Global Sisters Report
1 July 2023
The Quest for Happily Ever After: Lovers of the Holy Cross Profession of Perpetual Vows
The Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi was established in the North of Vietnam in 1670 by Bishop Lambert de la Motte, a French missionary. This congregation was the first indigenous women religious order established specifically for Asian women, “having both contemplative and apostolic, professing the evangelical counsels through living the vows in a community under the jurisdiction of the Local Ordinary” (Constitution of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi, Article 1). The community has grown over the past 350 years, with nearly 500 vowed living members in over 51 communities in Vietnam, France, Belgium, and the United States. The community in the United States is comprised of 17 members, most of whom are currently pursuing different degrees at U.S. colleges and universities, before either returning to Vietnam or serving in one of our two convents in Maryland and Virginia.
On Saturday morning, July 1, 2023, hundreds gathered at Our Lady of Vietnam Parish, in Silver Spring, Maryland to witness the Mass of Profession of Perpetual Vows of four sisters from the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi. With Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the Congregation joyfully celebrated this solemn occasion, as Sister Maria Vi Vu, Sister Maria May Nguyen, Sister Maria Tam Pham, and Sister Maria Huyen Nguyen dedicated their lives completely to God. After six years of learning, prayer, discernment, and living the vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, the sisters have expressed their trust in love and the call of Jesus Christ Crucified – the one object of their mind and heart.
The mass was attended by dozens of priests and religious from the Archdiocese of Washington and other areas of the country. Numerous members from the Vietnamese Catholic community of Our Lady of Vietnam Parish, as well as colleagues and friends of the sisters, joined in the event. The most significant point of the celebration was the Profession Rite. First, the representative of the Director of formation, Sister Teresa Hien Nguyen, who traveled to Maryland from Hanoi, called the newly professed sisters, where they were then examined by Cardinal Gregory in front of their community and the congregation. Then, the four sisters prostrated themselves before the altar while the Cecilia Choir from Our Lady of Vietnam parish sang a beautiful Litany of the Saints. The act of prostration by the sisters indicates a total submission to God’s will despite their natural instincts and human weaknesses; however, they know that they cannot do it by themselves, so they need the help of the Saints.
Making the final vows is a “Fiat” given freely with full awareness and responsibility by the sisters who desire to belong to God forever in the consecrated life. The sisters offered their Act of Religious Profession in the front of Cardinal Gregory, Sister Teresa Nu Tran – Superior General of the Congregation, and the entire congregation, vowing “I am willing to follow closely in the footsteps of Jesus in the way of the Holy Cross and consecrate myself completely to God … I entrust my life to this Congregation so as to walk with my sisters in the spirit of the Lovers of the Holy Cross” and asking for the “grace of fidelity in the loving Covenant to grow in holiness, build the church, and glorify the Holy Trinity.” The sisters were then given a solemn blessing by the Cardinal, and each received their ring. Receiving the ring expresses the love that the sisters share with Jesus Christ. Wearing the ring reminds the sisters of their fidelity and faithfulness to Jesus, whom they married. When the Presider presents the ring, he reads “Receive this ring, for you are betrothed to the eternal King; keep faith with your Bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy.” It is a tradition for the Congregation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross that the sisters who make the perpetual vows will receive a Crucifix as a sign to remind the sisters to contemplate Jesus Christ Crucified as the only Object of their heart and mind, acknowledging and loving Him. After receiving their Crucifix, the sisters offered the rite of exaltation of the Crucifix in front of the altar. This rite of exaltation reminds each sister to always be aware of the precious value of the vocation of the Lovers of the Holy Cross. Finally, the Superior General, as a representative of the Congregation, officially welcomed and admitted each of the newly professed sisters into the family of the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi. These sisters will remain always with the other sisters to live the Congregation’s charism and to fulfill its mission.
Amid the celebration, the words of Cardinal Gregory’s homily were particularly striking. Drawing from the Gospel story of the rich young man, the Cardinal explored the concept of a happy ending, asking what “happily ever after” could really mean in today’s world. He told the sisters that “today is your formal beginning… your public desire to seek a happily ever after quest.” Acknowledging that the world is fraught with uncertainty, we can be lifted by the security that God’s love for us is greater than any obstacle we might face. By saying yes, like our Blessed Mother, we are filled with great confidence by placing our lives safely in God’s keeping. As the Cardinal said, however, we “are uncertain exactly what God might ask.”
As the celebration concluded with a reception in the parish hall, it was a chance for our community to reflect not only on the joy in completely welcoming four new sisters, but on our own journeys as well. The sisters and other members of the Vietnamese Catholic community offered a performance of cultural songs and dances as the gathered visitors enjoyed a delicious meal of Vietnamese food. It was truly a “happy ending” for the celebration. But this is not the happy ending that Cardinal Gregory was talking about in his homily. Making the perpetual vows is a precious gift and a grace which God grants for the sisters and our Congregation. However, consecrated life does not end with this happy and meaningful day, but the joyful grace which the sisters will receive is a new start that prepares them with strength and enthusiasm to face the many challenges in the ministries that they are entrusted by the Congregation. We do not know what the future will hold, but we know that by trusting in the will of God, as the Cardinal said, “how God will reward your promise is still to be discovered.”
Our community continues to grow, both at home in Vietnam and in the United States. This event in Maryland was the first time that the Lovers of the Holy Cross of Hanoi have celebrated the Profession of Perpetual Vows outside of Vietnam. We look forward to the possibility of celebrating the Profession of Perpetual Vows for more of our sisters in the coming years. The celebration is not only our joy but also for the parishioners in Our Lady of Vietnam Parish as well as from Saint Patrick Parish, the local church nearest to the convent in Silver Spring. This celebration highlighted the importance of our community in the United States as illustrated by the mutually supportive relationship with the local Catholic parishes. It is true that we do not know what the future will hold, but joyful events like this offer great hope for our “happily ever after quest.”