SEATTLE – Just two weeks after professing her final vows, Providence Sister Teresa Huong Thi Nguyen began her new ministry to residents at two low-income senior housing facilities owned by Providence Health and Services.
A native of Vietnam, Sister Huong professed her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience during an October 11 Mass at Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Tukwila.
She credits her family with planting the seeds of her vocation.
“I grew up with good parents and family,” Sister Huong said. “We were very Catholic.”
Her final vows were originally scheduled for August but were delayed due to COVID-19, said Sister Barbara Schamber, provincial leader of the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province. Although COVID-19 restrictions limited attendance at the church to 200 people, with masks and social distancing in effect, “it was a beautiful ceremony,” she said.
Sister Huong’s family members back in Vietnam were able to witness the ceremony via livestream, Sister Barbara said. Providence Sister Karin Dufault, the congregational leader, traveled from Montreal and spent 14 days in quarantine so she could participate, according to a news release from the province.
The celebrant, Father Thanh X. Dao, pastor of Vietnamese Martyrs, translated everything spoken into Vietnamese so Sister Huong’s family would understand, Sister Barbara added. The ceremony included a song that Sister Huong wrote for her parents, expressing gratitude for their love and support.
Sister Teresa Huong Thi Nguyen, right, take her final vows as a Sister of Providence during an October 11 Mass at Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Tukwila. With her is Sister Karin Dufault, the congregational leader, who traveled from Montreal and quarantined for 14 days so she could participate. Photo: Courtesy Sisters of Providence
From Vietnam to Washington state
Living in the mountains of Vietnam, Sister Huong said she enjoyed nature and found inspiration in the writings of St. Ignatius. After high school, she joined the congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Thanh Hoa. When her family experienced hardships, she left to help support them as a seamstress and florist, the news release stated.
She still felt the call to religious life and spent two years communicating with various Sisters of Providence. Two sisters traveling in Vietnam paid a visit to the young woman and her parents, and she was invited for a “Come & See” experience in Seattle.
In 2010, she entered the Sisters of Providence, a community that includes women from the Philippines, Chile and El Salvador as well as Vietnam.
“We’re very blessed by a number of international sisters,” Sister Barbara said.
As a candidate and novice, Sister Huong studied theology at Gonzaga University, took courses at Spokane Community College and volunteered at the Women’s Hearth and St. Ann’s Child Center.
Because she was older when she moved to the U.S., learning English was a challenge, Sister Huong said. Still, she became fluent in it.
In 2013, she returned to Seattle, where she finished her associate’s degree at Seattle Central College and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Seattle University. In June, she received a master’s degree in transformation leadership from Seattle University, an achievement celebrated with a virtual graduation because of the pandemic.
In her new ministry, Sister Huong is residence service coordinator at Peter Claver House and Providence Gamelin House, supportive housing programs in south Seattle. She will assist people applying for housing at the facilities and help current residents make doctor appointments or arrange transportation to activities.
“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,” Sister Huong said.
She is eager to walk hand-in-hand with the residents.
“I will journey with them, whatever is going on,” she said.