Sister Marie Euphrasie Nguyen RNDM, died peacefully at Actionmarguerite-Taché Personal Care Home in Winnipeg on July 18, 2020. She was 93 years of age. Marie Euphrasie was born in Van Lam town, Hung Yen Province in northern Vietnam on July 2, 1927, and given the name Marie Madeleine Nguyen Thi Duc. She was one of nine children born to Nguyen Ky and Pham Thi Khiem. She was preceded in death by her brothers Nguyen Ba Luong, Nguyen Tan Hong, Nguyen Thanh Huy, Nguyen Nam Anh, and by her sisters Nguyen Thi Cam, Nguyen Thi Bich Thi, and Nguyen Thi Ninh Marie. She is survived by her youngest brother Nguyen Dong My and his wife, her sister-in-law Mrs. Nguyen Nam Anh, by her religious community, the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, (RNDM) and by numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews. Euphrasie was born into a profoundly Confucian family. Her father was delegated by the king to preside at temple celebrations. He was also a governor under the French system. Euphrasie attended public primary and secondary schools in different towns and cities, because her father’s profession moved the family frequently from one place to another. When she was sixteen years old, Euphrasie’s parents sent her to Hanoi to study. When France bombed Hanoi, the ensuing chaos and danger forced her to return to her family, who had taken refuge in a “Catholic town” where the Bishop was her father’s friend. There, after obtaining a qualifying certificate, Euphrasie opened a pharmacy depot, and it was in this way that she met the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions (RNDM), who came to buy medicines for their dispensary. Although she was not Catholic, Euphrasie said often that she was impressed by the zeal, kindness and compassion of the Sisters, and felt inexplicably drawn to join them. The next years of her life were spent learning about the Catholic faith, and discerning her vocation to religious life. In March 1949 Euphrasie began attending a boarding school in the Provincial House of Our Lady of the Missions in Thanh Hoa, in the centre of Vietnam. There she primarily studied French, Chemistry, Mathematics – and the Catholic faith. On June 5, 1949, Euphrasie was baptized. Life in Vietnam became increasingly difficult for the RNDM Sisters. In May of 1954, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh forces decisively defeated the French, signaling the end of French colonial rule in Indochina and clearing the way for the division of Vietnam into North and South. In the midst of war and political upheaval, Euphrasie had persisted in her desire to become a religious Sister. On January 15, 1954, in a clandestine service, she became an RNDM novice and received the religious habit of the Congregation, all made possible because a priest accredited by the Bishop, came in secret to the convent. As North Vietnam became ever more dangerous and desperate, efforts to send the novices to “the free zone” were thwarted. The Sisters had to close their boarding school, and were forbidden to teach. They had no income, no food, and no arable land on which to grow food. Arrangements were made by the Congregation’s leaders for them to leave the country. Euphrasie and the other novice-Sisters, disguised themselves as peasants, and traveling surreptitiously on deserted roads were able to walk 160 Km to Hanoi. From there, they boarded a flight to France, to continue their novitiate. In France, Euphrasie completed her novitiate and made first vows as an RNDM. She also completed a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Lyon and helped other Sisters prepare for teaching certification. Returning to Vietnam, Euphrasie made final vows as an RNDM in 1962. She was first put in charge of a school with 800 students in Nha Trang. In subsequent years, she taught and/or was principal at schools in Dalat, Thu Duc, Thi Nghe (Saigon ). She completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Saigon in 1974. She also took on various leadership responsibilities with the RNDMs. At the beginning of 1975, the political situation in Vietnam grew ever more dangerous and complex for the RNDM Sisters, as well as for Euphrasie and her family. On the evening of April 27, Euphrasie visited her family to say goodbye to them as they were fleeing Saigon by plane that evening. However, rockets bombarded the airport, preventing flights from departing. The entire city was put under curfew, phone lines were cut, bombs and rockets were destroying houses and municipal buildings. Euphrasie could not return to the convent. She stayed in a trench with her fearful family overnight. In the morning they learned of a munitions transport barge that would take them all. Euphrasie and her family members became ‘boat people’ and shared the sufferings of millions. Finally arriving in Canada, Euphrasie was welcomed by RNDM Sisters at Sacred Heart College in Regina, SK. While fluent in French, English was a new language for her. She took some English classes and helped in a school for persons with a learning disability. In 1977 Euphrasie passed her English 100 and was hired by the Catholic School Board to teach in St. Pius X. Bilingual School. She simultaneously volunteered to teach catechism to refugees. Retiring from teaching, Euphrasie spent a year studying theology at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, where she delighted in a time of renewing her spirit, and deepening her relationship with God. In 1993, Euphrasie was sent to Winnipeg, where she lived until her death – first living at St. Edward’s convent, and then at Cathedral Manor. At St. Edward’s convent, she was an active member of St. Edward’s parish, serving as a communion minister to shut-ins and participating in the Catholic Women’s League. She also volunteered with a group, visiting seniors in their homes. Euphrasie was a remarkable educator. Students she taught in Vietnam many years ago, continued to be in contact with her until her death. She read widely about alternate health modalities and practices, studied and practiced reflexology, and could consistently surprise with new facts and methods she had learned. She had an artist’s eye for beauty, and enjoyed making hand-crafts. She also had a smile that could “light up the room”. She practiced gratitude on a daily basis, and prayed for the needs of the world. The Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions are most grateful to the residents and nursing staff at Actionmarguerite Taché for the care given to Sr. Euphrasie over the time she was a resident. Funeral Mass of the Resurrection will be on Thursday July 23, at St Philip Minh Catholic Church, 615 La Fleche St, Winnipeg. Rev. Peter Le Van Ngu will preside. Attendees must register with the parish to conform to MB Health guidelines. The funeral will be live-streamed from the parish. Cremation has already taken place, and Interment will occur at a later date. In lieu of flowers friends may wish to send a donation to the Mission Fund of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, 393 Gaboury Place, Winnipeg, MB, R2H 0L5
Share Your Memory of