Sister Phuong Ha Nguyen received a warm welcome on March 7, 2020, as she transferred her vows from Lovers of the Holy Cross to Sisters of Providence during Mass and a reception at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in West Seattle. Hers was one of the last events held before restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus put a pause on gatherings – including liturgies. She was fortunate under the circumstances to carry on with the celebration, which had to be moved from the chapel at St. Joseph Residence to nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe, when the retirement center closed to visitors.
Phuong Ha first heard the call to religious life as a young woman in Vietnam. She joined the Lovers of the Holy Cross and ministered in her native country, then moved to Oregon. Her years in Beaverton, Ore., included a variety of ministries that ranged from director of religious education with a Vietnamese Catholic community to working at a dentist office, daycare center and professional tax office. It was in Portland that she was introduced to the Sisters of Providence during pastoral visits to Vietnamese parishioners at Providence Medical Center, and felt herself drawn to the congregation’s charism and mission.
Sister Phuong Ha moved to Seattle in 2016 to continue the discernment and transfer preparation process. She became a U.S. citizen in 2018. Soon she was ready to respond with a “yes” to God and the Sisters of Providence.
During the transfer ceremony, Congregational Leader, Karin Dufault, SP, expressed gratitude for Sister Phuong Ha’s call within a call. “We thank Phuong Ha for accepting God’s multiple invitations and the flame Blessed Emilie has passed to her. She is a blessing to each of us and those to whom and with whom she ministers.”
Sister Mary Magdalene Phuong Ha Nguyen – her formal religious name with Sisters of Providence – now lives in Spokane, Wash., where she is enrolled in the Spiritual Care program at Sacred Heart Medical Center, studying to become a chaplain.
“This ministry further develops an awareness of my religious personality and pastoral identity, said Sister Phuong Ha. “As a new Sister of Providence following the footsteps of the Providence pioneers’ and ancestors’ ministries at the hospitals, I can connect my Catholic theology, religious background, and core values to people coming from different cultural, traditional, generational and professional backgrounds in this ministry. Each encounter whether with the patients in the hospital or with the sisters in quarantine invited me to walk into a new world of sorrow and joy at the same time.”