During this particularly challenging year, celebrating the perpetual vows of Sister Teresa Huong Thi Nguyen was a bright spot for the Sisters of Providence in Seattle.
Sister Huong professed her final vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as a Sister of Providence in a liturgy on Sunday, Oct. 11, at Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church, Tukwila, Wash.
Due to pandemic health and safety requirements, Sister Huong’s vows ceremony was a bit of a break from tradition. The church was limited to 25 percent capacity, which restricted the number of friends, parishioners and sisters to approximately 200, with masks and social distancing in effect. Caution tape blocked off alternate pews, attendees were seated six feet apart, and a cleaning crew appeared as soon as Mass dismissed. The customary final vows reception will be rescheduled as health and safety requirements allow.
Though Sister Huong’s family was unable to travel from Vietnam for the ceremony, they were able to watch via livestream video. Several times during the ceremony, the family was addressed, keeping them engaged from afar. Sisters of Providence in lockdown and long-distance were able to enjoy the event online and be present in spirit, as well.
All four members of the Provincial Council of Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province were able to attend – Provincial Leader Barbara Schamber and Councilors Jacqueline Fernandes, Margarita Hernandez and Karen Hawkins – as were more than 25 other sisters. Congregational Leader Karin Dufault, SP, traveled from Montreal and spent 14 days in quarantine so she could take part in the event. Father Gioakim Dao Xuan Thanh presided, with six concelebrants.
Sister Huong’s many personal gifts and talents were apparent at the ceremony. The altar was decorated with a handmade needlework quilt and flowers arranged by the creative sister, who also sewed her own dress for the occasion. The ceremony culminated with a beautiful song written and sung in Vietnamese by Sister Huong for her parents. The lyrics describe her gratitude for their love and support, and reassuring words about her call to become a bride of Christ: “Jesus is my married man. He is the best of the best… Mom, Dad, please do not worry for me because with Jesus I am at peace, and I am His beloved, and I will try to live this love for the rest of my life.”
Sister Huong entered the Sisters of Providence religious community as a candidate in April 2010. She had been called to religious life as a young woman and initially joined the congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Thanh Hoa in North Vietnam after graduating from high school. When her family members experienced difficult times, she left the religious community to help support them as a seamstress and florist.
However, God’s call persisted, and Huong was drawn to the Sisters of Providence. She spent two years communicating with various Sisters of Providence. Eventually two sisters visiting Vietnam paid a visit to Huong and her parents, and she was invited for a “Come & See” experience in Seattle.
As a Sisters of Providence candidate and novice, Huong spent time in Spokane, Wash., studying theology at Gonzaga University and taking courses at Spokane Community College. She also volunteered at the Women’s Hearth and St. Ann’s Child Center.
Sister Huong returned to Seattle in June 2013 where she finished her associate degree at Seattle Central College and earned a bachelor’s in business administration at Seattle University. She completed a master’s in transformation leadership at Seattle University in June 2020 – celebrated “the Covid way” with a virtual online graduation ceremony.
Sister Huong begins her new ministry this month as a residence service coordinator with Providence Peter Claver House and Providence Gamelin House, affordable supportive housing programs in south Seattle.
“I cannot explain enough how Provident God is in my life, particularly my religious life, but one thing I know: God will always be with me in every step of my life,” said Sister Huong. “I often remind myself of the words St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “I can’t do a great thing, but I can do a small thing with great love.” So, I choose this way as I trust in my God because, “with God, nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). I offer my life to God through the Sisters of Providence responding, “Yes, here I am, send me!” to serve people who are marginalized and vulnerable in our society.
It’s always inspiring to read these stories of professions of vows and see the enthusiasm and inspiration that these newer members offer their communities. Congratulations Sister Teresa. The Women of Providence in Collaboration thank you for your commitment to consecrated life!
Barbara McMullen, CDP