Sister Anna Do Thi Tam (right) and Sister Anthony Dang Thi Hop on
their anniversaries of vows in 2010.
Elderly nuns from an indigenous women’s congregation in the north of the country, who laid the basic foundations for its development, are still providing inspiration for those joining the order.
At 84, Sister Anna Do Thi Tam still manages to keep herself busy each day.
Sister Tam, who is based in Yen Bai city, visits local families and gives helpful advice to those who have problems. Many people come to seek spiritual help from her and ask her to pray for their families.
The elderly nun also teaches novices at her community and spends a lot of time praying and attending Eucharist adoration.
“I am always faithful to my vocation and have served people even during difficult times since I took my first vows 60 years ago,” said Sister Tam, one of three nuns in the congregation in their eighties.
The nun, one of the original four who started working in the city in 1943, recalled that they had to flee and go into hiding to avoid the series of wars that devastated the country between 1945 and 1975, before returning to Yen Bai permanently.
Sister Tam, a former superior of the Lovers of the Holy Cross Congregation of Hung Hoa, said during those years they ate a sparse diet and lived in houses made from leaves, but they still gathered people for prayers, taught catechism, brought the Eucharist to patients and worked with priests. They also had to work on farms, raise poultry and make soya curd for a living, she added.
Sister Anthony Dang Thi Hop, 83, said while the government was implementing reforms during the 1990s, they sent young nuns to study theology and other subjects at Church-run institutes in the south. They later built their motherhouse in Son Tay town in 2010.
Sister Hop, who now produces herbal medicine for poor patients, said they still work and evangelize in remote areas where some nuns have to stay in people’s homes and dare not wear their habits because of government restrictions.
They organize Bible courses, provide free health care for poor people and give pre-school education to around 500 children, 90 percent of whom are from non-Catholic families.
The congregation has 150 nuns, 40 novices, 50 postulants and 100 aspirants working in Hung Hoa diocese
“We young sisters are deeply grateful to these nuns who have spent their lives bearing witness to Catholic values and building our congregation during very difficult times,” said Sister Maria Nguyen Thi Nhiem, who heads the local community.
Sister Nhiem, 51, said these nuns “are shining examples of how to be faithful to a vocation and to persevere in evangelization.” she added.
Nuns work hard to support poor