Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Grateful Good-Bye

      As we are in the last week of our stay at the CDN, we do our spring-cleaning at the house and begin to pack our things, getting ready for our next destination.

It was only ten months ago when we unpacked our luggage to begin our CDN days. 

Time went by quickly!


At the beginning of my canonical year, I learned that “unpack” meant to empty and to let go. I came to the novitiate with an open mind, open heart, and open hands, willing to learn and adapt to something new. For instance, I learned to let go of some of my self-interests, such as personal travel and being present for some family and friend celebrations.  I learned to let go many of my old habits, so I could integrate into a new community at the CDN and focus on discerning my religious life. Now that I am at the end of my canonical year, what will I pack and bring with me?

   When I came here, I had one box of books and personal belongings.  After ten months, although my books have doubled, my experiences and my knowledge have multiplied many times.  I entered the novitiate year with a simple understanding of the vowed life. My novitiate year has given me a much deeper understanding of religious life through the three vows: obedience, poverty, and chastity. My novitiate year has helped me grow in my spiritual life, vowed life, and cultural living. Additionally, I have also learned to appreciate more of the CND, ICN Communities, and Dominican family. The time at the CDN gave us many opportunities to meet other Dominican Sisters, Maryknoll Sisters, Dominican Friars, and novices from many different congregations.  

  Wednesday is the scheduled time for Rolande and me to depart the CDN. I will go back to my motherhouse in Columbus, Ohio, to prepare for my new ministry, and Rolande will go back to Maryknoll’s Center to prepare for her next step.  We are grateful for the companionship of our co-directors, Sr. Lorraine, and Sr.Cathy. I am thankful for the gift of unity the CDN community has given us.  We cooked, carpooled, and did house chores together. We shared meals, laughter, faith-sharing, community prayers, and conversations.

   We are very thankful to each of you whom we have encountered this year.  

  We will miss the faculty, staff, and classmates at Aquinas Institute, the ICN novices and formators, and the speakers at the ICN workshops. Each of them has a unique identity, but all are in the same community of love and joy.    

  We could never thank you enough for the graces of love, support, and friendship that we have received during this past year. Your cards, emails, gifts, and prayers meant a lot to us.

 Please receive our sincere gratitude and continue to keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.

                                               Your novices, Rolande and Phuong.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


I was very privileged to be part of this rich group of different congregations coming together to learn, to socialize, and to get to know and appreciate each other.

We started the journey together in September 2018, and in May 2019 we bid each other good bye, hoping to meet again in the future. We were a group of 16 novices and 12 directors. We all learned together, but primarily it was meant for us novices and sometimes we were taught by the directors. That has been a new experience for me here in the USA to learn together with the directors in the same room. One day we had a conversation with them in a fish bowl method. They shared with us and were so open about how they lived their three vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience.

We had topics like: Catholic Social Teaching, Restorative Justice, Embodied Prayer, Family Systems, Sexuality, Vows, Mission, and Pastoral Theological Reflection, among others. I also enjoyed our last trip to White Violet Center for eco-justice.

The communities represented were the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Houston, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Saint Antonio, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Providence, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Maryknoll Sisters, the Daughters of Charity, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the Adrian Dominican Sisters and the Congregation of Mary Queen. We learned about each community represented during the first sessions.

It was quite an intercultural group; we had people from the Americas, Asia, and Africa. I appreciated how those who knew Saint Louis well took the initiative to show us around. We visited the zoo together, we had some games in the park, and we went to see the biggest chair show, etc.

Another cultural experience was playing in the snow, making snow angels. I couldn’t believe that it was possible for one to just lie flat in the snow without feeling extremely cold, until I experienced it myself and knew it was possible!

We carved pumpkins and exchanged them among communities during our Halloween Celebration.
Another topic we had together was Intercultural living, in which the presenter pointed out  that in intercultural living sometimes there can be two parties, the guest and the host, and that both the host and the guest can experience being strangers in a particular intercultural setting. At first I could not understand how the host could be a stranger while living in his or her own culture. In our table discussion, one of us gave an example of how she has experienced being a stranger even though she is in her own culture as a host: this is when we have an intercultural mass together and we sing and dance during mass. This is unusual in her own culture. This example made me understand how it is possible for the two parties to experience being a stranger.
We can’t thank our communities enough for this opportunity they gave to us to learn together, to expand our horizons, and to grow together.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Celebrating Easter 2019 in Sinsinawa

   I often hear about the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa,” Sinsinawa Mound,” and “Sinsinawa Cinnamon Bread,” but I have never visited this place before. Over the last weekend, the CDN went to Sinsinawa Mound to celebrate the Easter Triduum with Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.  We are so grateful for having an opportunity to visit them.
   We left Saint Louis on Thursday morning and drove back home on Sunday. Three days passed very quickly, but it was an excellent experience for us. The Sisters welcomed us with their loving hearts. There were Sisters we met for the first time, but I felt very close. They told us to consider this place as our home.

 The Sisters took us to visit the heritage rooms, explained the history of their congregation, prepared the meals, taught us to make Ukrainian Easter eggs, and gave us a presentation about the Dominican Global Family and the Paschal Mystery. We enjoyed being with the Sisters. Especially, we celebrated the Easter Triduum with the Dominican family (Sisters, Friar, Lay, and Associates) at Sinsinawa Mound. We especially thank the Sisters for taking time with us although they are busy.  
 The presentation “Global Family and the Paschal Mystery “helped us to understand more about the connection between the Dominican family in the world. They are present all over the world, Asia, Europe, Africa, America, and Latin America. Sister Toni said that if something happens in one place, it will affect the whole Dominican family. Her statement helps us understand in a broader way the role of each of us. In this world, there are places where people live freely, and peacefully, and others where people are living in war, and are not free. 
  We are all children of God, so what will do when we hear that our brothers, and sisters are suffering? 

  Jesus gave the disciples a model for how to love one another. By humbling himself and washing his disciples' feet, Jesus showed them the full extent of his love. In the washing of feet, Jesus teaches us how to serve others with a loving attitude and humility.

  On the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Sisters celebrated the ritual foot-washing ceremony, which re-enacts Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.  Instead of the priest washing the feet of twelve people, the Prioress washed the feet of the Mound Prioress who then washed hers in return. Everyone else in the congregation washed hands in pairs. It seemed new to me. I realized that we can serve others in many ways and allow ourselves to let others help us. In serving each other, we show people that we are connected.

-Are we willing to serve others and also to receive from others?

We are called to continue the Christ mission. We are to render the same kind of love and service to others despite our failures, flaws, and imperfections. 

We pray that we might be faithful to this new commandment of Jesus - that we might love others in the same way that Jesus loves us.


            Happy Easter !

Saturday, March 30, 2019


It was quite a delight to have some time away from our CDN routine and be with our sisters from Columbus, Adrian, Grand Rapids and Maryknoll (Chicago). On Saturday March 9th  we left the CDN community after our directors sang for us the Dominican blessing. Joy filled our hearts as we felt them sending us forth, believing that God is with us in our journey.
Joy filled our hearts when we met with our Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, who received us with open arms and hearts. We shared stories, meals, laughter, prayers, and peace as was written
at the entrance''PEACE TO ALL WHO ENTER HERE.’’

Thank you sisters for your peace, love, and kindness towards us.


The following day, we left for Adrian. And there, the sisters received us with a lot  of joy too. They had been waiting for us for the evening meal.   We attended the funeral of Sr Margaret and all the rituals involved. We noted how things are done differently from our own communities and even cultures, but there are some things we have in common .


Dear sisters, we were really impressed by  your different ministries and how you make God's love visible to the people around you through your literacy program, at Siena Heights University, the Dominican Young Adult program, the care for the earth, the Weber Center, and of course the Dominican joy which you show to the  many people you meet. Thank you sisters for your time with us and most specifically to those who generously gave of their time in giving us different tours. 

We then proceeded to Grand Rapids, and there we spent one night. Even though there only one day,  we received a lot by being with the sisters. We experienced once more  Dominican joy when we attended the birthday celebration of the sisters, the sharing during our meals, the famous chicken foot game- we learned from you sisters!  
We also learned about the history of the Grand Rapids Sisters, we met with the affiliates and shared a meal with them, and they all blessed us before we embarked  for Chicago. Thank you our dear sisters!

Chicago Maryknoll formation house was our last stop.  Our Maryknoll Sisters living in Chicago and the Maryknoll Society received us with a lot of joy in the Chicago Maryknoll formation house.  We shared vocation stories, news, and meals, first on the  men’s side and the following day on the sisters’ side. It was a good time for me to reconnect  with them after some months of absence. We made sure to visit the beauty of nature for refreshment after the long trip; we had a quick walk to Lake Michigan which is not far from Maryknoll formation house.
Thank you our dear brothers and sisters!We very much enjoyed being with you during our spring break and especially by experiencing the particular joy in every house we visited. We were always encouraged and affirmed by you as our elder sisters in this journey.  Your stories, your joy, community life and your commitment  made us ponder in  our hearts about what  faithfulness  to one’s call means. From all your affirmation, encouragement, support, joy, and love, we came back to our CDN community very refreshed and more enthusiastic. Even though we had wanted to stay longer with the different communities we visited, we could not. We thank our directors who are very considerate. During all the planning they had told us that just in case it snows, stay wherever you are for one more day; but it never snowed for the whole trip, so we had to leave!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Unity and Love

  It was a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to meet Sisters in the Dominican family last week at the CDN Board and CFR Meeting. I was so delighted and inspired to hear Sisters share their stories about when they were novices back 20 years, 25 years, 30 years, 50 years, etc …    

  I wondered what has drawn them to stay in religious life with love and joy until now?  Perhaps this fidelity only exists when there is a love: love of God and love of community. These loves lead to unity, becoming one mind and one heart in God.  

 This novitiate year, I have had the opportunity to meet many Sisters in the Dominican family on various occasions. I especially was very touched to see the presence of CFRs and leadership members from many different places - South, West, Midwest, East - many of whom I met the first time. They greeted us with open arms. They invited us to visit their home congregations. I felt like I was in the unity and love of the Dominican family.  I am very grateful to witness our Dominican Sisters as examples for me to follow.

 This week, I have learned and reflected on the Rule of St. Augustine with Sr. Rolande and my formators at the CDN. Augustine’s opening line touched me: “Before all things, dearly beloved, love God and then your neighbor, because these were the first commandments given to us “. This has helped me to deepen my understanding of the Dominican life.

 How does being grounded in God’s love affect the way I understand the vows and my call to religious life?

 As St. Augustine suggests: “Love and then do what you will.” This helps me to understand the connection of love and freedom. Jesus freely chose to dwell in our hearts because he loves us fully. The religious life is calling me to live freely a life of love: love of God and love of neighbor. Please pray for us.

We are thankful for your prayers and support; we hold you in our hearts and prayers. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019


Dear brothers, sisters and friends,

Since January 62019 we have been here in Saint Louis to begin our second half of our program. It was after a one month Christmas break in which we went back to our respective communities. It was another great time to reconnect to our communities and we happened to all go to our mother houses.
Upon arrival here in our CDN community, we immediately entered into our busy program in the middle of a very cold winter: pursuing our studies at Aquinas Institute, even though we only each took one class because we have more studies   in the house. We continue with our ministry of learning and helping the young girls during their religion class at Marian Middle School. 

Every Wednesday we have been having our Inter-Congregational Novitiate on different topics. Next week we will have a quite intense week on Psycho/Sexual Development.  We have also been having some reflections and discussion on Religious life special topics with our dear Sister Elyse OP. Among the classes we are having in the house with our directors is the story and life of Saint Dominic. It is a good opportunity for us to learn about Dominican Spirituality. The book which has served us for our study so far is entitled Saint Dominic: The Story of a Preaching Friar by Donald J. Goergen OP.  Allow us to share with you some of our simple insights and outstanding points which stayed with us in these Dominican Life seminars.  In our discussions, we took one chapter after another, and these are the questions which led us.

What attracted or challenged you in this chapter? What did you resist and why? What questions did this chapter evoke in you? Answer for you? How does this reading affect your discernment of Dominican Religious Life?

In our study and discussions we learned about how the Order started, expanded and the Dominican spirituality portrayed by the life and history of Saint Dominic. However, we came to understand that the Dominican way of life is deeply rooted in the Gospel itself and not in Saint Dominic. In his simplicity he just wanted to be seen as one of the brethren, a simple itinerant and contemplative preacher. He was able to be both deeply contemplative and deeply active. He was a man of prayer with a mission, a contemplative mission. It was a call for us to evaluate how we are able to balance our interior and exterior life, our busy active schedule and our prayer life, and how do we allow our contemplation which boils inside us to boil over?

In this article, we cannot go without mentioning our resistance to mendicancy as lived by Saint Dominic. We had a long conversation on mendicancy and how it is still lived in some ways and not necessarily like during Saint Dominic’s time. We came to the realization that many of our congregations depend on donations from people of good will and that may be our form of mendicancy today.

‘’Mendicancy and voluntary poverty were at the heart of Dominic’s evangelical strategy.’’ He told his brethren, ‘’ Have charity, preserve humility and possess voluntary poverty.’’
The above statement from Saint Dominic answered some questions on our previous discussion in relation to material poverty. The question was how do we really live poverty when we seem to have what we need? Our response is to make choices for simplicity, despite knowing that we have much. In addition to that, we came to a clearer understanding of our ministry of preaching. We are not an order of homilists but an order of preachers. Preaching is broader, as it involves our witness of living the gospel values by our deeds.  Giving homilies is just one part of it. This can be understood as the using of words when necessary.

All in all, we need to remember that DOMINIC WAS AN ASCETIC WHO ENJOYED HIS WINE; we are also having time to enjoy our 'wine' here despite our busy schedule. Time has not been on our side, it has been our greatest enemy but we have been managing it. This winter season though very cold, we are not missing its beauty. We celebrate birthdays for a full week for those who want it! We create time for games, without forgetting our free and special cooking!
Dear sisters, brothers, and friends, our knowledge and understanding about Dominican spirituality may still be limited in various ways.  As always, we count on your support and help as we continue learning and growing as Dominicans.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

 Chuc Mung 
Giang Sinh! 

Joyeux Noel!

 Krismasi Njema!

From the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate 
     Phuong, Rolande, Cathy, and Lorraine