July 20, 2017, Orlando, Florida – Sister Lorene Heck, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Dominican West Chapter, was one of 4,500 Catholic leaders invited to attend the July 1-4, 2017, Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America. Sister Lorene represented Region XV of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
The U.S. Bishops convened the convocation in response to Pope Francis’ call in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) “to embark on a new chapter of evangelization marked by the joy of the Gospel” and to form others as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. The bishops invited key leaders from dioceses, apostolates, movements, and Catholic organizations such as the LCWR.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to attend,” Sister Lorene said. “I became more aware of the numerous Catholic organizations and movements and gained an increased awareness of the wide range of viewpoints within the Church in the United States.”
Sister Lorene said key objectives of the convocation were to equip and re-energize leaders to share the Gospel as missionary disciples and to provide leaders with key insights from their participation in a strategic conversation about the U.S. Catholic Church’s current challenges and opportunities. The pope is calling Catholics to go beyond “mere administration” to a missionary conversation, she said.
The convocation considered four key questions:
The convocation helped participants to answer those questions during plenary sessions around the themes of unity, landscape and renewal, work and witness, and a Spirit of Mission. Some 22 breakout sessions helped participants to go deeper into exploring these themes, and panel discussions provided the opportunity for delegates to set the context and guide the conversation. Sister Lorene attended a gathering of LCWR delegates, as well as breakout sessions on International Solidarity, Living in the Margins in our Country and our World, and Missionary Disciples in Solidarity with the Suffering Church.
Sister Lorene said she was especially excited to note that the vast majority of delegates were lay leaders in the Church, “dedicated, committed disciples.” She believes the greatest challenge for the delegates is “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by the joy of the Gospel – to become ever more, and to form others as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Submitted by Sister Lorene Heck, OP
July 19, 2017, Seattle, Washington – The Adrian Dominican Sisters living at Assumption Convent recently bade a sad farewell to a beloved friend. Sister Lan Thu Thi Nguyen, OP, a young Dominican Sister from Vietnam, recently left Seattle to make some visits in the United States before returning to her home country after spending 2 ½ years with the Sisters.
“It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience,” said Sister Cele Gorman, OP, Coordinator of Assumption Convent. “No one will ever forget Lan, and her spirit will remain here.”
The Sisters at Assumption Convent had no idea 2 ½ years ago how positively they would be impacted by their decision to allow a Dominican Sister from Vietnam live with them. Sister Lan had been sent to the United States by her superiors to study pastoral ministry. After spending a year with the Houston Dominican Sisters to study English, she was to attend Seattle University to earn her master’s degree in pastoral theology.
Sister Cele received a call asking if Sister Lan could stay with the Sisters at Assumption during her studies. “We had a meeting to see how everybody felt, and everybody was very open to it and excited that a young Sister was coming,” Sister Cele recalled.
Sister Cele described Sister Lan as very outgoing, a young Sister who enjoyed new experiences and adapted well to new situations. “She was very open to new ideas, very accepting of people, and respectful of her elders,” Sister Cele said. She was also very studious, taking difficult courses and studying frequently – while still being engaged in community life at Assumption.
Along with her studies, Sister Lan served as an intern at St. James Cathedral in Seattle, helping with a weekly dinner for people who are homeless. In addition, she served as a catechist for children in a Vietnamese parish in Seattle.
But she also ministered to the Sisters at Assumption, even as they supported and encouraged her in her studies. “She shared her youthful energy with us,” Sister Cele said. “She was 39 when she came. We were her grandmothers and great-grandmothers.”
The differences in age, however, did not prevent Sister Lan and the Sisters at Assumption from forming a close community. The Sisters – particularly Sister Alice Marie Schmid, OP – helped Sister Lan with her English as she wrote her theology papers, and encouraged her as she faced the challenge of studying theology in a language that was not her own.
In turn, Sister Lan introduced the Sisters to the food and culture of Vietnam. “She took us to a Vietnamese restaurant when she first came and told the waitresses what to prepare for us,” Sister Cele recalled. “She was delighted. She loved her culture and she shared it with us.”
Sister Lan frequently took advantage of the large Vietnamese section of Seattle to buy Vietnamese food and prepare special meals for her U.S. Sisters. “She was very generous in sharing that part of her culture,” Sister Cele noted. Sister Lan also taught the Sisters some of her language and celebrated Vietnamese holidays with them.
In addition, Sister Lan connected with the Vietnamese community in Seattle, as well as with a community of Sisters from Vietnam who were ministering in Seattle. An intelligent and independent young woman, Sister Lan quickly learned the transit system in Seattle, using the light rail to attend classes at Seattle University.
Recently, Sister Cele said, the Sisters were delighted to meet Sister Lan’s brother, who had come for her graduation and joined the Sisters for dinner at Assumption Convent. Sister Lan left after graduation to make some visits in the United States before returning to Vietnam. While her exact ministry back home is still unknown, Sister Cele said, she will most likely make use of what she has learned in pastoral theology.
In the meantime, she has certainly had a positive impact on the Sisters she has left behind. “It could not have been a better situation for her or for anyone else,” Sister Cele said. “We were just very blessed and sorry to see her heading back to Vietnam. It was truly a gift and a blessing.” Sister Cele believes that her time at Assumption was also a blessing for Sister Lan. “I’m sure it’s an experience that will be with her for the rest of her life.”
Feature photo: Celebrating Sister Lan’s graduation are, from left: Sisters Cele Gorman, OP, Francine Barber, OP, Sharon Park, OP, Iva Gregory, OP, Alice Marie Schmid, OP, Patrice Eilers, OP, Lan Thu Thi Nguyen, OP, Virginia Pearson, OP, Sister Lan’s brother, Son Bui Nguyen; and Sisters Judy Byron, OP, and Jean Marie Lehtinen, OP.