My name is Sister Anna Van Nga Le and I am a sister of the Thu Duc Congregation of Lovers of the Holy Cross in Vietnam.
I am 50 years old. My congregation is running seven centres and sub-centres for the blind in Vietnam, serving more than 200 blind children.
I have served blind children for 18 years. During this period, I spent more than three years from 1998 to 2001 to study in Australia, and got a Masters on Special Education for Children with Vision Impairment, and a Graduate Diploma on Biblical Theology.
I also work with the Liturgy of the Hours Translation group to translate the Bible into Vietnamese. I am the Director at Nhat Hong Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
My parents had the biggest influence on my faith. My mother lived with God and had a simple and strong faith.
She did not like to say “Thanks be to God” but preferred to say “Thank you”, because she said, “I am talking to God, so I want to use the words that we would use to talk to each other.He is with us, not very far from above”.
She was always happy with whatever God gave her during her life, whether they were advantages or disadvantages.
She passed away last year at the age of 93. Before going to the Intensive Care Unit where she became too ill to speak, she smiled and said to me, “Don’t be sad, we will see each other again in Heaven”.
I feel that she is always with me now. My father taught me prayers, hymns, catechism, reading the Bible, attending daily Mass and praying together in the evening.
When I was very young, I only read the Bible in order to get a prize from my father. Later, I gradually grew to love and know God by reading the Bible every day. My father helped me to live closer to God.
As a teenager, I read the story of St Therese de Lisieux and wanted to be a nun like her. I wanted to follow Jesus and sacrifice my life for God, to bring Good News to everyone.
I did not choose my congregation, God sent me there. At the time, I had no idea about convents and the various congregations. I only knew that I wanted to be a nun.
One evening, when I was praying after receiving Communion, the choir sang a song that said, “When God calls you, reply immediately, because your lover is waiting…”.
I decided to go to the convent the next morning.I was 16 and went with my best friend who wanted to enter the convent too.
We went around the city and to the outside suburb, looking for any convent. A few hours later, we saw a sign of the Jesuit Convent and rang the doorbell. The person who opened the door was not a sister but a brother.
He was surprised to hear that we wanted to see the Mother Superior. He invited us into the convent and asked us many questions.
Finally, he laughed and said, “This convent is for males only. We do not have a Mother Superior, only a Father Superior!” Then, he very kindly gave us some guidance and showed us the way to many convents for females in the area.
So we went to the Thu Duc Congregation of Lovers of the Holy Cross, because its name sounded very interesting to us.
The Mother Superior refused to let us enter the convent at the beginning, but we stayed and said that we would not go home until she received us to be aspirants.
At the end, she gave up and let us come to the convent every weekend to pray and to learn about the religious life.
Three years later, I entered the convent and took my first vows in 1988. In 2013, I celebrated my Silver Jubilee.
My faith is influenced by the experiences of other sisters in my congregation, priests and other Christians, of blind children themselves.
For example, a blind girl prayed out loud, “God, this morning I heard the siren of an ambulance. I didn’t know who was inside and what had happened, but I put this person in your hands.
May you use the hands of doctors and nurses to care for this person! Thank you!” I was moved and asked myself, “Have I talked to God when I see an ambulance?” The faith of that little girl strengthened my faith.
My faith brings happiness to me. I believe and feel the presence of God and talk to God through reading the Bible, seeing God’s creatures around me, including everyone I have met and I have not met, seeing God’s works in the world, in the Church and in my life.
When I pray, I talk to Our Father as my Father, to Jesus as my Teacher, to the Holy Spirit as my Friend, to Mary as my Mother, to St Joseph as my God’s father, and to all Saints as my Sisters and Brothers. I live in their love.
Many people do not have time to pray because they are very busy with their study, work, entertainment… They may have many things they want but are not happy.
They do not recognise that the relationship with God is very important because God is giving them love, hope, peace, joy and happiness.
They could look to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Francis who are the real servants of the Church and of the world today, especially of the poor.
Many people pray to God but do not want to go to the church because they think that they can pray with God everywhere and by themselves.
They do not know that going to the church is a very important part when they celebrate the meeting with God, with other people, and receive the bread for their lives by Communion and listening to the Word of the Lord.
I pray in the chapel, in the Centre for the Blind where I am working, in the bus, on a motorbike, in the street, wherever.
I pray everywhere and all the time. If I go out, I ask Jesus, Mary and Joseph to go with me and put all of them on my motorbike to go together! If I have obstacles, I try to do my best and ask God, Our Lady and St Joseph to help me to overcome them.
I have had many experiences where God sent me the right person at the right time when I was in need, especially when I served blind children with little resources.
God has sent many assistants and benefactors to help us. Nothing is impossible to God.
Twenty-six years ago, I fell from the top of a bell tower, severely damaging my brain, and breaking my spine and ankle.
I was unconscious for ten days. At that time, everyone, including the doctors, thought that I would not live.
Even if I did, they thought I would be paralysed or have severe mental problems.
However, except for dizzy spells which I have learnt to live with, I made a full recovery.
God brought me back and gave me a new life. My life is not mine but His and I let Him do whatever He wants with my life.