WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Sisters of Providence and novices, Rosa Sen Nguyen, left, Hong Nga Nguyen, top, Mimose Jean, right, and Sandrine Tselikeme, centre are visiting Canada as part of their formation.
EDMONTON — Winter might be cold but Canadians are a warm and polite bunch. That's the view of a group of foreign Sisters of Providence and novices currently visiting Alberta.
"Canadian culture is similar to Asian culture," said Hong Nga Nguyen, a 24-year-old South Vietnamese novice. "Canadians are very polite."
"People here are calm and slowed down," added Hong Nga's friend Rosa Sen Nguyen, 25, a North Vietnamese novice. Hong Nga and Rosa Sen have been with the Sisters of Providence in both Spokane and Seattle, Wash., since they joined the congregation four years ago.
"I find the people here very open to cultures from around the world," noted Mimose Jean, a 33-year-old sister in temporary vows from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
"The weather is cold but the people are warm," said 28-year-old Sandrine Tselikeme, who is visiting from Cameroon.
The four women are in Alberta as part of a cross-cultural experience, which is an integral part of their formation. "The purpose of their visit is that they learn what our community is — the extension of our community," explained Sister Isabel Cid, director of formation.
The Sisters of Providence is an international order with members and houses in many countries of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
For the past month, the four women have been visiting different Alberta communities where the Sisters of Providence have houses and ministries.
Hong Nga, for instance, went to McLennan, where she helped the sisters with their work in the nursing home and the elementary school. The woman shared her story with the Grade 6 students and invited them to think about religious life as a career option.
"I learned a lot from the sisters to be available to the poor," she said.
Rosa Sen went to Wabasca in northern Alberta and helped the sisters there in their work in the parish, from setting up the altar for Mass to taking Communion to the elderly in their homes.
"I think this was a great experience for me," Rosa Sen said. "I met a new culture — the Cree tribe and I learned how they live. Their life depends on nature. They hunt and fish and, from the skins of the animals, they make clothes."
Hong Nga and Rosa Sen decided to join the congregation four years ago after a Vietnamese Sister of Providence living in the United States visited family back in Vietnam and talked to them about the charism of the community.
Almost 50 per cent of the population in Vietnam is Catholic, according to the novices. Despite the communist system in Vietnam, the Church operates free from persecution, they said.
Tselikeme stayed in Edmonton, caring for elderly sisters at Providence Centre and portioning food for the needy at Anawin Food Bank in the inner city. She also visited the sisters in Calgary for a few days.
She was impressed with the food bank system, which she said is non-existent in Cameroon. "It's a new experience for me; I've never seen that before," she said. "In Cameroon nobody really cares (about the poor)."
Tselikeme did all her formation in Cameroon and has been in Montreal for the past two years. She said she joined the order "to bring the human face of Christ to the world." About 65 per cent of the population of Cameroon is Catholic.
Mimose Jean helped victims of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince until she came to Edmonton in mid-September. She spent close to a month learning English and helping at the Anawin Food Bank.
In mid-October she went to Calgary to assist the elderly at Father Lacombe Nursing Home. There she helped move residents in for Mass and visited them regularly, developing strong friendships.
"I loved the residents of Father Lacombe," she said. "I left them a presence of providence."
There are eight Sisters of Providence in Port-au-Prince. Mimose Jean joined them "because I would like to be the face of God on earth."
The two Vietnamese novices will stay until December and will visit other places in the meantime. Mimose Jean and Tselikeme will stay until March. Three more sisters and novices, including one from Chile, are expected to arrive in the weeks to come.