Random Nun Clips

Discovering her true identity

Podcast Recorded: July 15, 2022
Vietnamese girl sits by herself near a boat

Not until she was working with unaccompanied minors in US Immigration Services did Sr. Trish Doan realize the truth: as a Vietnamese refugee making her way to the United States, she herself had been an unaccompanied minor.

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Transcript (Click for More)+

Sister Rejane  
This Random Nun Clip is brought to you by A Nun's Life Ministry. I'm Sister Rejane of A Nun's Life Ministry. Our guest today is Sister Trish Doan, a Sister of St. Joseph of Orange, who currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and is working on her master's degree in theology. Her life began in Vietnam during a time of war, upheaval and unrest. Sister Trish left Vietnam at the approximate age of 12. She went to school and over the years had several different work experiences in engineering, in her family's restaurant, and in US immigration services. So I want to kind of fast forward to connect your time in that refugee camp with one of your jobs. You did engineering, and then working in the restaurant, but then I know you worked within the United States immigration system. Kind of like almost coming full circle. Can you talk about that a bit?

Sister Trish  
Yes. When I was in a refugee camp, people came in to volunteer, like Salvation Army, and there were missionaries from different denominations of Christians that would come in and see people and help people in the refugee camp. And refugee officers from the US and also from UN that would come and interview us. When I looked at them, I said, "You know, one of these days, I would love to be one of them, just to go and help the people at the refugee camp." When I got to the United States, I would have liked to do that, however, I needed to get my life going. So, you know, I just dove in and learned the language and then started to think about my life and how am I going to make my new life here. So after a long, long time, my friends got a job at -- they called it INS at the time: Immigration and Naturalization Service. And they worked there, and they said, "Trish, why don't you apply to work here?" And I said, "No, I don't want to, because I want to go back to Vietnam and volunteer in Vietnam. If I work for the government, I cannot do that." So it's the same thing that after I graduated, I interviewed down in Point Mugu.

Sister Rejane  
Where is that?

Sister Trish  
That's Point Mugu, which is I think is north of Los Angeles a little bit. And those are the naval air space, and they design all the circuits and all the warheads for the weapons. And I said, you know, first of all, I want to go back to Vietnam. And if I work there, there's a lot of restrictions. So I can't do that. So I didn't accept the position.

Sister Rejane  
And that was for engineering, right?

Sister Trish  
For engineering. And remember, this is 2002. In my head, I said, "I still want to go back to Vietnam and do some work there with the sisters in Vietnam. So if I do that, there's going to be a problem." But I applied for the immigration position, because I didn't want my friend to be sad. So I applied and then guess what? I got accepted. So when I came in and worked, I loved the work. I had the opportunity to help the people who were trying to reunite with their loved ones. And it's a full circle, you know? I understood the process and I understood a person waiting for their loved ones. But I didn't know who I was when I was in the refugee camp until 2015, when I got my job in LA. I worked in a field office, which is you interview people for green cards. And my supervisor approached me and said, "Trish, I would like you to consider this job, which is you either work with battered woman or unaccompanied minors." And I said, "Okay, I'd like to work with the children. I'll work with the unaccompanied minors," just to process their applications so that they can get a green card. During that time that I worked in this particular form, I realized that I was an unaccompanied minor.

Sister Rejane  
Yourself, with your brother.

Sister Trish  
Myself, yes.

Sister Rejane  
When you made the journey.

Sister Trish  
When I made the journey. I said, "Oh, my God, I was an unaccompanied minor." So the kids came in with their aunt, an uncle or cousin, or even with a pro bono attorney, or the agency, which is the family welfare, children protective agency. They did not have the parents with them. They don't have their parents there with them because they came to the US by themselves. So I mean, like, I told them about my story. I said, "You know, I was like you before. I came here with my brother. So please stay in school. Stay in school, and then someday you can sit where I'm sitting, and help other people. And you can make it better, even better." So who knows? You know?

Sister Rejane  
That is such a powerful story. Probably it almost was like, "Oh, my gosh, I did that." Because when you're in it, you probably don't recognize the courage and the danger as much.

Sister Trish  
No. And I mean, I asked them about their journey because that's part of the interview. Just to verify that, you know, everything is there. And one day I just dawned on me: I was an unaccompanied minor, and my brother also. You know, you never know how God leads a person’s life. Sometimes I think it's amazing. Just, it's just incredible. It is amazing.

Sister Rejane  
God's providence to just watch out for you.

To hear full episodes of A Nun's Life podcasts, visit the podcast page at anunslife.org/podcasts.

This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.


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