Facebook IconInstagram IconSpotify

Two visiting Vietnamese sisters were happy to take a photo with their teachers in St. Louis.

The doors at Sancta Maria in Ripa in St. Louis, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mankato, Minnesota, and Notre Dame of Elm Grove in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, have been opened to several women religious from Hanoi, Vietnam, so they may live together in faith with the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Four groups of sisters from Vietnam have been welcomed to the SSND communities. The first group arrived in 2014, with the four sisters studying for graduate degrees in education and nursing in St. Louis and Mankato, Minnesota. The second group of sisters arrived in St. Louis in September 2016, and will complete their English language lessons at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Mankato.

Most recently, eight sisters joined two SSND communities; four in Elm Grove and four in St. Louis. On January 14, 2018, Sisters Nal Y and Trang Y of the Miraculous Medal of Mary, Trang Le and Hang Nguyen of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Holy Queen of Mary, arrived in Elm Grove to live in community while they are working on their English language skills and attending college. All four sisters have lived in the United States for at least a year.

In St. Louis, Sisters Han Dao, Chanh Ngo, Thuy Hoang and My Nguyen of the Congregation of Our Lady of Unity of Bac Hinh arrived on February 22, 2018, to learn English. None of the four had been to the United States before, and all hope to improve their language and cultural skills. The first weekend they arrived, they gave the SSNDs a taste of Vietnam by organizing a Lunar New Year celebration with music, food, décor and dancing.

Four new Vietnamese sisters were welcomed to St. Louis to join several sisters who arrived in 2017.

The sisters from Vietnam participate in a formal English language immersion program SSNDs have designed especially for them. This program requires them to speak English during the day when they attend class and during meals. Two SSNDs work with each sister from Vietnam to improve vocabulary and phonics through tailored lessons, supplemented with movies, books and field trips.

Community life has also helped these sisters improve their speaking, reading and writing skills. Each sister is assigned a small community within Sancta Maria in Ripa, with SSNDs in their communities helping them practice in a more casual setting. In Elm Gove, the sisters join SSNDs in playing card games in the evening, making popcorn on Friday nights, knitting and playing the piano. In Mankato, the Good Counsel Learning Center tutors the sisters both formally and informally.

Four Vietnamese sisters arrived to Elm Grove, Wisconsin, to learn English.

The sisters from Vietnam offer many gifts to their hosting SSNDs as well. “Their gifts to us include their youthful enthusiasm, dedication, strong religious convictions and an innate sense of peace and happiness,” Sister Barbara Bitter, coordinator of the St. Louis programs said. “[All the sisters we have taught] will always have a special place in our minds and hearts."

Many of the sisters from Vietnam share the ultimate goal of opening a Catholic college in Vietnam, and hope their lessons both in and out of the classroom will help them do that. The sisters are optimistic they can one day teach the Catholic faith in freedom and peace in Vietnam. Other sisters plan to teach and serve in social work upon returning to Vietnam and hope their newfound skills will help them.

Regardless of where they are called, the sisters from Vietnam can look to the example given to them by SSNDs to help them carry their missions forward. Sister Nal says, “The sisters here have really touched my heart by their kindness to one another."


Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



© 2022 School Sisters of Notre Dame