Transformed and transferred: reflection for the transfer of vows of Sister My Huong Pham
Sunday, Feb, 25, 2018
I am feeling a little like Peter right now, and I am wanting to echo the words we heard him profess in today’s Gospel, “It is well that we are here.”
It is always good for us to gather as a community, and, as noted at the beginning of liturgy, today we have the special joy of witnessing the transfer of vows of Sister My Huong Pham and welcoming her into full membership in this Providence community. “It is good for us to be here.”
I don’t expect that we will see My Huong transfigured before us, like Jesus was with glistening garments, as she professes her vows as a Sister of Providence today. But I do know that she is not the same person who entered the community of the Dominican Sisters of Tam Hiep in 1991.
In fact, My Huong herself in writing to me about today said, “I have felt I have encountered an incomprehensible experience of the divine Providence, who transformed me, renewed me, and then transferred me into the place that I must belong.”
Providentially, the process in which My Huong has been participating these past three years in preparation for today is called the transfer process. Transfer shares the same prefix as transfiguration—the event depicted in today’s Gospel. That prefix, “Trans,” means, among other things, changing thoroughly.
It is perhaps also providential that this transfer of perpetual vows is happening during the Sunday of Lent that recounts not only Jesus’ transfiguration, but also remembers Abraham and Sarah’s willingness to give their hearts totally to God. They showed their love for God by placing their only son, the one whom they loved, on the altar of sacrifice.
That Lenten message of “rend your hearts, not your garments,” surfaces here in a dramatic way.
So, though we celebrate My Huong’s transfer of vows today, her transformation in Providence, I urge all of us to see this occasion as an invitation from God to change ourselves … to allow ourselves, through God’s strength and grace, to be transfigured, to take the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not.
What the transfiguration teaches us is that when we say yes to God’s grace, new energies are released; new possibilities emerge for all of us. It is dazzling! And it is a promise of what happens when we die to ourselves.
In Abraham and Sarah’s willingness to let their son go to God, they receive Isaac back as gift. Their faithfulness becomes an inspiration to Israel, an inspiration to all of us. God blesses them because they have heard AND obeyed the voice of God.
As My Huong’s family let go of her so she could join the Dominican Sisters of Viet Nam, they made possible her total gift of self to help carry out the mission of that community. And now as the Dominican Sisters let go of My Huong and gift her to us, they enable new possibilities for this community of Providence to be blessed by My Huong’s desire to be an instrument of God’s Providence.
Good to be here
This is why it is good for us to be here … to witness what is promised to those like Jesus, Abraham and Sarah, and My Huong who listen to the voice of God. Perhaps what is promised is best summarized in the words of St. Paul we heard proclaimed today:
If God is for us,
who is against us?
God who did not spare Jesus,
God’s own Beloved Son,
but gave him up for us all;
will that same God not also give us all things with him?
We, too, are God’s beloved. Paul assures us that we are NEVER to be worried about being unworthy of God’s love. The promises God made to Abraham and Sarah, to Jesus, belong to all the beloved of God — if we listen to the voice of God, if we obey God’s voice. “This is my beloved son. Listen to him.”
Listening to God has led My Huong to transformation and a call to embrace and to follow, as our Saint Mother Theodore has suggested, the path traced by Providence.
It seems that Providence was crossing her path even before she was given the opportunity to study at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1998. It is here that she first met us in person. But she came to know something of us and our charism through the Dominican Sister, Sister Rosa Dai, who encouraged My Huong to join the Dominican community in Viet Nam. Sister Rosa herself graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1965. And how providential that My Huong actually professed perpetual vows as a Dominican in 1999 in this very church because she was studying here at the time specified for her to profess perpetual vows as a Dominican.
My Huong joins herself now to a community that has promised to honor Divine Providence, to be the loving presence of God through our works of love, mercy and justice wherever and however that path of Providence winds its way around the people and into the places of our lives.
The vowed members of this community seek union with God and dedication to mission by consecrating themselves to God’s service through the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty.
My Huong also wrote that in Providence she feels completely BOLD. I think this is how the beloved of God should feel. When we find the place where we belong, when we find that path traced out for us by Providence, we should be bold in following it. The world needs us for this.
So we thank both the Pham family and the Dominican Sisters of Viet Nam for helping My Huong know that she is beloved of God and for giving her the freedom to find that path traced out by Providence. [Thank you: gauhm uhhn ban]
We also thank those who have been instruments of God’s care for her in a special way by inviting her to this Providence journey and who have accompanied her these past three years—among them her mentor, her general officer liaison, the sisters with whom she has lived and ministered.
And My Huong, we thank you for listening and for allowing Providence to become engraved upon your heart. May you be blessed and be a blessing as you follow the path of Providence.
And may all us as we wind our way along the path laid out before us during this particular Lenten journey be bold in our efforts to listen to the voice of God … and to lay down whatever it is in our own lives that keeps us from following our path traced by Providence.
It is now my privilege, My Huong, to call you forward to profess vows as a Sister of Providence. [Come: d-en]