Vietnamese sisters are ‘a wonderful addition’ at Humility of Mary Center

Anne Marie Amacher
Four Vietnamese sisters, all members of the Lovers of the Holy Cross congregation, are living with the Sisters of Humility in Davenport while earning college degrees.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

An extension of hospitality has blossomed into a joy-filled relationship of sisterhood between the Sisters of Humility in Davenport and four women religious from Vietnam. The Vietnamese sisters are living with the Sisters of Humility while studying for college degrees to enhance their ministry in their homeland.

“We had the space available and it’s a wonderful experience having them with us,” said Sister Mary Ann Vogel of the Sisters of Humility leadership team, referring to the Vietnamese sisters. “They are a delight. They are just fun to be with. We can learn a lot from them and we can learn from each other. I see it as a wonderful addition for us.”

The feeling is mutual for the four Vietnamese sisters, all members of the same religious congregation — Lovers of the Holy Cross — but from different communities. They did not know each other before their communities sent each of them to Iowa to study for college degrees.

“I really appreciate the sisters. They help us and support us,” said Sister Nuong Bui, 37, a student at St. Ambrose University in Davenport majoring in nursing. “I don’t have family in this country. I feel like they make me feel at home.” Sister Huyen Phan, 39, who is majoring in accounting at St. Ambrose, describes the Sisters of Humility as a close-knit community of humble, friendly sisters. “I can talk with them, share what I think. I think they are very willing to listen to me.”

“I think all the sisters are so good,” said Sister Nguyet Cao, 38. “I learn a lot from them. They are so holy.” Living together as a community of women religious fosters spirituality and friendship. “They are always so welcoming to me,” said Sister Hoa Phung, 31. “I appreciate their kindness, their holiness. They are really friendly. They are always happy to help me whenever I need them or when I ask them something about spiritual life.”

The Humility sisters are older than the Vietnamese sisters are, but share a common bond in their commitment to prayer, religious life and a desire to learn from each other. The older sisters share their life’s experiences with the younger sisters, who enjoy entertaining their hosts. “We bring joy to them,” Sister Nuong said.

Sister Huyen and Sister Nuong moved into the Humility of Mary Center in August 2018 after studying English with the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa. They discovered the Sisters of Humility because they wanted to study at St. Ambrose University, which is within walking distance of the Humility sisters’ motherhouse.

Sister Nguyet and Sister Hoa arrived in Davenport in 2020 after studying English at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa, a Roman Catholic seminary college dedicated to preparing its students for Catholic missionary service. Sister Hoa lived with the Dubuque Franciscans before studying at Divine Word College. She and Sister Nguyet became acquainted with Sisters Huyen and Nuong and through their acquaintance made written requests to live with the Sisters of Humility during their studies in Davenport. Their benefactors welcomed each Vietnamese sister after verifying documentation regarding the requests.

Learning English and financing their education has been the greatest challenge for the Vietnamese sisters. Each has persevered in their language and academic studies, beginning at Scott Community College and continuing at St. Ambrose University. Sister Huyen anticipates graduating from St. Ambrose at the end of fall 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduation, “I will do whatever my community asks of me,” she said. “I like to work with the poor and to visit the poor and help them.” Sister Nuong anticipates graduating in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “Whatever our community needs us to study, we study … whatever the community needs and the student needs,” she said.

Sister Nuong and Sister Huyen are Green Card holders, which grants them authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis and to access financial aid for their education. Sister Hoa and Sister Nguyet have student visas and hence cannot receive financial aid. “Subtracting scholarship funds, the two of them together need a total of about $35,000 for two years of education at St. Ambrose,” Bishop Thomas Zinkula said. “I told them I would find the money or cover the remainder of the tuition myself.” People who want to help can send a check to the Diocese of Davenport with a notation specifying the Viet­namese sisters’ education fund.

Sister Hoa, a new graduate of Scott Community College in Bettendorf, plans to transfer to St. Ambrose University this fall to complete studies in elementary education. Sister Nguyet, who is studying psychology at Scott, plans to transfer to St. Ambrose in spring 2023. She hopes to use her education to minister in social work as a missionary.

“In recent years, Vietnamese society has been developing in many different ways,” Sister Hoa wrote in a message to Bishop Zinkula. “The changes bring a better life to many people, but there are many children and youth in remote areas who do not have opportunities to go to school. This is a big issue, which the Vietnamese Church is concerned about, and it is a challenge for our ministry. After witnessing this situation, I want to do further study to be prepared for our ministry,” she wrote. “I hope one day I will also be able to help a student achieve their goals as you help me.”


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