Sister Maria's
Vocation Story

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My religious vocation is a respond to God’s love for me.  I was born in Vietnam, the youngest of the seven children in my family. After the communist took over Vietnam, my parents and grandparents decided to pack up and leave the country. My family was separated into two groups, leaving my father with my five older siblings and my mother and grandparents with the two youngest children. I did not know it at the time, but it would be almost two years before I would be reunited with my father and my siblings. Our trip out of Vietnam was by boat and in secrecy. I was three years old at the time, so it was scary, as you can imagine. My mother and grandparents had thirteen failed attempts to escape Vietnam, but they refused to give up. Each time we were discovered by the communist government, we would be sent to a prison camp. With each failed attempt, our faith and prayer continued to grow stronger and deeper in God and in the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints. Eventually with faith and perseverance, our freedom boat reached the Philippines, the place I would call home for the next two years. From the Philippines, I boarded an airplane for the first time not knowing where it would take me. My mother told me that I was going to be reunited with my father and siblings. When the airplane landed at the LAX airport in California, I was completely lost. I did not know where I was or who all these tall people were. I did not even recognize my own father and brothers and sisters. I was just lost in my own thoughts; however, my mother helped me to come to my senses and in no time I was truly reunited with my family, all nine of us. 

 

I thank God for my vocation and I ask him to sustain my religious vocation every day. Although God did not lead me to Carmel on a straight path, I am grateful to him for the wonderful detour we took together as I discerned his will for my life. 

 

Dingbat HR Separator

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Throughout my life, my parents and grandparents were the ones who nurtured my faith and trust in God. Every night, we would pray together before bedtime. When I was about seven years old, my mother signed me up for the First Holy Communion classes at our parish. It was the first time I had a religious sister for a teacher. All I could remember about First Holy Communion was, I memorized all my prayers, Jesus tasted good, and sister was very nice.  Everyone received a First Holy Communion gift, which included a box of wafer cookies and a pink plastic rosary. I was thrilled! Even though I was a good kid, I did not like the idea of attending additional Sunday school classes. Being the youngest of seven children, my mother was probably tired of my complaining so I skipped Sunday school after receiving First Holy Communion. However, by Junior High, my mother decided it was time for me to go back to Sunday school, like it or not. Surprisingly I found myself wanting to know more about my faith and about being Catholic. I attended Sunday school enthusiastically and my faith in God grew deeper.

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At home around this time, my older brother was preparing to enter the seminary and my older sister was also discerning a religious vocation.  Having older siblings discerning religious life got me thinking about becoming a Nun myself. After I received my Confirmation, I wanted to volunteer like my older sister who was teaching catechism at our parish.  With the increasing number of students attending Sunday school, the Lovers of the Holy Cross Sister was more than happy to have me start as an assistant to my cousin’s Pre-First Holy Communion class.  By my freshman year of college, I was assigned my own class. Even though I was nervous and didn’t know how to make class fun for the kids, my desire and passion to teach the children about God’s love gave me the courage I needed to persevere for the next ten years. Aside from teaching Religious Education, I was also a member of the Respect Life and the Human Trafficking Ministry at my parish.

After I graduated from college and started working for a few years, I knew I needed to make a decision to answer God’s invitation to enter religious life. Coincidentally, at that time my friend received an invitation to visit the Salesian Sisters and asked if I would like to accompany her. My friend told me that the sisters have fun and work with the youth. After a lovely visit with the Salesian Sisters, I came home, prayed and finally decided that I should apply with the Salesian Sisters. However, by the end of my first year at the Salesian school, I knew I did not have the calling to be a Salesian. Although I love the sisters and the students, I felt a stronger calling to be a contemplative. About two years later I happened to bump into my friend at church, the same one who introduced me to the Salesian; this time she told me about the Monastic weekend experience with the Carmelite Nuns in Terre Haute, Indiana. I knew God wanted me to go to this Monastic experience because I had longed for an opportunity to experience contemplative life, so I signed up for the weekend.

The Monastic Experience Weekend was wonderful.  The nuns gave me a tour of the Monastery, allowed me to dine with them in their simple refectory, taught me about discernment, Carmelite prayer, and the Carmelite charism, and let me pray with them in their peaceful choir. The experience left me with a feeling of deep peace. God had wanted this for me for a long time and now I had the courage to say that this is what I wanted for myself. Eventually, I wrote a request letter to ask for a live-in experience to discern further if monastic life is the right fit for me. After about two months, I knew I was at the right place. I struggled with the idea of separation from my family and friends whom I love so dearly. I found it hard to detach from my little nieces and nephews whom I want to see grow up. However, the nuns assured me that God will take care of my family and friends and they can come to visit me. After much prayer and discernment, I was able to make the decision to enter Carmel. 

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Before my final entrance to Carmel, I traveled around California with my family, ate all the food I thought I would never eat again, and spent time with my family and friends. I entered the Carmel of Saint Joseph in Terre Haute, Indianna on October 14, 2015. I believe God gave me the courage and happiness I needed to pursue my vocation. Moreover, I had the desire to be like St. Therese of Lisieux, to suffer all things big and small for the love of Jesus. However, now that I am living in Carmel, I find that I am not very good at suffering trials for the love of Jesus. Nevertheless, I am convinced that God’s grace is with me to help me grow in virtues every time I fail to love others as I should.  And my family and friends have come to visit me just like the nuns told me they would. 

I am so happy to be a Carmelite. I thank God for my vocation and I ask Him to sustain me every day. Although God did not lead me to Carmel on a straight path, I am grateful to Him for the wonderful detours we took together as I discerned His will for my life. Can you believe it; my First Profession is coming up, next year already. I am so excited and grateful to God and to my sisters in community for their love, support and encouragement. If you are reading my vocation story, remember to pray for me and for all those discerning a religious vocation. God bless you!