A new home at Christmas

Sr. Theresa Trang, LHC, writes about her Christmas memories

“After Mass, stop by Mr. Kich and buy some bread”, my mother said. Since I was seven years old, I had in my mind the image of a Christmas celebration with bread that we bought and some home- made cakes that my mother prepared for us. It was a cozy room that we shared bread and laughter together after Christmas Eve Celebration. Usually, I brought home five loaves of bread, which was enough for five of us. But for my younger brother, it seems that one loaf of bread is not enough for him. “Mom, I need more”, he said. “Wait until next Christmas, my son”, my mother replied. “Now, think of the hungry, the homeless and pray for them.” The following Christmas, his question and my Mom’s answer continued. We grew up in that memory of bread and laughter.

The first Christmas I spent in a new country thousands of miles away from home, I stayed with my uncle’s family in Portland, Oregon. We enjoyed our Christmas Eve service with cookies, roast turkey and Pho bo, a kind of Vietnamese food. Before the meal, we lit the candle, sang aloud the song “Silent Night” in Vietnamese. When everything was waiting for us on the table, my uncle said a short prayer for our family and the whole family in Vietnam. At that very moment, I closed my eyes and prayed for many needy and homeless people in my country and all over the world, I felt very close to my family as well as many people that I have known along my way. I am far away from home. That’s true. But it is not very far. I find a new home here.

My favorite Christmas

Since I entered my convent, most of the time I have spent Christmas away from home. Of all the experiences I had, there was one Christmas that I like most. In 2005, after I took my first vow, I was assigned to a rural parish in Southern part of Viet Nam. There were three of us in a small community. From the beginning of December, we prepared a skit for the Solemn Mass honoring the birth of Jesus. All the children in our parish came to the church and waited to be chosen a place in the skit. I still remember a teenager came to me and said: “Sister, neither can I sing or dance but I can be a donkey. Please accept me”. This simple thought really touched my heart. Another small girl told me that she wanted to be an angle and in order to make sure with me; she said that she could go to our house and practiced every day. Also, I always keep with me this beautiful image. Then, one week before Christmas was the busiest time. Every night, people gathered in the Church, some practiced the skit; some helped to decorate the Christmas tree. In another corner of the church, a group of teenagers helped us to sort and separate all the presents into boxes so that each family can receive on the night of December 24. We all know that they were poor but I realized that I learned a lot from them in the way they had fun and worked with each other.

On December 24, the Christians along with the nonbelievers around the area gathered in the church. When I looked at the Christmas tree which was built up by many people in our parish, I saw the spirit of love passing from heart to heart. That was the celebration of love for everyone. The music and singing didn’t stop at mid night. When we thought it was finished, another voice rose up and the music continued with many Christmas songs.

For me, that Christmas celebration never stops in my heart.