With God by My Side

Written by: Marierose Hoang

“With God by my side, I do not need to worry about the long winding road ahead” this refrain of Lê Quốc’s song Tình Chúa Yêu Con kept resonating in my mind during my entire summer journey to Danang, Vietnam.  There was no better way to celebrate my 60th birthday than being blessed with the opportunity to breathe the same air for 20 days with the nuns of St Paul de Chartres Congregation at Thanh Tam Center of Special Education, a treatment and education school for 250+ special needs children.

After spending 2 months (Fall 2014) learning about Montessori Education at my school, Children’s House Montessori School in Reston, VA, Sister Anna Tuyet Lan, Director of the Center had become passionate about it and invited me to come to Danang to share my experiences as a Montessori teacher to her staff.

The Montessori education is a philosophy, a way of living and not just a mere educational method.  It is parallel with my faith.  Other than teaching the children to be independent, orderly, coordinated and concentrated, along with the emphasis on peace education, the focus is how to become a helpful person to the world, to worship truth and compassion rather than material success.

With God by my side Marierose 1However, God had a bigger plan for me.  A charitable organization, Companions in Grace based in California, upon learning about my endeavor, provided sponsorship for a few nuns from 7 other congregations all around Vietnam to come and attend.  Is it His intention to gather us all in unity to share in an education ideology based on virtues, peace and respect for the future children of Vietnam?   Apprehension and worry started seeping in.  I, a mere Montessori teacher from a small school, would now have to deliver a Montessori training program to 30 nuns and teachers:   Educating myself about a year long program in only 10 days of training!

I realized that it was God’s guidance to me: “Don’t worry much, just go and start planting the seeds.”  The 10 days of training were filled with God’s grace, joy, love and companionship.  I started each day with a prayer filled of delighted anticipation to share my passion about Montessori education and I looked forward to what would unfold during the day. I had a training schedule to abide to, but I did not worry much about what to say or deliver because I was surely guided by the Holy Spirit throughout the entire time.  I ended each day with a prayer filled of gratitude.  I felt God’s presence in each person, whether she is a nun or a teacher.  Love shone on everyone’s face.  Happiness was all around and above all, God was really with us.

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I ended my journey spending time in the classroom with 20+ hearing impaired children and their teachers.  I can’t help but

be proud of this very first Montessori class at Thanh Tam Center of Special Education.  The result was far more than expected.  The classroom was so peaceful: each child was in total concentration with his/her work, and so involved to the point of even forgetting their snack time.  They did not want to go home and wanted to come to school earlier the next day.  “This did not happen before, they were often distracted and out of control but today, it was less stressful for me and I was able to observe, be more in tune with the children and enjoy my job,” said one of the teachers.

Yes, like the eyes of a servantWith God by my side Marierose 4
on the hand of his master,
Like the eyes of a maid
on the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes are on the LORD our God. (Psalm 123:2)

Through many positive feedbacks, I am assured that I have planted the seed as God has intended.   I am now waiting for it to grow so that I can ask God to help me to tend to it.

Thank you, God, for showing the way and guiding me because I am a “nobody servant,”
Thank you, Sister Anna Tuyết Lan, your staff, and Companions In Grace for sharing my passion, believing and trusting me,
Thank you Children’s House Montessori School families for providing the Math materials’corner,
Thank you all participants for your enthusiasm and love of learning,
Thank you family and friends for all your prayers.

With God by my side Marierose 3

Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca Brings Musical Adoration to St. Philip’s in Falls Church, Virginia

Written by: Que-Thanh Le

Did you know that the Northern Virginia-based Catholic Vietnamese-American music ministry Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca and St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church collaborated to bring a summertime Eucharistic Adoration concert series to the Catholic community in Falls Church, VA?  The format was simple: praise, adore and worship our awesome God during Adoration in a dark, candlelit, and music-filled setting.  The hour and a half events also included a two-part homily based on the theme of the Adoration.  In July, the theme was “The Eucharist”, and in August, the theme was “Faith, Hope and Love”.  On September 12, the theme will be, “The Scandal of Grace”.

We called the series: “Lead Me to the Cross”, based on a song by Brooke Fraser written for the Hillsong ministry.  “Lead me to the cross where your love poured out.  Bring me to my knees, Lord, I lay me down.  Bring me to myself, I belong to You.  Oh lead me, lead me to the cross.”  The imagery of this song is conveyed through the candles lining the center aisle of the sanctuary leading up to the altar which is surrounded by candles.

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The altar at St. Philip’s during the “Lead Me to the Cross” Eucharistic Adorationconcert event in July 2015. Photo: Que-Thanh Le

At the first two events, we met the congregation was met in the St. Philip’s narthex. We all held candles, prayed together, and practiced singing the Taize hymn, “Tui Amoris”, to ask the Holy Spirit to come to us and fill us with the fire of His love.  Then the congregation processed into the dark, candlelit sanctuary and chanted the hymn, and laid their candles on the steps of the altar and found their seats. The sanctuary looked extraordinary once the sun fully set and the “runway” of candles led you to focus on the altar.

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Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca singers hold candles prior to the procession into the St. Philip’s sanctuary for Adoration. Photo: Vu Deo

The first of our adoration events went really well. Father Steven Walker, Parochial Vicar of St. Philip’s spoke about the Eucharist.  I got to meet his “posse” afterwards– family members who were young adults (20-30 something year olds), and one of them remarked that this adoration was among the top five adorations he’d ever been to! The second adoration’s theme was “Faith, Hope and Love”.  Father Denis Donahue, Pastor of St. Philip’s, based his homily on the example of Cardinal Francis-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan—whose life and good works are now part of a cause for canonization.  Father Donahue spent nearly two months preparing for this talk by reading up on the Cardinal’s biography and his book,  “The Road to Hope: a Gospel from Prison”.  (Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca performed the song “Con Co Mot To Quoc (I Have One Nation)”, which was based on the Cardinal’s poem about his love for Vietnam, his homeland, at the Arlington Diocese Multicultural Choral Concert earlier this year in April.)

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View of the crucifix from the St. Philip’s choir area where Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca performed. Photo: Que-Thanh Le

Adoration is also a time when our ministry members really benefit spiritually from the experience and peace that being in the presence of Jesus offers. Oftentimes, when we are performing, we are so focused on the mechanics of delivering a performance. With the Adoration series, since we’re not on stage, but instead sitting in the darkened choir area, we’re given the opportunity to really express our prayers and intentions through song.

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Members of Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca take a break for a photo after Adoration in the St. Philip’s sanctuary. The shirts they’re wearing say, “Broken & Beloved.” Photo: Teresa Morris

If you missed the last two Adoration events, you still have the opportunity to experience the final Adoration event on Saturday, September 12, 2015, when Father Steven Walker, Parochial Vicar of St. Philip’s, will speak about–and Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca will sing about–“The Scandal of Grace”.  See you in the narthex at 8 PM.  We’ll bring the candles.

St. Philip Catholic Church, 7500 St. Philips Ct., Falls Church, VA 22042.  For more information email mcm@arlingtondiocese.org.

Que-Thanh Le is the artistic director and the founder of the music ministry, Heartsongs: Tam Tinh Ca.     Follow Heartsongs on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HeartsongsTamTinhCa and on Twitter @heartsongsttc and at www. heartsongsttc.org

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The Lead Me to the Cross Eucharistic Adoration series at St. Philip’s is Free and Open to the Public.