice:

  • My first attempt was in March 2017, which was unsuccessful.
  • My second attempt was in September 2017, which was successful.

I will be sharing with you what were the 5 key differences that might have helped me pass the FE exam (at the second attempt).

  1. Getting enough sleep
    1. March: I literally did not sleep the night before at all. I was extremely tensed and worried about the exam. In addition, I talked to someone who constantly stresses me out a few hours before I went to bed (to try to sleep). [Not a good decision]
    2. September: I probably got around 3 hours of sleep in. I ended up passing the exam.
    3. Lesson Learned: Get some sleep even if it’s just a little bit.
  2. Do practice problems
    1. March: I reviewed material in the FE Civil Review by Michael R. Lindeburg, did a few practice problems in the FE Civil Practice Problems by Michael R. Lindeburg, and went over the official NCEES practice exam just twice or so.  
    2. September: I went over the two most recent official NCEES practice exams as many times as I could and did a few Practice Problems from the FE Civil Practice Problems by Michael R. Lindeburg.  
    3. Lesson Learned: You are studying to take and pass an exam, not relearn everything you learned in school. Therefore, just do practice problems!
  3. Know the Reference Guide
    1. March: I was comfortable with the Reference Guide.
    2. September: I was an expert with the Reference Guide.
    3. Lesson Learned: Know where exactly a certain formula/information you need in the Reference Guide! Doing practice problems and using the official Reference Guide helped a lot. For me, I brought a hard-copy of the Reference Guide and tabbed it as necessary.
  4. Be chill
    1. March: I was a nervous wreck when I took the exam. My hands kept shaking and I felt like I couldn’t breathe until the next day. Yes, I was still on adrenaline after the exam (9+ hours).
    2. September: I was more calm about it. In fact, my attitude was more like, “If I pass, I pass. If I fail, I can take it again later.”
    3. Lesson Learned: When I was nervous, I was more likely to misread the question or mark a wrong answer. Being more relaxed allowed me even allowed me to have extra time after the morning session. I had time to go over my answers two more times, which gave me the opportunity to find errors in my calculations and fix them.
  5. Stay sane
    1. March: I stopped going to TNTT for about a month to coop myself up in my room to study. I barely took any mental breaks and did not catch up with friends.
    2. September: I was still going to TNTT. When I got tired of studying, I would take a nice long break. Once in a while, I would catch up with a friend.
    3. Lesson Learned: Take breaks by allowing yourself to have fun during the period of time (weeks or months) of studying.

Ultimately, I believe that it is simply important to put the exam as a priority and just try your best. Do not be too hard on yourself if you do not pass the first time. Passing the exam the first or second time does not mean you are a good or bad engineer. Everyone’s journey to becoming an engineer is different.

To whoever is taking the FE exam, I wish you the best of luck! Happy studying!

Study Material:

FE Civil Practice Problems by Michael R. Lindeburg


FE Civil Review by Michael R. Lindeburg (older version of this)


NCEES FE Civil practice exam



NCEES Reference Guide




I was urged to have confession and so I did. It was the first time I was having confession at this church. The line was so long. When it was finally my turn, I said everything that I was advised to confess. The priest in the confessional questioned my sins and basically roasted me for my sins. Confused and filled with rage, I cried. I did not understand why the priest was making me feel worse about my sins when I had already felt terrible about them. I cried for a long time in the confessional and continued having tears in my eyes and tears rolling down my cheeks as I walked out. I finally understood why some people only have confession with a specific priest.

I don’t know if I ever want to have confession ever again.

A couple of weeks later, I had confession with my spiritual director during the 4-day Ignatian Silent Retreat. I specifically chose him to have confession with because, by now, he knew me and I figured he probably would not roast me (or at least not as badly) as the previous priest.

This confession was vastly different from my previous confession.

He did not roast me at all.

Instead, he showed me God’s love and mercy. As he spoke, I felt God comforting me. My spiritual director treated me with kindness and compassion. I cried not because of shame or anger this time, but because my heart was touched by God’s loving embrace. My spiritual director gave me a penance that no other priest had given me before and the penance was one that revealed God’s love.

I think I only want to have confession with this priest from now on.

But I know that’s not possible. 

Easter 2019 Drawing

It was honestly quite difficult for me to come up with an “Easter” drawing. When I hear “Easter,” I think of eggs, grass, and pastel colors. However, in the context of Catholicism, I see the cross with a shining bright light behind it. That’s it? I can’t just submit a simple drawing of a cross. So I pondered what did the cross on Easter mean to me.

Easter is the season that comes after Lent. The season of Lent is the time Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. Likewise, we spend 40 days in the desert, either by giving up something for Lent or by doing something good more for Lent. Whatever we do for Lent, it should be something that can help us become closer to God. When Lent ends, we emerge from the desert and head towards the Easter Triduum.

Original Lineart

In my art piece, the Nghĩa Sĩ girl and Ấu Nhi boy are finally coming out of the desert and towards three crosses, the middle cross with a piece of white cloth. (The white cloth is to represent Easter.) The three crosses represent Good Friday, the day Jesus died for us on the cross for our sins. When I think of Good Friday, I think of the 14 Stations of the Cross, which has a very special meaning to me that I also do not fully understand myself. During the silent retreat in January, my spiritual director told me to pray and meditate on the crucifixion. The 14 Stations of the Cross has had a special place in my heart ever since my first silent retreat in December 2014 and have become more obviously important to me after this recent silent retreat. The only thing I know for certain is that my feelings on the crucifixion are indescribable.

Colored with color pencils

The Nghĩa Sĩ girl is walking towards the three crosses. Nghĩa Sĩ is the age when you are first learning more about yourself and establishing yourself from your peers. This is the life stage when you want to be a unique individual, but at the same time, fit in and have friends. It’s when you navigate through high school and all the confusion of who you are. The Nghĩa Sĩ girl is walking towards Jesus, towards hope. I hope all kids in Nghĩa Sĩ find themselves turning to God and know that God is always with them, despite the doubts and questions they may have.  

The Ấu Nhi boy is holding onto the Nghĩa Sĩ girl’s arm. He is confused and is depending on the Nghĩa Sĩ girl on where to go next. She is leading him as an example. I currently teach Ngành Nghĩa Sĩ at my Đoàn and I hope that they all know that they are often looked up to by the younger kids, Ngành Thiếu, and Ngành Ấu. In addition, the Ấu Nhi boy represents innocence, which contrasts with the Nghĩa Sĩ girl’s faith journey. When we are younger, it’s so much easier to pray because we have not seen the horrors of the world. When we are older and have been through so much pain, it could be difficult to pray. Despite this, the Nghĩa Sĩ girl still turns to God and the Ấu Nhi boy follows. We should all follow her example. When it is most difficult to pray, that is when it is most important to pray.

I imagine the two as siblings. Whether as blood-related siblings or brother and sister-in-Christ, these two are close to each other.

This concept was the first one that I drew and came up with. At first, I was unsure of what the meaning was and did not like how hard for people to understand its meaning (if it even had one). I drew up other concepts, which all stopped mid-way because I didn’t have any clue of what I was trying to draw. In the end, I came back to this original concept and just embraced it. I trusted God that this idea was the one that should be published.

I had hope that God will lead me on the right path with this drawing. I hope you all feel a sense of hope when you look at this art piece.

Coloring with Adobe Photoshop CS6


Song of the Cross

Song of the Cross · Susan HooKong-Taylor · Ana Da Costa

Love lifted on the cross for me:

my Lord, my God, my salvation.

Love lifted high to set me free:

my Lord, my God, my salvation.

When I first heard this song, my heart ached. I was not sure why.

I saw myself kneeling below the cross at Golgotha. Was it because I was finally bringing the burdens of my heart to Jesus?

Involuntarily, tears began to fall. There were no words to describe my feelings.