By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Four women religious from Vietnam will soon begin serving at St. John Vianney Church in South Louisville.
Their new convent, a renovated home on East Francis Avenue, was blessed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz on May 29.
The sisters are members of the Congregation of the Servants of Jesus, the High Priest. They will serve the approximately 900 parishioners, including more than 100 children, who call St. John Vianney their spiritual home. The parish, located at 4839 Southside Drive, hosts a large Vietnamese population.
The sisters — Maria Nguyen Thi Thao Trinh, Raphael Vu Thi Tiet Minh, Maria Hoang Ngoc Tuong Vi and Teresa Ha Thi Thuy Trang — will lead and coordinate the religious education program, said Father Anthony Chinh Ngo.
“Their presence will help quite a bit,” Father Chinh said in an interview last week. “They are excited and ready to work, to train catechists and the youth leaders in the parish.”
Father Chinh said the sisters will be especially good for the parish’s children, who will be the primary focus of their ministry.
“My concern is not only to prepare them for the sacraments, but to teach them how to live the faith,” said Father Chinh.
The sisters will also assist in the parish’s music ministry and outreach to the poor. The priest is glad to have more hands to help serve the area’s needy families.
St. John Vianney is already active in outreach to underserved people in the city’s South End. Parishioners hand out 320 baskets of food each Friday to individuals and families in the surrounding area. And the parish houses Sitio, a clothing ministry that provides clothes and other items to those in need — all free of charge.
“Since I was ordained 22 years ago, I’ve wanted to care for the poor,” Father Chinh said. “Now I have more people to help care for the poor.”
The Congregation of the Servants of Jesus, the High Priest is based in Dong Nai, a province in southeastern Vietnam. There are 230 sisters serving in Vietnam and the U.S. In addition to Louisville, the congregation has two other convents in the U.S. — one in Santa Ana, Calif., in the Diocese of Orange, and another in Key
Largo, Fla., in the St. Petersburg Diocese.
Mother Superior Lucia Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc said during an interview last week that it’s her wish to bring God’s love to the people with concrete actions by the sisters.
“We will happily participate in the different acts and help carry out the mission of the parish,” she said, with Father Chinh translating.
The mother superior added that she wants the people of St. John Vianney and surrounding community to know the charism of her congregation, particularly the youth.
“I want young people to come to know and think about religious life,” she said.
Sister Raphael, who will serve as the house leader, expressed her gratitude to the parish and its people.
With Father Chinh serving as an interpreter, she said that she and the other sisters assigned to St. John Vianney feel very welcomed.
“We are willing to give our best shot to spread the love of Jesus to everyone we meet,” she said.
In halting English, Sister Teresa communicated that she was “comfortable and happy” in Louisville and said she felt as though “everybody is family.”
One of the first orders of business is for the sisters to learn English. Though a couple of the sisters speak a few words and understand a bit more, Father Chinh said they will begin English classes as soon as they are settled in their new home.
The sisters’ convent is located a short walk from St. John Vianney. Parishioners purchased and renovated the home in preparation for the sisters’ arrival last month.
The convent has five bedrooms, a sitting room and a chapel.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who blessed the St. John Vianney Convent May 29, noted the immeasurable impact that women and men religious have had on the local church.
“What a central place people of consecrated life have played in the life of the church. If that is true anywhere, it is especially true in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“People talk so fondly of women religious or brothers who help prepare them,” he said in an interview at the Chancery.
The archbishop said it was especially encouraging to invite a new community into the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“In this case, they are coming from Vietnam and answering real, practical needs of the Vietnamese people,” he said. “There is a great need for catechesis and pastoral care for this vibrant parish.”