Sister Hong Nga Nguyen, age 25, made temporary vows on September 25, 2011. She is from Vietnam and is studying English and math at Seattle Central Community College. She lives with four other sisters in Seattle.
Time will pass.
Great things will come.
All will be well.
Don’t lose hope because tomorrow will unfold for you
Because I your God
can make all things possible.
What do we understand when we hear the word “vocation”? Each of us has our own story of vocation. Some are stories of marriage. Others are stories of remaining single. Some have a vocation story of becoming religious or joining the priesthood. All of these aspects of living out a vocation call are good and considered as a special gift from God. One is not better than another, but they are different.
One of my favorite scriptures in the Old Testament is when the Lord called Samuel. (1 Samuel 3:3b- 10, 19) Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice. In my experience of being a young member in a religious community, sometimes I can’t recognize or neglect the call from God like Samuel. I need to have someone like Eli to help me to answer God’s call in every circumstance.
The journey in religious life is like a pilgrimage. I admit that there will be many up and down moments on the journey. How do I deal with these moments? Each person will have a variety of ways of coping and dealing with difficult daily situations. Each individual finds different ways to listen to God’s call in the midst of a noisy life. Personally, I have found some practical solutions when life gets so tight or when I feel down.
I take some time off from what I am doing. Being a full-time student sometimes takes up all my time. I hardly have enough time to finish homework. So how do I find time for God? God reveals his presence through ordinary people whom I encounter at school, on the bus or at a fast food stand. Many places will bring me to be in the presence of God. It is just one way. I have to stop doing what I am doing. I take a few minutes off from studying, look around and feel the movement of my body parts. I feel the freeze outside and see the trees’ branches moving back and forth. Or I take a walk to enjoy the beauty of creation. Being with creation can help me to be in touch with God’s love and his affirmation.
Like a pilgrim, someone on this journey doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring. We are women religious who commit ourselves to love God and serve his people generously day by day. We also don’t know what tomorrow will reveal for us. But we enjoy every moment on our journey. We put our trust entirely in God’s hands. Sister Joy Rupp states in her book, “Life Lessons from the Camino,” “to be a pilgrim is to be willing to live with the mystery of what will happen, both interiorly and exteriorly, as one walks day after day after day toward the destination of the sacred site.”
On the journey, I have experienced some unexpected events, some of which were easier to handle than others. However, I did not give up or leave the pilgrimage. That, for me, is the main key to being a woman religious. What I have seen at the end of each event on the journey is a blessing and a joyful moment.
Talk to a spiritual director or a close friend outside of the religious community. We all need friends in our lives, especially when we are in religious life. There will be a time when we can’t share what is going on in our personal lives to people who are living with us. My experience of going for spiritual direction was to help me strengthen my relationship, not only with God and with other people, but also with myself. Spiritual direction helps me to walk closely with God and to be more compassionate with others.