Sister Amata Marie
Sister Amata Marie
of the Divine Mercy, O.p.
I was born Long An, Viet Nam. As the economic and education situations in Viet Nam became more difficult, particularly for Catholics, my parents decided to attempt to get my younger brother and me to America with the hope that we would have a better future with our older brother and sister; they had arrived in the United States five years earlier. On the night of March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, the two of us set out from Ha-Tien beach with 61 other people, all crammed together in a small fishing boat.
After three days floating in an open sea, we drifted into waters off the coast of Thailand and were rescued by offshore oil workers of an international oil company. We were brought on-board a cargo ship for a month before we were taken to a refugee camp in Thailand. It was during my short stay on the ship and seven-month stay in the refugee camp that I first began to think about religious life.
In the camp, I saw in magazines pictures and articles about the missionary work being done to help the poor and malnourished in Africa and South America. In these magazines, I saw how the people suffered and wanted to reach out and do anything I could. At the same time, other priests, religious sisters and refugees began to tell me: “Do you want to become a sister?”; “you should become a sister!”; “you will make a good sister!” Gradually I embraced the call and waited for the right time to respond.
When I thought about religious life, I dreamed of becoming a missionary. But in God’s mysterious plan, I was led to the Preaching Order. Although I had never heard of “Saint Dominic” and never met a Dominican before, a family friend introduced me to the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province in Houston, Texas, a congregation of teaching sisters, and I entered soon after. Upon graduation from High School, I received the Dominican habit and began my novitiate with the Sisters and eventually professed perpetual vows.
Although I loved active ministry – reaching out to others as the hands and feet of Jesus and Mary as teacher, and assistant chaplain in hospital, and at the juvenile center and county jail- I was still yearning for something more, to “do” more for God! Amidst the busyness and demands of active ministry, there was a constant longing in my heart to live a life of solitude and contemplation in a cloister. This longing led me to contact the cloistered Dominican nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park, California; with them, I continue to discern God’s will.
I finally realized that I can live a fully contemplative life with God right here on earth; and the best way to reach out to many people but at the same time remain intimately close to God is the monastic life. For in the cloister of a Dominican monastery, which is the heart of the Church and the Order, I can be a “defender” behind the walls to support the preaching and teaching work of my Dominican brothers and sisters; and embrace the whole world in my prayers for love of God and the salvation of souls.
For His greater glory, may God’s will be done!