By Emilie Ng
VOCATIONS are thriving at Brisbane’s Sisters of St Paul de Chartres convent with six young sisters making their first professions at St Stephen’s Cathedral on February 2.
Sr Marie Claude Vo, 27, Sr Rosario Tran, 32, Sr Marie Josephine Phan, 28, Sr Anna Pham, 27, Sr Marion Tran, 30, and Sr Theresa Maria Dao, 24, all originally from Vietnam, publically professed their desire to serve as missionary sisters in a bilingual liturgy with 200 guests last week.
All six sisters expressed a deep joy ahead of celebrating their “wedding day” to Jesus Christ and felt privileged to become a Sister of St Paul de Chartres, an international congregation founded in France 300 years ago.
“I have so many feelings, but now, I feel very happy because this is my wedding with Jesus Christ, and I can belong to Him totally, with all my heart and my mind,” Sr Anna Pham said.
Sr Marie Claude, Sr Marie Josephine Phan and Sr Anna Pham all knew their vocations when they first met the sisters in school.
“I longed to become a sister in primary school, so I asked my mum, ‘Mum, give me a chance to go to a boarding house with the sisters so I can become a sister’,” Sr Anna said.
She entered the convent after school and, after requesting to be a missionary, was sent to Australia.
The sisters’ gentle presence attracted Sr Marie Claude Vo.
“I knew the sisters when I studied in high school in Vietnam,” she said.
“The way they talk is very nice and very beautiful and I wanted to become one of them.”
The youngest newly professed, Sr Theresa Maria Dao, was studying abroad in Melbourne when she realised her vocation to religious life.
“I first met the student sisters at a bus station in Melbourne and I started to contact with them and I came to visit them a few times,” she said.
“After a few years of discernment I decided to join them.”
The Internet helped Sr Rosario Tran find the right congregation to suit her desire to religious life.
“When I decided to find my real vocation, I started to access the Internet and read about many congregations,” she said.
“I entered one week for discernment and then gradually I thought that was the congregation where I can live to serve God.”
As missionaries living in Australia, the sisters hope to bring God’s love to the world not only by their works, but also by their presence.
“When I came here, I thought Australia is a very big country and very rich,” Sr Marie Claude Vo said.
“I think I can count more Catholic Christians here than in Vietnam, but to me, it looks like they don’t come to know God so much.
“That is when I recognised that is one of my jobs, to bring God’s love to them, by my presence.”
Being faithful to their simple grey habit was also an important part of witnessing Christ in the world, Sr Marie Josephine Phan said.
“I think it’s very important for us that we wear the habits,” she said.
“That’s one side of the religious life, the consecrated life, for people to recognise us, and see that we still have hope and love of God.”
Sr Anna Pham said wearing a habit in the Australian heat was the least of their worries.
“One day I went to Mass, I sat next to one gentlemen and he asked me, ‘Sister, do you feel hot when you wear this one?’,” she said.
“I told him, ‘If you love, you can do everything’.”
The sisters will continue to live their radical life of poverty, chastity and obedience, even if others think they’re “mad”.
“I think for ordinary people, they say we have gone mad because we live like this,” Sr Marion Tran said.
“But for us, we bring joy to the world.
“We can live without anything on earth, but just be present and bring Jesus to the people around us.”
Watch the behind-the-scenes video: