Fr. Joseph's Personal Plea
Father Chris with Sr. Thom (to his right ) at his diaconate ordination in 2013.
By Fr. Chris Alar, MIC (Feb. 1, 2017)
As a priest, it is not uncommon for me to come into contact with many holy people throughout my travels and daily activities. But I am not sure if I have ever met someone quite like a nun from South Vietnam named Sr. Thom Vu. Sent to the United States six years ago by her religious community from Saigon (Lovers of the Holy Cross), Sr. Thom was tasked to learn English and earn a masters degree in theology. I met her while I was a seminarian at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, and I was quickly humbled by her work ethic, her tireless dedication to her community, and, most of all, her unwavering love of God.
After I was ordained in 2014, we parted ways but remained in contact. Then, on Jan. 20 of this year (after completing her degree), Sr. Thom returned to Vietnam. What she discovered was heartbreaking. Not being told by her parents, so as to not worry her during her studies, she learned that her father, Bang Van Vu, was very sick. So sick, in fact, that he is going blind and is bed-ridden in the hospital with kidney failure. At this point, only dialysis will keep him alive, but the doctors say with this treatment he can make a recovery. She takes turns with her mother at his bedside, each doing 12-hour "shifts" to provide the smallest amount of comfort and prayer for him. The problem for the family, however, is that they don't have insurance for this kind of medical care, and they do not have any money for even the most basic of all necessities, such as food.
So how did they get into this situation? Well, the Vietnamese culture is quite different from ours in America. In their family structure, the youngest son has an "obligation" to provide for his parents in their elderly years, and then his son will provide for him and his spouse as they age, and so on. Unfortunately, Sr. Thom's brother (Bang Vu's son) died a few months ago of appendicitis. In other words, not only do they have no money to provide for basic living expenses, and what little money they had has been spent in desperate hope of keeping this patriarch of the family alive, their son is no longer there to provide for them. To compound the issue, neither of Sr. Thom's parents are able to work because of health issues (he is only 58 years old). It is truly a situation that requires the utmost trust in God.
Trust — well, that is exactly what this family has held on to. In a Communist country such as Vietnam, being Catholic is not only rare, it's downright dangerous. Yet this family has been Catholic since the French came to Indochina decades ago and brought the faith with them. It is now this faith that is seeing this family through in the toughest of situations. Therefore, I beg your prayers for this special nun and her family. I know many of us are in need, but this family has been given a special cross from our Lord, and I feel personally compelled to try to aid in any way I can.
Would you please consider joining me in praying for them? In addition, any amount of financial assistance would be greatly appreciated. This is a special lady who has given her life to serve Jesus and His Church in a country that doesn't understand what it means to be a Christian. Yet, she certainly does.
If you are interested in helping, please offer your prayers and any donation possible. You can donate online or send a check made to Association of Marian Helpers (with the memo note: Fr. Joseph's Fund for Sr. Thom) and mail to: Association of Marian Helpers, 2 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge, MA 01263, or call 1-800-462-7426 to make a credit card donation by phone.
Thank you, God bless you, and know that you are in my prayers.
Father Chris Alar, MIC, serves as "Fr. Joseph, MIC," the title given to the director of the Association of Marian Helpers.