One may have had the opportunity to meet them personally or see them on campus adorned in habits and veils. They are Sisters Thu Pham and Doan Tran from Vietnam. Since their calling to Holy Orders up to the present, both are here at Hilbert to gain a valuable education which will enable them to perform their ministry in Vietnam.
Before their journey to Hilbert began, both Sisters received their calling to Holy Orders in a distinctive way. Sister Thu described her calling as “Very strong and clear”. The strong part revealed itself when her friends set their sights on careers in the bustling city of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. For Sister Doan, she credits her father’s encouragement but, in the end, she said “God called through my father”. Both Sisters come from agricultural communities in the rich rice fields of Vietnam.
When asked about the work or ministry they will perform upon return to Vietnam, Sister Thu said, “Do what our nun superiors asks us to do” however ministry assignments are often based upon one’s education and skills. Sister Thu Pham is a Human Services major. Her goal is to minister to victims of domestic violence, pregnant women, homeless persons, and the elderly. Majoring in Psychology, Sister Doan Tran looks forward to applying her skills towards counseling others.
After undergoing years of theological studies and discernment, often through isolation and strict prayer, both Sisters took their final vows and received rings symbolizing betrothal to Jesus Christ. Once complete, together they travelled to the United States in furtherance of academic study. Following time at a junior college in Indiana where they studied English, they applied for scholarships through a program for Vietnamese sisters and priests.
The head of the program, A Vietnamese priest named Father Bao Nguyen, had the following to say when asked why Hilbert College was chosen “Srs. Thu Pham, Doan Tran, and I knew Hilbert College through Dr. Michael Brophy, the President, whom I have known for the past decade since he was the President at Palos Verde Marymount College in California. We have kept in touch for a long time, and Dr. Brophy invited the Sisters to study at this beautiful college. Instead of selecting large universities, the sisters want to have a better community life where the Hilbert college can provide hospitality and friendly intimacy.”
When Fr. Bao was asked about how familiar he is about Hilbert, he said “Hilbert college is a small college where people know each other and enjoy human development through social interaction and inner circles of classmates and faculty. Near the city Buffalo, the college has attractive location where students can contemplate the beauty of nature at Niagara Falls or cross the the border to explore Canada with the big city Toronto about two hours away. With its Catholic Franciscan heritage and values, Hilbert college is a good educational environment for the religious like Mrs. Pham and Tran from Vietnam to nurture their religious tradition and Catholic involvement in social justice. Hilbert truly is what the sisters hope to accomplish formal education here in the U.S. and prepare them for the global leaders with competent skills of discernment, responsibility, and leadership. “
According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of State titled Government Committee for Religious Affairs, approximately 7% of the Vietnamese population is Catholic (2019). Sister Doan and Thu’s ministry will be a lifelong commitment of serving their fellow citizens regardless of religious denomination and their Hilbert education will play a key role in fulfilling their service to others.