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Testimonies for the General Chapter: Sr Maria Nguyễn Thị Thúy Phượng

Updated: Apr 22

In preparation for our General Chapter, we present to you Sr Maria Nguyễn Thị Thúy Phượng, secretary of the Vice-Province of Vietnam who tells us his story and leaves us a wish for this special event for our congregation.

Could you share with us your personal story and how you became a Hospitaller Sister?

I am Maria Nguyễn Thị Thúy Phượng, the third child in a family of seven children. I received from my family a culture of Catholicism, simplicity and hospitality. From the time I was little, I lived like other girls of my age; when I was 6 years old, my grandfather took me to the parish priest to enrol me in the first stage of catechesis. I began to consciously discover virtues such as charity, respect, good treatment, simple gestures of help for the poor and the elderly. Many times I dreamt of the Heart of Jesus and the Virgin Mary… I wanted in a dream to bring hope to the poorest who suffer and to welcome them in a house of charity where they could be cared for and protected. I had never thought of becoming a nun, but one day a Salesian Sister told me that when I became a nun, I would be able to care for and protect the poor and the most needy. This idea came to me constantly, and when I finished my secondary school studies, I decided to enter a congregation to become a nun. So I expressed this desire to my mother, and she helped me to look for the Hospitaller Sisters in plenty of time, because the other Congregations told her that I was still too young to live in the convent. At that time, I was 14 years old. They told me that I had to wait. However, I wanted to have an experience with religious sisters. Thanks to my mother who tried again to find me a Congregation and found the hospitaller community of Our Lady of La Vang (Hố Nai). I was warmly welcomed by the sisters. I spent some time with them discerning my vocation. From there I became an aspirant-postulant, then a novice. I made my first profession and after a few years of temporary vows I made my perpetual profession (taking the ring) at the Casa San Benito Menni (Chu Hai), the seat of the present Vice-Province.

How would you describe the Hospitaller charism in one sentence?

It is difficult to describe it in one sentence. In our Constitutions, we read that the expression of the charism is our name: Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For me, the Hospitaller charism is a gift of the Spirit to the Church that configures us to the compassionate and merciful Christ of the Gospel and sends us to be witnesses that He remains alive in the world.

Could you share an experience or story where you have witnessed how someone in the Hospitaller family, through their work and presence, has been a prophetic sign of hope and shown God's closeness to those who suffer?

"The Mighty One has done great works for me, his name is holy" (Lk 1:49). In reflecting on this Word, I have experienced many things that God has wanted to express throughout my consecrated life. I share the concrete experience that has had the greatest impact on me during the time of COVID. There were many people suffering because they could not go out to take care of their loved ones. Those affected lacked food and hygiene. In addition, some people were depressed, they doubted their faith… I asked myself what I could do for them, to alleviate their situation. From the Word I made a daily reflection from the Gospel with a corresponding image and sent it to a large Zalo and Facebook group. I received a lot of positivity from them, it was like a way of sharing the suffering of Jesus in the suffering humanity of COVID. They called me and asked for prayer for their father or mother… With my prayer and my faith I was united with them spiritually in the distance and so, with this, I tried to show them the closeness of God. They were grateful to me. I also went to help a family where the elderly mother and daughter were infected by COVID, isolated in a house, malnourished because they did not even have the strength to cook, they were close to death. Every day I prepared a high quality meal for them with a lot of love and took it to them with the medicines and after a few days their health improved, they overcame the COVID, and with great joy, they thanked me and the Congregation. Now they are benefactors of our community. I think it has been like a prophetic sign of hope, with which I have been able to show God's closeness to those who suffer through simple actions. When I have lived with trust in God and experienced his love, I have loved people and thus, with this gift I can transmit and share with gratitude the desire to transform this world into a better land, full of hospitable love. Although these are small things of everyday life, I try to serve with great love and charity to those I serve.

How would you describe the impact you have had on the communities you have served?

The sisters, children, sick people or collaborators to whom I have had the opportunity to offer some service, care; like other people who have contacted me, I have felt that they have experienced me as close, joyful and they have trusted me. My current service is quite varied; on the one hand, I am the secretary of the Vice-Province of Vietnam, offering all the support to the Government of Vietnam. Another of my tasks is to teach the girls in the boarding school. One day a week, every Friday, I take care of the disabled children during the night. I consider my service to be calm, serene and at the same time entertaining. My attitude is one of availability to whatever is asked of me, for example, taking time to listen, share and help in small details with unconditional love… At the end of the day, I feel good for having done good.

What is your wish for the next General Chapter?

I hope that the XXII General Chapter will be a "privileged place" where God manifests his will for the next six years. May the Chapter Sisters, in their actions and decisions, allow themselves to be touched by His mercy and be bearers of hope for the whole Congregation. I dare to say a word, that they act with audacity, taking into account the signs of the times, the places, the moment in which we live: Do not be afraid to make decisions. Put everything in the hands of God-Trinity with the certainty that the future is in His hands.

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