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June 7, 2022, Adrian, Michigan – The fire and exuberance of the Holy Spirit – combined with the joy of welcoming a Sister home to the community – brought a special celebration of praise to St. Catherine Chapel on June 5, 2022. The assembly of Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and friends was celebrating both the Feast of Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Church – and the Transfer of Vows of Sister Elisabeth Nguyen, OP, from the Vietnamese Dominican Sisters of Phu Cuong in BienHoa, to the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Sister Elisabeth has been connected in various ways to the Adrian Dominican Sisters since she arrived in Adrian in 1968 to study at Siena Heights College (now University). While still a member of her Dominican congregation in Vietnam, she became an Associate of the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 1991.
An Associate is a woman or man, at least 18 years of age, who is called to the Dominican charism, or spirit, and makes a non-vowed commitment to partner with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The Transfer of Vows brought Sister Elisabeth full circle, to vowed membership with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“I feel great,” Sister Elisabeth said in an interview. “My journey is finally coming home to Adrian, and I feel complete. It’s time to be part of this wonderful congregation.”
Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, welcomed Sister Elisabeth with “great joy” and with gratitude to her Dominican congregation in Vietnam. Sister Elisabeth formally professed her vows to Prioress Patricia Siemen, using the traditional Dominican formula. “To the honor of Almighty God, I, Sister Elisabeth Nguyen, reaffirm my commitment and promise obedience to God, to our Blessed Mother Mary, to our Holy Father St. Dominic, and to you, Sister Patricia Siemen, Prioress of the Congregation, and to your lawful successors, according to the Rule of St. Augustine and the Constitution of the Sisters of St. Dominic of the Congregation of the Holy Rosary, until death.”
Sister Patricia presented Sister Elisabeth with the logo of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, signifying her vowed membership to the Congregation. The transfer was completed with the signing of official Vatican documents by Sister Patricia; Sister Elisabeth; and two formal witnesses, Sister Mary Priniski, OP, Chapter Prioress, and Sister Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Mission Prioress of the Catherine of Siena Mission Chapter. The assembly affirmed their own joy by singing the Dominican Blessing over Sister Elisabeth.
In her reflection on the Pentecost readings, Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Council Liaison to the Formation Office, focused on the Pentecost story through the historical memories of St. Dominic and Sister Elisabeth. Just as the Holy Spirit prompted the first disciples to leave the safety of the Upper Room to preach to the world, St. Dominic and Sister Elisabeth left their own Upper Rooms to follow the call of Jesus, she said.
It was on Pentecost Sunday 1217, Sister Patricia noted, that St. Dominic convened a Chapter of his young Order of Preachers in Toulouse and announced that he was sending his friars out into the world to preach. “Just as the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, the Dominican friars were gathered in the Upper Room in Toulouse, and Dominic unlocked the doors for the Holy Spirit to lead them into new adventures,” Sister Patricia said.
In the same way, Sister Patricia noted many “Upper Rooms” that Sister Elisabeth was called to leave to live out her life of ministry and mission. The first Upper Room was in Vietnam in 1967, when Sister Elisabeth was one of four Vietnamese Dominican Sisters who received scholarships to study at Siena Heights College in Adrian. They arrived in August 1968 and were warmly greeted by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
With the fall of the South Vietnamese government in April 1975, Sister Elisabeth was called to leave the Upper Room of Adrian to help with the resettlement of 135,000 refugees from to the United States – including members of her own family. “This is when Elisabeth’s work of resettling the Vietnamese and other refugees from all over the world brought her to this Upper Room for many years,” Sister Patricia said.
Specifically, Sister Elisabeth was called to resettlement work through Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Oakland, California. “I went to Oakland for temporary ministry,” she recalled in a 2016 interview on the occasion of her Lifetime Achievement Award for 40 years of refugee resettlement work. “I never thought I’d my whole life out here, but I love the work I’m doing.”
In 1991, Sister Elisabeth visited her Dominican community in Vietnam and decided to remain a member but, at the suggestion of Sister Donna Markham, OP – then on the General Council – she became an Adrian Dominican Associate.
In her reflection, Sister Patricia noted that when Sister Elisabeth attended a 2019 gathering of Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, and Partners in Mission, Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, invited her to come home to Adrian. “The Holy Spirit took hold of Elisabeth from this Upper Room where she had lived for 50 years, unlocked her door, and encouraged her to renew her vows with the Adrian Dominican Sisters,” Sister Patricia said.
“Thank you, Elisabeth, for coming home, for unlocking the doors of our Upper Room,” Sister Patricia said in concluding her reflection. “Thank you, Elisabeth, for reminding us of our own love story and to fall in love with the God of light, of, fire and warmth, our Comforter, who alone is our inheritance and joy, and to enable us to believe in the amazing things that await us beyond these locked doors.”
View the recording of the Mass below
For information on vowed life with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, contact Sister Mary Jones, OP, at 517-266-3532 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate, contact Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, at 517-266-3531 or email@example.com.
Feature photo: Sister Elisabeth Nguyen, OP, professes her vows to Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, while her witnesses – Sister Mary Priniski, OP, left, Chapter Prioress, and Mary Jane Lubinski, OP, Mission Prioress – offer encouragement.
July 15, 2019, San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Pampanga region of the Philippines, expressed great joy at the July 13, 2019, election of Father Gerard Francisco Timoner, OP, as the next Master of the Dominican Order. He was elected during the Dominican Friars’ July 7-August 4, 2019, General Chapter, held in Biên Hoà, Vietnam.
“It’s a wonderful surprise that the Brothers elected an Asian and a Filipino at the same time,” said Sister Liberty “Libay” Mendoza, OP. “I think his election brings along the challenges of how Asian, Filipino Dominicans can share further, more substantially in the work of evangelization. … I guess it is the same call for the rest of us Filipino Dominicans, to be gifts to the world by making use of the gifts of who we are and what we can do for Jesus’ mission.”
Chapters are the meetings in which Catholic religious congregations set the agenda for the coming years and elect leadership to carry out that agenda.
Father Gerard, 51, will serve a nine-year term as Master of the Dominican Order, leading about 6,000 Dominican Friars in 80 countries. In addition, he will serve as head of the entire worldwide Dominican family, which encompasses cloistered nuns; active, apostolic Sisters; Dominican Laity associated formally with the Friars; lay Associates of the Congregations of Dominican Sisters; and Dominican movements such as Dominican Young Adults. He succeeds Father Bruno Cadoré, OP, of France.
“He has always been like a big brother to us,” Sister Libay said. She recalled the annual retreat that Father Gerard directed for the Sisters years ago as “one of the most relaxing retreats we ever had. He is quite down to Earth. He has a very good sense of humor, and during sessions he just loved telling stories.”
Sister Libay also recalled Father Gerard’s generosity in treating the Sisters to ice cream and his humility during the retreat he led. “One time he tried joining the Sisters doing the dishes,” she said. “One would not feel intimidated when he was around.”
Father Gerard – known affectionately by the Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter as “Father Gert” – was in religious formation with Sister May Cano, OP. The two were novices together, engaging in common studies of Dominican life and spirituality, and they served together in the formation of other Dominicans. “He was very simple, kind, brilliant, with deep reflections – a down to earth, intelligent, joyful Friar like St. Dominic,” Sister May recalled. In addition, he is “well versed in the Bible and full of wisdom.”
Born on January 26, 1968, in Daet, of the Camarines Norte province of the Philippines, Father Gerard studied philosophy at the Philippine Dominican Center of Institutional Studies in Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City, in 1991 and earned his theology degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1994. Father Gerard later served the University as Vice Rector for Religious Affairs and as Rector of the central seminary.
Ordained in 1995, he earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2004.
Through the years, Father Gerard has served both the Dominican family and the Catholic Church: as Provincial in the Philippines; as Father Bruno’s assistant for Asia and the Pacific; and as a member of the Church’s International Theological Commission, appointed by Pope Francis in 2014.
After his election, Father Gerard issued a challenge to the Dominican family, quoted in an article in Good News Pilipanas.com: “We Dominicans must serve the Church with what we are: a communion of brothers,” he said. “We must not look continually at ourselves, but at the Church, which we must help to save and build.”
Father Gerard with the Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter after their annual retreat in 2012. Father Gerard led the retreat.