A Vocation Story by Sister Phuong Vu, OP
Dominican Sisters of Peace
A life of change grounded by one constant – God.
As the oldest of six children, change has always been a constant in my life. Every time a new sibling arrived, my life changed. But those small changes were minor compared to others that affected my entire growing family. I think back to our move from the metropolis of Saigon to the small city of Mỹ Tho when I was four; the Communist takeover of the government when I was nine; leaving my beloved Catholic school, where I first found God, after the Communists came to power; and moving to America when I was 23. I’ve dealt with changing landscapes, changing languages, changing careers and changing cultures. However, in all the turmoil around me, two things were constant – God and the Church.
When I was young, my faith was almost a lifestyle—Sunday Mass, family rosary, daily prayers; it was just what we did, habits that I was born into. My early education by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres taught me the importance of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and I always turned to Mother Mary and God in times of trouble. The desire of a young girl for comfort and stability was the foundation of my faith, but it was a faith given to me by my parents, it was not yet a faith that I chose actively for myself.
At that time in my life, I truly needed that comfort and stability. My parents had to work full time, and my sister and I ran the house and cared for our younger brothers and sister. When the Communists took over, I had to leave my Catholic school for a state-run institution. As I neared the time for Confirmation, the Communists took away most of the resources I needed to prepare myself for this holy Sacrament. After coming to America, I had to learn a new language, become accustomed to a new culture, and figure out how to support myself in a strange new world. But, I was always able to find peace when I was sitting in the house of God on Sunday mornings.
It wasn’t until I attended my first three-day Ignatian retreat that I truly felt the real presence of God. In the silence of the retreat, I began to understand God’s unconditional love for me through his persistence, companionship, and guidance. I was able to come to terms with my harsh childhood back in Communist Vietnam. I realized then that I could confidently place my life into the hands of God, and trust that he will lead me to the light—that He always has and he always will.
That first experience with the living, personal God changed my life forever. I knew then how much God loved me and I desired to return that gift of love. I became committed to Spiritual Exercises, praying one psalm at least 30—45 minutes a day and sharing my reflection with my faith group. I also became a Catechist at my parish helping children see, understand, and appreciate how much God loves them. Through this work, daily sharing the word of God and His great love for us, I began to hear His voice and feel His hand directing me towards religious life.
Today, as a Novice with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, I live in St. Louis, MO at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate with another novice from the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic. I am studying at Aquinas School of Theology and participating in an Intercommunity Novitiate program with male and female novices from various congregations. We have a rich life of prayer and community where I am learning how to live my life as a vowed religious. Today, my life is grounded in God and I am living a faith I have freely chosen as my own.