I was born and raised in a middle-class Catholic family in South Viet Nam, along with my younger brother and sister. My father, a major in the South Viet Nam Army, was in a Communist prison for almost 10 years, so my grandmother helped my mother to raise us.
In those years, my mother lived and labored in a distant town to help feed the family while I helped my grandmother with chores and took care of my younger sister and brother. The three of us learned about the Catholic religion and God from our grandmother and our mother, which I believe began my vocation at home. We prayed the Rosary together as a family every day and attended Mass daily, experiencing peace, joy and God’s love. My family and many Vietnamese people have a great devotion to the Blessed Mother.
When my father was released from prison, he quickly began to build a boat for us to escape the war. Our first attempt failed and we were captured and imprisoned for a month, except my father. He jumped out of the boat and hid himself under the water; he believed that Mother Mary protected him from the shooting of the communist officers. A year later, my father built another boat and this time we succeeded in escaping Viet Nam, setting out for Malaysia. We lived for 18 months in Malaysian and Philippine refugee camps. There, I met many volunteers who came to help us. I felt that I would like to be able to help others, and that I would join a religious order when I came to America.
Eventually, my family and I flew to New Orleans to join my uncle’s family; he had immigrated to the United States 10 years earlier.
I believe that God’s providence brought me to the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. I met a seminarian whose cousin is Sr. Ann Catherine Nguyen, a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady. Through her, I joined the Sisters on February 11, 1992, six months after my graduation from high school.
At the age 18, I was accepted by Sr. Pauline O’Sullivan, who was the Provincial at that time. My parents knew that I would experience difficulties with the English language and a new culture and they prayed for me.
When I first entered, my English was still weak. If I saw the sisters smiling and talking with each other, I knew something good was going on. If they were being quiet, I felt that something was not going right. The sisters were very kind, supportive, and patient with me.
I am grateful for my formation years as I had a wonderful formation directress, Sr. Helen Cahill, who genuinely helped me and prayed for me. The community life of the convent gave me opportunities to learn about God’s presence in all creation through Franciscan teachings. I experience God’s loving presence as I go about each day facing all things that come, knowing that God works in and through me and my religious sisters in our ministry as Franciscan women.
I learned English with the sisters, with my workplace colleagues, and at school. I had opportunities to work in different healthcare facilities sponsored by FMOL, including the two nursing homes, Ollie Steele Burden Manor, St. Clare Manor, and at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge, Our Lady of Lourdes in Lafayette, St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales, and our mission in Haiti.
I became a registered nurse in December 2000 and had the opportunity to further my nursing education while working full time, earning my Master’s degree in nursing administration in May 2008, and a nursing home administrator license in December 2008.
I am grateful to my loved ones, my religious sisters, friends, and all the people who are praying for me and support me in what I do. I know in my heart that the Daily Eucharist is the main source that guides me, gives me strength, and gives me the inner peace to go about each day knowing that I am only God’s little instrument. I trust that God uses me to the fullest because I have totally given myself to Him. Praying the daily liturgy of the hours (the divine office), with the sisters or in private, praying with others, and journaling, help me to experience God in all His creation.
I pray for vocations daily. Anyone with a vocation can become a religious sister, brother, priest, or diocesan priest. I am grateful to God for calling me to this life, and I would ask all people to pray for vocations. It is good for families to pray together, to talk about vocations, and to encourage young people to consider a vocation. They can get in touch with priests, religious sisters, and brothers to find out what religious life is about.
The Franciscan Sisters and I are happy to welcome people to come to visit us, so that we can share with them about our ministries. My hope is that many will join us and other religious orders to continue God’s ministries to serve all people, especially those most in need. With God’s inner peace, one can overcome all things and do all things with joy.