Providence Sister Rosa Sen Nguyen professes perpetual vows in Burbank, California, on February 10

February 7, 2018


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Sister Rosa Sen Nguyen will make profession of perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Sister of Providence in a bilingual liturgy at 10 a.m. Saturday, February 10, at St. Finbar Church, 2010 West Olive Avenue, in Burbank, California. A reception will follow at Providence High School, 511 South Buena Vista Street, where Sister Rosa serves in full-time ministry in the Finance Department.

Sister Rosa also supports the school’s campus ministry office and she is very involved with the Vietnamese Catholic community at St. Finbar Parish. She works with the youth group, teaching May Dance for Mary, writing a script for a play about the Vietnamese Martyrs, and giving youth retreats at Advent and Lent.

“Sister Rosa’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 people who are poor and vulnerable and now she is ready to accept this as her life’s ministry as she continues this journey into the future.”

Sister Rosa, born in North Vietnam, came to Seattle in November 2006 for a six-month Come and See experience with the Sisters of Providence when she was in her early 20s. She is the cousin of Sister AnnMary Vu, who had transferred her vows from the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Vietnam to the Sisters of Providence. Rosa joined another of Sister AnnMary’s cousins, Hong Nga Nguyen, in that Come and See experience. Sister AnnMary had 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.

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.

In 2015, Rosa graduated from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in theology. While in Spokane, she served in ministry at St. Margaret’s Shelter. She became a U.S. citizen in 2016.

Having arrived in the United States as a very young adult, Sister Rosa says her ministry allows her the opportunity to engage with youth and to renew her own native language and culture. She is pleased to talk with young people about the Vietnamese culture, what it means to be Vietnamese in this country, and how to balance two cultures. That is reflected in her decision, after prayer and discernment, and with the support of the Leadership Team, to wear a black skirt or jumper with a white blouse to work and to wear a veil at Mass and special events. “I feel a need to integrate my Vietnamese culture with my religious life,” Sister Rosa said. “This is my heart’s desire so I can feel really who I am as a Vietnamese Providence Sister. In the Vietnamese culture, wearing a veil is an identifying and important symbol for consecrated life.”

The sisters in Burbank have shared Vietnamese culture with Sister Rosa through a Lunar New Year “Tet” celebration and other events at St. Finbar Parish. For those sisters, it has been a bridge to that community and appreciation of its culture.

Each ministry has given Sister Rosa a different understanding of her call to serve others, she explained. She has dreamed of being a sister since the sixth grade and now that dream is coming true with her profession of perpetual vows.