Sister Cecilia Joseph
I Will Give you a Hundredfold
Growing up in a strong Catholic family was probably one of the seedlings that brought about my desire to enter religious life. I loved reading about the lives of the saints, and I've always admired their courage and love for God that impelled them to give everything up to follow him. My first exposure to the religious life was my encounter with the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province from Houston, TX at Marian Days one year. I was very attracted to their habit; all the Sisters looked so holy with their flowing white garment, black veil, and a rosary attached to their side! I received their monthly magazine, two of their CDs, a small Rosary, and I was hooked ever since. In school, whenever we were asked questions such as, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I would always answer: "A nun." Period. I had no doubt that I wanted to become a sister, especially a Dominican sister. I was so set on becoming one to the point when I dressed up as one of their aspirants/postulants during 6th grade for dress-up week at school! And when someone asked me what I was dressed as, I would tell them, "A Vietnamese Dominican nun." There was nothing more that I wanted than to become a sister; they all looked so happy and peaceful in their life, and I wanted to be a part of it too.
However, when I entered my teenage years, things changed quite a bit for me. I met new people and was exposed to different ideas and thoughts, and I decided that becoming a sister wasn't so "cool" anymore. I suppose I was just going through the teenage phase of "discovering oneself," and I gave myself different career options for my future. However, I didn't feel satisfied with what I chose; I had a feeling that there was something better out there for me, but I didn't know what it was. When a thing like that happens, God always makes His way in and arranges things a little bit. As it is every year, my family and relatives would go down to the Congregation of the Mother Coredemptrix every Thanksgiving to have a nice weekend off from our busy schedules to spend time with one another and see the Christmas lights display. It just so happened that in 2007, we met the Sisters of Mary, Queen of Mercy, who were also visiting the community to view the Christmas lights display. Because a majority of my family is girls, one of the Sisters saw it as an opportunity to "cast the net" and "catch some fish." We talked, exchanged emails, took pictures, and went our ways. Since then, I didn't think much about our encounter.
Little did I know, one of the Sisters had been keeping in touch with my cousin, and she received information about the community and Pius X High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. My cousin told me that I should come and see what it was like there with her. At first, I was very hesitant about this idea; I really didn't want to have anything to do with religious life due to personal attachments at home and school; I wasn't ready to leave everything behind and start a whole new life. Nonetheless, I decided to come with her and visit the convent, just to see how it was. So during spring break, both of our families drove to Lincoln and stayed with the Sisters for a weekend. When my cousin and I talked, we both found it to be peaceful there. However, I still didn't know if I wanted to join the Sisters or not. If I went, this meant that I would have to leave many new opportunities behind (which suddenly came up during this time of discernment). It was a difficult decision for me, to decide whether I should go or not. It was a constant struggle for me from that time on. When I discussed this inner battle with my aunt, she told me that I should at least give religious life a try; if it doesn't work out for me, then at least I will have a good foundation for my life. After much thought, I saw that it was a reasonable idea, so I made my decision to enter the community with my cousin in 2008.
During my first year in the aspirancy, I learned many new things about religious life that were different from how society presented it, but I was still unsure if this was the path for me. The next thing I know, the second year of the aspirancy came along for me as a senior at Pius X High School, and this time my cousin was no longer with me. It was also during this time that I began to seriously consider the religious life. Was this what I wanted for my life? Was this what God wanted for my life? I knew it required many sacrifices, such as leaving behind family and friends, but was I willing to follow what I've dreamed of in my childhood? I struggled in my decision to remain with the Sisters, even to the point of thinking of leaving the Sisters to join the Vietnamese Dominican Sisters in Houston after college. After much serious thought and reflection, Christ finally opened my heart that had been closed for so long to His call. I can still remember the night when He asked me in my heart if I would leave everything and follow Him. A verse from Scripture came to my mind: "Jesus said: Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has give up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age... and eternal life in the age to come" (Mk 10:29-30). His loving invitation was so strong and so clear. It assured me that if I gave my all to Him, nothing will go unheeded. The sacrifices I make in following Him will be repaid a hundredfold in this life and in the next. He promises so much more than what the world could offer. What would the things of this life be worth compared to the things in the next life? Through the Lord's grace, I finally surrendered my all to Him, giving Him my whole and heartfelt "Yes."
I made my first vows on June 8, 2013, my first official step in becoming a Bride of Christ forever. Jesus, being the faithful Husband He is, always keeps His promises, and I can testify that His promise of a hundredfold is being fulfilled as I live my religious life day to day. The Lord is never outdone in His generosity! Looking back to the beginning of my journey, I am extremely grateful for those who have supported me and encouraged me, and I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for them! May God bless them and reward them a hundredfold, and may I persevere until the end as a religious sister. May Mary, my Mother, and St. Joseph lead and guide me on this narrow path to Heaven. Please pray for me as I continue this journey as a Bride of Christ, to be the saint I am called to be.
Sr. Cecilia Joseph Nguyen, CMRM