Danger and miracles accompanied nun on journey to perpetual vows

| By Susan Klemond The Catholic Spirit | July 20, 2011 | 2 Comments


St. Peter Claver Sister Jackie Nguyen signs the formula of profession at the altar as Father Michael Creagan watches. The pastor of St. Joseph in West St. Paul presided at the July 6 profession Mass. Photo courtesy of the Nguyen family

Sister Jackie Nguyen, a recently professed Missionary Sister of St. Peter Claver, knows the power of prayer.

In her third attempt to escape from Communist South Vietnam in about 1983, 13-year-old Jackie Nguyen and  three of her young relatives boarded a boat already crowded with refugees near her home town, Phuoc Tinh. Realizing there was little food or fuel for the four-day voyage to freedom in Indonesia, the girls got off at their first opportunity. Not long after, Communists captured the boat and sent all the passengers to prison.

Back at home, Nguyen discovered that her parents, who had stayed behind in case one of their children couldn’t escape, had been praying fervently for them.

“I could see that it was a miracle for us,” she said.

Nguyen and her parents did leave Vietnam the next year, and after spending another year in Indonesian refugee camps, they reunited with the rest of their family in Orange County, Calif.

A new journey begins

Now, many years after her harrowing experience, Sister Jackie’s parents and other family members prayed once more, along with St. Peter Claver Sisters, friends and St. Joseph parishioners, as she continued on her journey — this time professing perpetual vows July 6 at St. Joseph in West St. Paul.

At the Mass, which included hymns and a reading in Vietnamese, Sister Jackie made vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and resolved to live the Gospel and keep the community’s constitution.

“Today, Sister Jackie became Jesus’ bride,” said Father Andrew Cozzens, who gave the homily during the Mass, at which St. Joseph pastor Father Michael Creagan, presided. “It’s a relationship she was already living but the vows now make it final. The vows are an act of sacrificial worship for her whole life to live as a sacrifice to God.”

As part of an international religious community serving 23 countries, nine St. Peter Claver sisters currently live in St. Paul. The community’s mission is to build “the kingdom of God in the world, especially among the poorest and marginalized, by means of continuous prayer, the gift of self and mission activity,” according to its website

Seed was planted early

The fifth of nine children, Sister Jackie was inspired by her grandfather in Vietnam, whom she said had great confidence in God. Also, the example of Dominican sisters at her school and parish first made her consider becoming a nun.

“I believe that this seed of the vocation was planted in my heart when I was a small child,” she said.

The desire persisted when she came to the United States, but instead she chose an accounting career. Some years later, she read a mailing her parents had received from the St. Peter Claver Sisters and decided to respond. At age 29, she entered the community.

Sister Jackie’s father, Dien Nguyen, of Garden Grove, Calif., said he first thought his daughter might have a vocation when she started doing charity work in her early 20s. He added that the family will continue to pray for her to keep her commitment.

“I’m very happy Sister Jackie has chosen to follow God to be a nun,” he said. “I hope God continues to guide her to follow as his servant.”

Her older brother, Diem Nguyen, of Anaheim, Calif., also pledged the family’s support for her vocation.

“God has chosen each to do something,” he said. “God called her to be a nun. We will pray for her to be the best nun she can be.”

Sister Jackie said she doesn’t yet know how she will serve the community as a professed sister but that she will continue to pray and trust in God who has brought her through so much.

“We can’t understand right away God’s plan but when I reflect back I recognize his goodness and care for me and calling me to this life,” she said. “I just feel that’s the great gift God has given me and I just cannot thank God enough for that. I thank him every day.”

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