In the afternoon of the 14th of May, 2011, the Salesian Sisters, family and friends and the community of St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church at North Brunswick, Victoria, shared a wonderful celebration with Sr. Thuy-Linh Nguyen, FMA, as she made her Final Vows to belong to God forever in the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Bishop Tim Costelloe, SDB, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne, together with many Salesian, religious and diocesan priests. The church was full with many religious Sisters, Brothers, family members and friends from Victoria, interstate and overseas. Sr. Thuy-Linh’s parents had made plans to come, but unfortunately could not do so at the last minute for health reasons. However her Aunt Susan and Uncle Thomas from Houston, Texas, and her sister Mylinh from Canberra, were able to be there to represent the family and witness this most significant moment in Sr. Thuy-Linh’s life.
The youngest child of Mr. and Mrs. Ho and Hoa Nguyen, Sr. Thuy-Linh was born and grew up in Saigon, Viet-Nam. Because of the Viet-Nam war, after 1975, the family was scattered in several places. In September 1990, part of the family – including Thuy-Linh, migrated to Australia and was reunited with the eldest daughter Mylinh, who was living in Canberra. Thuy-Linh is a “born student” who loves and works very hard on her studies. After the 1975 incident when the North took over the South of Vietnam, Thuy-Linh, although achieved the top enter score of her year, was not allowed to continue her studies at university because her father was a high-ranking officer in the Army of South Vietnam. She sneaked into lecture theatres and continued to study with her classmates until a lecturer discovered it. Because of her love of study and hard working, Thuy-Linh quickly mastered enough English to enter straight into university once in Australia. Finishing her Bachelor in Computer Science with Distinction in 1993, she was immediately offered a job at Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales. Financially stable, Thuy-Linh could now have a settled her life with a young man and built her own family, but her searching soul was still leading her elsewhere.
Her desire for knowledge and science led Thuy-Linh to continue her studies while still working full-time. In 1995 she achieved First Class Honours in Computer Science, which enabled her to proceed directly to a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science. She was also offered 3 doctoral scholarships, one from the University of Wollongong and two from Monash University. She chose the Monash ones in order to follow another heart’s desire – the call from God, which was emerging! In a little more than 3 years, Thuy-Linh finished her doctorate, and was offered a tenured lecturer position at RMIT University. Her future was brighter than ever but a different call was luring her to another direction – to Jesus, and a life committed to service.
Unable to resist this “mysterious” call, she made enquiries and came to live with the Salesian Sisters in 2002. In 2003 she entered the Novitiate and 2 years later, made her First Profession on 4th December 2004, close to the Feast of Immaculate Conception. She had to resign from her position at RMIT University, totally entrusting her future to God. After her First Profession however, by God’s providence, she was able to return to academia, working variably as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at Australian Catholic University from 2005 until now.
Despite a very busy schedule at university, Sr. Thuy-Linh always has time for the young. When Fr. Anthony Quang, SDB, was appointed Parish Priest at St. Margaret Mary’s she came to help in the parish and founded the Salesian Youth Club (SYC) at Brunswick, which she is coordinating until now. She has been running the Club every Sunday, teaching catechetics, and training and forming many youth leaders. The SYC takes St. Dominic Savio and Blessed Laura Vicuña; both are Salesian pupils, as patrons and role models. Their motto is “Savio – Love God; Vicuna – Love one another”.
A gifted person, Sr. Thuy-Linh has written many poems and songs, and has several beautiful paintings, she has done over the years. In particular, she has painted “Deer and Running Streams”, and recorded theCD titled “Eternal Yearning” (under the name "Hoa Co", which means "Wildflower") for her Final Profession and in thanksgiving to God and people. These works are inspired by Psalm 42, “As the deer yearns for running streams, so does my soul yearn for you my God”, which she has adopted as the motto of her vocation.
The Mass was solemn and magnificent with the meaningful rite of profession, profound words of Bishop Tim, beautiful singing of two choirs in English and Vietnamese, and graceful liturgical movements “Heart of a Consecrated” of the SYC leaders. It was particularly inspiring when Sr. Thuy-Linh pronounced her vows, and opened her heart to share her joy by singing her own songs – “Magnificat” and “Eternal Yearning”. After Mass, everyone was invited to a beautiful meal in the hall, prepared with love by many generous helpers, with entertainment contributed by the SYC leaders, Don Bosco Choir and friends.
Sr Thuy-Linh will continue her work at the Australian Catholic University this year. She will also accompany a group of young Vietnamese students to World Youth Day in Spain.