by Dominic Nhan Bui, C.PP.S.
I found it hard to adapt to life in the United States, even though I came here for Assemblies in 2008 and 2011. Living as a guest in this country, I was aware of putting my feet in new conditions. I let my behaviors and attitudes settle me in new surroundings and circumstances. My body could get accustomed easily, but though learning new languages can be easy for young people, it is a real challenge for me, a middle aged person, and I worried about being misunderstood. It wasn’t too deplorable, but sometimes I felt discouraged. However, my heart has heard the calling, so it never gives up. God has always known all I need to do for His purpose, so He leads me to more places, to meet others, gather my thoughts, and get more dynamics of hope than I ever dreamed possible.
I spent a little over a year living with the a.s.c. community in Wichita. It was a peaceful time; I felt the warmth of religious life at the lovely convent. My life has been blessed through my time with the Sisters.
On the first day’s visit to Wichita State University, Sr. Joann Stuever showed me how to take the buses. At the end of the trip we couldn’t get out at Newman University because of an obstruction, so we had to get out at West Street. Walking from West Street to home was a long road. My first day of school was also a challenge. When I went back home, the second bus downtown was late, so the driver decided to go on the highway. I was confused because I didn’t recognize the streets I knew. Taking a deep breath, I asked, “Is this the Maple Street bus, sir?” The driver explained something, but I couldn’t understand what he said, except, “you are on the right bus.” It was enough information for me to calm down. I returned to my seat and trusted in him.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my a.s.c. tutors, Sr. Clara Smith, Sr. Bernadine Wessel, and Sr. Anacleta Schuette. Their help day by day has made my dream become a reality; I now turn to Chicago for the next step of my study. Their help is greatly appreciated both by my community and myself.
Fr. Tom Welk, c.pp.s. was my mainstay, like a dad during that time. He has an ability to make sisters and guests laugh often during homilies, even though he has been serving there for more than thirty years. That was surprising and interesting to me. He said to me, “I am your boss,” jokingly. Yes, he’s my honest boss! While we talked, he never lost his patience with me in spite of my limited English. The way he lives helps me to understand the Bond of Charity, how members relate to each other. I asked several Sisters, “Have you ever seen Fr. Tom angry?” Almost always answers were, “No,” but one said, “Yes, when the geese ate his vegetables!”
I love the Wichita Center; it helps me reflect on my life. On the east side of the building is the big lake. It reminds me that I was born by Mom’s womb. Who I am: if I hadn’t been fed, I wouldn’t grow up. On the north side is Newman University, which rings a bell about value of studies. My ministry will have more value if I contribute my knowledge in service of the Church and humanity. On the west side is a big garden and Fr. Tom’s house. Working and relaxing are twinned, keeping a balance between work and play, spiritual life, and apostolic life. Finally, on the south side is a cemetery where more than two hundred sisters rest peacefully. It tells me to know how to live for peaceful death, stay sober and alert. Why do I exist? What is the meaning of my life? “Naked, I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall go back again” (Job 1:21). Most of all, the heart of the building is a chapel, the holy place, God’s home which is the intimate connection between spiritual life and mental life, prayers and conversations to God. Religious life is meaningless if it isn’t God’s way.
As I shared on the day before my last day at the convent in Wichita, I believe God has kept my mother alive to support my vocation. I also have realized that God guided me to the Wichita Center to receive God’s abundant blessings. God has trained me through those moms and that dad.
The Sisters and Fr. Tom walked with me for 367 days. I learned many lessons of encouragement during that time. Their encouragement and support were dynamics of hope for me. I greatly appreciate the sisters accepting me as “a true community member, one of them.” I have already left Wichita, but I never said goodbye to it. I miss sharing with them—the Body and Blood of Christ shared in daily Mass with the a.s.c. community.