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Providence Sister Hong Nga Nguyen professes perpetual vows on July 31, 2016

Hong Nga Nguyen, SP

Sister Hong Nga Nguyen will make profession of perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Providence in a liturgy at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at the Vietnamese Martyrs Church, 6841 S. 180th Street, in Tukwila, Wash.

Nga Thi Hong Nguyen, born in South Vietnam, was 20 years old when she came to Seattle in November 2006 for a six-month Come and See experience with the Sisters of Providence. A cousin, Sister AnnMary Vu, was living in Spokane after transferring her vows to the Sisters of Providence. Hong Nga was studying business management in the university at Ho Chi Minh and had been living in a boarding house with the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Vietnam.

One of the other young women living with the religious community while discerning a vocation was another of Sister AnnMary’s cousins, “Rosa” Sen Nguyen. Sister AnnMary encouraged both of them to contact the Providence sisters to discern whether they were called to religious life. Invited by the provincial superior, they came to America and moved in with three Sisters of Providence in Seattle.

Everything was a "first"

Once there, everything was a “first”: sleeping in a bed rather than on a mat, seeing snow, going to a movie, attending a New Year’s Eve party, celebrating a birthday, taking a road trip ... And everything was new: the culture, the food, the language, and learning to live out loud – laughing, talking and praying together, and taking part in decision making with other members of their living community.

The two young women visited the elderly sisters at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, volunteered with children and the elderly at Providence Mount St. Vincent, and helped out in the after-school program at St. George’s Parish. After the Come and See experience, Hong Nga and Rosa eagerly began a yearlong pre-candidacy, sharing a house with sisters in West Seattle as they became accustomed to a new language, a new country, new customs and a new religious experience. They entered the novitiate in Spokane in 2009 and professed first vows in 2011.

Sister Hong Nga, who recently returned from a cross-cultural experience with the Providence sisters in the Philippines, chose to make her final vows in a bilingual ceremony at the Vietnamese Martyrs Church, the parish where she goes every Sunday and sings in the choir. The theme for the Eucharistic celebration is: The love of Christ impels us. Go and bear fruit that lasts. “I want more Vietnamese to know who we are,” she said. “This is a special occasion, yes, but we are here with you.”

“Sister Hong Nga’s journey, from a young, new immigrant as she began to learn about the Sisters of Providence to a citizen of the United States and a professed Sister of Providence, has been accomplished with enthusiasm, joy, challenges and deep faith,” said Provincial Superior Judith Desmarais. “She has experienced care for those who are poor and vulnerable and now is ready to accept this as her life’s ministry as she continues this journey into the future.”

First received the call as a ninth-grader

Sister Hong Nga was a ninth grader when she first received the call to discern a religious vocation. She grew up in a Catholic family with two brothers, two sisters and two aunts who were in religious life. The Lovers of the Holy Cross talked to her about a vocation, but she continued her education, finishing high school and two years of college “while I kept the desire alive in my heart,” she said.

This fall, she is beginning studies at Seattle University to become a registered nurse. “I need a nursing background; it gives a lot of doors,” she explained, “including opportunities to get involved in ministry in health-care settings to help the poor. That has been my desire and my dream when I was asked what I wanted to do – nurse.” She told herself while volunteering at Swedish Medical Center, “someday I will get into that school and take the nursing course. It’s taken me almost 10 years!” Despite the pressure of learning not only the English language but the language of science, that dream is coming true.

“I have received so much of God’s graces and blessings,” Sister Hong Nga said. “If you dedicate your life to God totally, what can you lose?” Her response to her call to religious life is: “That’s it, God! I’m taken!” Her journey has taken a lot of discernment and prayer, she said, and a village of Sisters of Providence to show her the way. “I believe prayer works in all circumstances,” she explained. “Through prayer, I survived in my vocation. I am drawn by the love of the sisters for the poor and the needy. The sisters respond. This is not 100 percent what I imagined, but I learn more and receive more than I give.”

Sister Hong Nga, the youngest of the 125 professed sisters in Mother Joseph Province, embraces wholeheartedly the charism and the mission of the Sisters of Providence. Mother Joseph Province includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, California, El Salvador and the Philippines. The province is international, intergenerational and intercultural. Sister Hong Nga described the religious community as “the best school with no graduation date. I am enrolled in the school of the Sisters of Providence. I love that!”

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