My Discernment Journey

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

The discernment process about a vocation call is unique for every individual because each person is called differently. Individual preferences influence how a person hears this call. Discerners often evaluate a religious community by their prayer life, mission, wearing a habit or ordinary contemporary clothes, vowed living, community living, and more. I know this was the case for me.

I grew up in a traditional Catholic environment that included personal or communal adoration, Mass, rosary, Gospel reading, and rituals. When I was first discerning God’s call, I was only interested in the beautiful habit, growing a deeper relationship with God, and helping the poor. I visited some traditional religious communities where the members wore the habit–and I liked all these visits. I listened to them and followed what they suggested to do when I was there. However, I was not asked to do any personal reflection on what I liked or did not like about this visit, what inspired me (their community life, prayer style, for instance) or what I might be resisting about a call to religious life, etc. They did not ask me whether I had had any spiritual director. One community, after I visited, gave me the application file to apply.

Later, I encountered the Dominican Sisters of Peace. When I first met these sisters, I was shocked by their contemporary clothes because I had never thought a Sister would wear such clothes. However, having a conversation with them at their vocation booth and reading their materials inspired me. The way they addressed my current situation and my questions was so open, making me feel they were listening to me. I came to realize that the habit was not the main factor for deciding whether to join or not join a community. I contacted them to explore their community. Two months later, I decided to move to Boston to be closer to these Sisters for my discernment.

The first weekend in Boston, I was invited to attend a reflection day at one of their ecological centers. The sisters showed me how to connect with God and God’s creation through the process of making, baking, and breaking bread. I have never thought of finding God deeply in these simple daily experiences, I was so inspired with this finding.  Then, the confusion came to me when I listened to the Sister’s presentation about the universe. Even though science and engineering are part of my background, I had considered science and engineering as worldly things, not as “God’s thing.” I thought I would have had to give up science and engineering when I joined religious life.  Thus, listening to this talk, many questions showed up in me: “Are they really Sisters? Why do they talk about such earthly things? How do they get such ideas? Are they not spending time helping the poor or working in the church, instead of learning such “non” Godly things?  Are they following or opposing the Gospel teachings?” It reminded me of the Pharisees and the people around ASKING Jesus when he was showing them something different from what they had been practicing their faith daily.

I felt torn between embracing what I just heard and this new way of practicing our Catholic faith that I was not familiar with at that time.

Instead of making a hasty conclusion that this kind of religious life did not fit me, I reflected and prayed. I appreciated God for “God knows who I am more than I know myself.” I gradually felt a sense of the affirmation between me and what the Sisters said. Then, I wanted to explore more. Whenever I had a chance to be with a sister, I asked her about her stories and how she lived. I took it to heart, reflected and prayed with the insights. I started to recognize God in a deeper sense as I looked around: in the mission and in daily life with a wider view. I decided to join; and my life has flourished since then.  I love every moment of living out my call with the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

We just had a “Come and See” weekend retreat in Kentucky. Looking at the discerners, I can see in the discerners the images of myself in the past and in the present. Believe me, discernment to seek God and to respond to the needs is never ended.  No matter how you practice your faith, I encourage you to keep your mind and heart open, to be reflective and courageous, and to trust that God is working within you and through those who are journeying with you. Contact us if you have any questions.

Posted in God Calling?, News

14 responses to “My Discernment Journey

  1. This is the perfect blog for everyone who wants to understand this topic.
    You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I
    really would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a
    brand new spin on a subject that has been discussed for decades.
    Excellent stuff, just wonderful! – Calator prin Romania

  2. Sr. Mai Dung, your discernment story shows how you really listened and were attentive to what God placed for you to experience. An awareness of the stirrings in your open heart drew you to a oneness with God in ways with which you were not familiar is evident. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Thank you for sharing your beautiful reflection, Mai Dung! I’m happy to be… and to have you be… one of us!


  4. Thank you for this beautiful reflection. Dominican spirituality was unfamiliar to me in my youth. There were other orders with which I’d had more contact and felt more of an attraction to. And yet, it was Dominicans, specifically Dominicans of St. Catherine de Ricci (now Dominican Sisters of Peace) who truly opened my heart and soul to the authentic person God wants me to be. I am a married woman, and a work in progress, but I will always gratefully identify as a Dominican in spirit. Who knows what God has in store for each one of us?! Trust and find out!

  5. What a beautiful story, Mai Dung. I had some of the same questions before I entered so many years ago. That I didn’t have to give up my love of science was a deciding factor in my decision but now I see how selfish that was. I still love physics but have so many more reasons why I am so grateful that God called me to this Dominican community. Isn’t God good?

  6. Thank you Mai Dung, I felt much the same way you did. When I was young. I wanted to wear the habit, and becoming a sister, and I attended a convent type high school.

    I did not become a nun, I became a mother. Now so many years have passed, I looked at the calling I 1st missed, and realize, it was a calling, from a very young age. I have pursued the lay ministry. I know I have fulfilled what God’s plan has been over the years for me. All things happened for a purpose.

    My children are on there own, many piercings of my heart have come. God has given me gratefulness in heart, answering deeply hidden desires for Him. He has blessed me, I desire to fully, and longingly, seek this call.

    Thank you for sharing your calling and explaining, what a calling might look like !

  7. Thanks for sharing your discernment story, Mai Dung. It is true we never get finished with discernment on a day to day basis.

  8. Thanks you Mai Dung. You have provided insight into how some are think about religious and the strength of tradition in their choices.

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