Sr Thao Nguyen
Born in Vietnam, Sr Thao grew up as a teenager in Australia, which fashioned her adventurous mind. By the age of 23, she came to the Canossian convent to test out her vocation. Four years later, she took her first Religious Vows. This year marks 20 years since Sr Thao put her feet on Canossian ground. She works in palliative care, which she says is a sacred ministry “because this is where I continuously experience the Paschal mystery of Jesus”. She also works with the young adult ministry in the Cathedral of St. Stephen, a ministry which “is energetic, enriching and eye opening”.
- What did you want to be as a child?
When I was about eight years old, every day for weeks, my mother gave me money to buy food for a paralysed and abandoned elderly lady on our street. Her smile when I fed her caused a desire within me to be a nurse or doctor, to care for the sick and frail. But at the age of 15, I started teaching catechism to young kids in the parish and just as they loved me teaching them and I loved teaching them. Then I wanted to become a teacher. So I was not sure who I wanted to be, however I was never worried about who I might become.
- How do you start a conversation with someone who is not Catholic?
Personal friendships with people of other religious affiliations means I am at ease conversing with people who are not Catholic. My conversation with them starts with listening to their story and faith, accepting and respecting their faith. In this way, I am sharing my faith with them, without words. In a place of mutual sharing, there is no need to argue in favour of one faith over the other; it is about respect and freedom.
- What does it mean to be a Religious Sister in the 21st Century?
Pope Francis says “Religious Life needs to be prophetic; capable of waking up the world”. Nowadays, we have Google as our resource to search for anything we want to know and thus our heads are filled with knowledge and information. However, are there living resources that offer people a way to their heart, to wake them up to the presence of God in people, situations and ecology? Thus, to be a religious today is to be a “wakeful person”, because only the one who is awake can wake up others.
- What’s your hidden talent?
Do I really want to tell people my hidden talent? I just hope that sharing my hidden talent enriches people. I write poems though I would not call myself a poet. I write poems when I have astonishing and bewildering experiences of God in prayer and life events. Writing poems is the personal expression of my intimate relationship with God. Poems do not need many words, just like an intimate relationship.
- Who is your favourite saint or religious figure and why?
My favourite saint is my Religious Foundress, St Magdalene of Canossa from whom I experienced a personal connection before I learnt much about her life. I discovered that the spirit of God is so much in her and when I am in the tune with God’s spirit in her, I feel the connection.
Another person I would like to mention is a friend of mine who is a priest; he is very clever and well educated. He could have any job he wished in Australia, but he chose to go to a poor country to provide education to the poor people because he believes that education brings dignity and improves people’s life condition.
- What motivates you when you when you’re in spiritual dryness?
- Faith (in God’s presence even though I don’t feel it),
- Consistency (with personal prayer),
- Sense of humour (see the bright site of the unknown)
- Physical fitness (go for a run or exercise)
I believe that feeling spiritual dryness (desolation) is a part of spiritual life, just like consolation, as life has its joys and sorrows.
- What question do you hate to answer?
“Can you please pray that God does not call so and so (family members) on Christmas day?” This is the toughest question that I encounter nearly every year before Christmas. I could never answer that question because I know God’s time is unstoppable. It is always challenging for me to try to find the right words and appropriate way to comfort the family when their loved one dies at Christmas.