Sr Marie-Sophie Nguyen Thi Phu

07/12/1934 – 10/12/2022


Sr Marie-Sophie was born in Saigon on 7th November 1934 into a large family. Their father was a teacher, which must have inspired Marie-Sophie’s own vocation as an educator. She joined the parish choir and discovered singing. As she had a beautiful voice, she sang as soloist for several years.

   After completing the Baccalaureate, she specialised in science and obtained a degree in botany, zoology and geology. Then, following the example of four of her sisters who had entered the convent, she considered religious life, but put it off until she had obtained her science degree. Her sister Marie-Amelie used to say fondly “During these years, she was the pride and joy of her parents”.

   She entered the Convent of Our Lady in Dalat on 2nd July 1959. She taught natural history and maths in the school.

   In 1960 she was sent to France, to Verneuil-sur-Seine for her noviciate. She had a natural curiosity which led her to wonder at everything – the flowers, the seasons, the snow, the colours, the tides… Her novitiate companions enjoyed her astonishment at her discoveries. Sure of her religious vocation, she took the habit on the 8th April 1961, still at Verneuil. Then in 1963, she made her first profession, while continuing to teach.

   She spent her scholasticate years at rue Blomet in Paris, and followed a course of moral theology at the  Institut Catholique.

   In 1968 she went back to Dalat to join the community of Notre-Dame de Lang Bian. She taught natural history and looked after the senior boarding school. She also taught religious studies. That was when she made her final vows. In 1973, she joined the Catholic University in Dalat as assistant in animal biology. Then she went back to France to finish her university education. She prepared a doctoral thesis in the science department in Paris VI, which she obtained in 1977.

   Meanwhile, the fall of Saigon in 1975 had prevented her return to Vietnam, so she devoted herself to the Vietnamese Catholic Mission. She helped in every department, welcoming refugees, teaching French, the liturgy, pilgrimages…

   In 1986 she began studies in nursing while still continuing her work at the Vietnamese Catholic Mission. Once qualified, she looked after the infirmary at Verneuil and then at Brunoy for 14 years.

   In 1992 Vietnam reopened and it was possible to return for a visit. Marie-Sophie visited several times. She acted as intermediary for several families scattered throughout the world, including her own. Every time she went back, she showed great concern for every member of her family, especially for her father, the sole survivor of his generation. And even until now, several generations have come to know her – two of her nephews were able to be with her during her final days in hospital, which was a great consolation for her family.

   In November 2000 when she was 66, she retired and returned to the community of the Abbaye-aux-Bois in Paris. With her warm smile and her kindness, she welcomed sisters passing through. She helped in the community with flower arrangements and preparation of the liturgy, gardening, celebrations for the feast of Tet, exhibitions… she was reserved and rarely spoke about herself, but last August she told the community how much she would like to go back to Vietnam… A sudden illness made this impossible. After several difficult weeks, at dawn on the 10th November, she entered into the peace and light of God.


                            Pascale PICHON

Community Manager