Sister Lang Thi Tran was born on Oct. 11, 1952, in Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam. She was the first of eight children born to Thoan Ngoc Tran and Sang Tran. The family grew coffee beans and operated a small business.
When Lang was two years old, Vietnam divided. Her family had to move to the South because her father was a soldier. It was also a time when nearly one million Catholics moved from the North to the South to be able to continue practicing their faith. Those Catholics who remained in the North faced death or arrest by the Communists.
Lang’s parents wanted her to continue her education, so they sent her to live with the Holy Cross Sisters at their boarding school when she was seven years old. Lang continued there through fifth grade then moved to Da Lat to live with the Adorers of the Holy Cross Sisters for high school in their pre-candidate program.
Lang had been encouraged to consider religious life from a young age. Her mother Sang was a big influence. Sang had considered religious life as a young woman, but her father – Lang’s grandfather – didn’t want her to continue her vocation. So Sang married and raised her children in the Catholic faith, teaching them how to pray and be good people. Lang considers her mother’s vocation a gift that was passed down to her. Lang’s calling to religious life was also her mother’s dream come true.
Lang entered the Adorers of the Holy Cross in 1969 and took her final vows in 1978. Her earliest ministry was teaching in a Catholic school. Around that time, Vietnam was reunited under Communist rule, and the Catholic sisters were given the choice to be teachers in the government operated schools or to remain sisters and work in the factories or out in the fields. Most of the community, including Sister Lang, chose to keep their vows, so they were forced to move to the country and begin working in the rice fields.
The hard labor took a toll on the health of many sisters including Sister Lang. After a year she moved to Saigon, working in factories sewing and assembling, hoping to restore her health. This was better but still difficult work.
Several years later, the government allowed the sisters to reopen their schools, so Lang returned to teaching kindergarten. After so many years being run down by difficult working conditions, Lang was in poor health. She arranged with her superior to leave the country, first to France, then to the U.S. in 1996.
During this period, it was becoming increasingly difficult to continue as a sister with the Adorers of the Holy Cross, so Lang began to consider other religious communities. She was introduced to members of the Sisters of Providence and felt this would be a community where she would be better able to live out her religious life in this new country. Even though English was still a challenge for her, the Sisters of Providence welcomed and supported her.
In 2000 Lang started the transfer process into Sisters of Providence and began studying English. She officially transferred vows to Sisters of Providence in 2003 in a ceremony at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Seattle.
Sister Lang went on to study Early Childhood Education at Spokane Falls Community College, earning an AAS degree in 2005. After graduating, she worked for St. Anne’s Children and Family Center in Spokane, then moved to Portland and began work at Grandma’s Place. In 2010 she joined Providence Portland Medical Center, volunteering with medically fragile children in the Providence Child Center and at Wee Care, a daycare program for the children of employees.
At Wee Care, Sister Lang loved caring for the infants and didn’t mind when she was asked to come in early or stay late with the babies. She once said, “Parents often asked me why I didn’t get married and have my own babies. I told them God called me to religious life. As a woman religious, I have many more babies to love – all of yours!”
Sister Lang has also shared that as she cared for the infants, she was drawn to Blessed Emilie Gamelin, Sisters of Providence foundress, who suffered the deep grief of losing her own infant and toddler sons as well as her husband. “Maybe that’s why she inspired me, as her daughter, with a special love for babies!” said Sister Lang.
In 2012 Sister Lang took on a lead role in the infant program where she used her gifts to develop and coordinate nurturing and engaging programs for the babies. Her exemplary service was recognized with a Spirit of Emilie Values in Action Award in 2019, just before she retired.
After retiring, Sister Lang moved to Burbank, Calif., to live with her family who moved from Vietnam to the U.S. in 1991. There she cares for her elderly parents and stays involved with the Sisters of Providence in Burbank.