Dominican Sisters in Vietnam:
Rising from the Shadows of the Past
The Federation of Dominican Sisters of Vietnam is flourishing! Their formation houses are full of young and promising sisters-to-be. Of the six Dominican Congregations in the country, four are in the South and two are in the North. Most of them have young foundations coming out as fresh beginning after years of persecution and war.
The Federation is the rich ground for the building of a very unique kind of collaboration and presence among the Dominican sisters. All of the six congregations wear the same kind of habit, use the same Constitution, and attend the same theological formation and program of studies. Influenced by their culture, history and political conditions, the sisters wear the simple pair of pants and blouse most of the time.
They readily change into their religious habits during the Eucharistic celebrations, community prayers and religious functions. Practically all of them are excellent motorcycle drivers and riders. Motorcycles are the most common means of transportation for the Vietnamese, a development from their traditional bicycle.
More importantly, the sisters, in partnership with their thousands of lay Dominican collaborators, are engaged in various forms of ministries: taking care of human life from womb to tomb, from the unborn and new born babies to the elders who are in the twilight of their life, most of whom are from poor families. As to the Dominican’s distinctive mark of providing formal education to the youth, the sisters are permitted by the government to run only schools for Kindergarten pupils.
One reason for our visit in Vietnam was to join in the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Than Tam. The program started with a well-directed and beautifully presented history of the congregation performed by the sisters themselves, after which a solemn Eucharistic celebration followed. Many well-wishers came and congratulated the sisters.
Sr. Cecille Espenilla, OP – DSI Coordinator for Asia-Pacific region