St Joseph’s parish in Belmore pulled out all stops on 17 September to celebrate the final profession of woman into a religious congregation that is central to its life as a thriving Catholic community.
Sr Maria Thi Thanh Tuyen Nguyen of the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross Qui Nhon (Vietnam) made her final profession of vows during a special Mass, for which Sydney bishop, Bishop Terry Brady, was the principal celebrant.
In keeping with the ‘charism’ or special character of the community – of uniting oneself to the cross and crucifixion of Christ – Bishop Terry Brady blessed a crucifix and presented to Sr Maria for her veneration.
Sr Maria then knelt before congregational leader, Sr Anne, to make her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, receiving from Sr Anne a ring manifesting her betrothal to Christ as a consecrated person.
Other sisters and priests from Vietnam were also there to share in the joy of the large local gathering, one greatly aided throughout by both Tongan and Vietnamese choirs.
Jubilant scenes and cultural performance followed at the parish school after Mass.
Four Lovers of the Holy Cross sisters have been serving in the area for the past six years, providing pastoral care in the community and visiting a local nursing home, in addition to teaching the liturgy to local Vietnamese children.
The congregation’s origins go back to the evangelisation of Vietnam in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and to the communities of women formalised by Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte, who was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Southern Vietnam in 1659.
(Bishop Lambert’s missionary efforts followed those of the Jesuit Father, Fr Alexandre de Rhodes, and the earlier work of Dominicans and Franciscans.)
The sisters continued to teach the faith to young people and to serve the poor in Vietnam throughout almost three centuries of persecution, with more than 300 sisters giving up their lives as martyrs.