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From missionary medico to a contemplative life


A Vietnamese refugee who grew up in Adelaide, graduated from medicine in Melbourne and travelled the world helping the poor and vulnerable as a missionary doctor, has made her solemn vows as a Carmelite Sister in Launceston, Tasmania.

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Sr Thérèse-Marie én of the Eucharist has embraced a hidden life of prayer and sacrifice following her profession on December 14 at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous and Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ who was her headmaster at Saint Ignatius’ College in Adelaide.

Born in Vietnam, Sr Thérèse-Marie én was just one year old when her family came to Australia as refugees and settled in Adelaide.

The fifth of ten children in the Do family, Thérèse-Marie first learnt of the Carmelites when she read St Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul at a young age.

“I come from a deeply Catholic family where our faith has always been the most important gift in our lives,” the 41-year-old nun said.

“Our life centred around our faith as we attended daily Mass and prayed the family rosary together.

“My dear parents helped us to understand that a religious vocation was a special grace from God.

“We were fortunate to be given a second chance at life in this beautiful country, and we never forget our humble roots.”

Aware of how blessed she had been in her life, Sr Thérèse-Marie én said she didn’t know how to repay God’s goodness to her, so she gave her ‘all’ – her life – to God.

After graduating from medicine she worked for a few years before joining the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Mother Teresa) in Melbourne.

She said she was privileged to serve the poorest of the poor in Australia, Rome (where she made her profession of vows as a Sister of the Missionaries of Charity), the Philippines and South Africa.

However, God had further plans for her vocation.

“[In active religious life] I was privileged to see and experience the tremendous material as well as spiritual poverty of the people both in rich and third world countries.  In the face of so much suffering, one experiences one’s own poverty – there is a need to withdraw into silence and solitude to be alone with God,” Sr Thérèse-Marie én said.

“Although I loved being an active missionary very much, in silence before our Eucharistic Lord, the truth of God’s desire to consecrate me to belong solely to Him helped me to realise His dream for me to be His contemplative missionary doctor of souls,” she said.

“The Lord led me to a vocation within a vocation… to embrace His suffering members in a life of prayer and sacrifice in Carmel.”

In 2013, after six years of active religious life, Sr Thérèse-Marie én left the Missionaries of Charity.

While leaving was “very difficult”, when she stepped inside the enclosure of the Launceston Carmelite Monastery she knew “in the depth of her heart” that she had come home.

Alongside her religious names of Thérèse-Marie (for St Therese of Lisieux and Our Lady) is ‘én’ – meaning ‘swallow’ in Vietnamese: “This swallow has flown far and wide but now she has finally found her true nest in Carmel where she will fold her wings and nestle with her Lord, praying for the salvation of souls.”

She said that she had “over-whelming gratitude” when she made her solemn profession on the feast day of St John of the Cross.

As well as the two bishops and 10 concelebrating priests, almost her whole family and some close friends from the mainland were able to be present as Tasmania’s borders had reopened just in time.

“It was almost miraculous, a touch of God’s tender love for me,” Sr Thérèse-Marie én said.

Her solemn profession was a day of grace for the whole of her community, said Prioress Mother Teresa Benedicta.

“It is a gift of new life grafted into the existing community, and a sign of hope for the future, that another young woman who could have had a successful life and career using her many talents in the world has chosen to give those gifts back to God for Him to use as He wills at the service of the Church in Tasmania,” the Prioress said.

“It is a great and much-needed witness to the peace and joy that a person experiences when they give their life totally to Christ, a peace and joy that one has to experience to understand its full depth and intensity.”

That joy is something Sr Thérèse-Marie én noted when reflecting on making her solemn profession.

Quoting Song of Songs, she said: “Now I can say with joy and gratitude in my heart ‘My Beloved is mine and I am His’ … forever.”

Article republished with permission from the Hobart Archdiocese.



The Carmelite convent in Launceston remains strong in its links with South Australia.

More than 70 years after the first nuns were sent from the Glen Osmond Carmelite monastery in 1948 to establish a new foundation in Tasmania, there are still connections binding it to the Adelaide and Port Pirie dioceses.

Sister Mary of the Holy Ghost, now in her 90s, is the last surviving pioneer of the Adelaide group.

Her brother was the very well-known Fr Vincent Regan of Adelaide.

There are two blood sisters in the enclosed community, Sr Elijah Mary of Mt Carmel and Sr Anne-Marie of the Passion. Both were practising pharmacists in Adelaide before they entered, as was their brother, Fr Hau Le, who was ordained a priest for the Port Pirie Diocese in 2018.

Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ ordained Fr Hau to the diaconate in the Carmelite chapel in Launceston in 2017 so that his two sisters along with the other nuns could witness and share in the event from behind the enclosure.

Sr Thérèse-Marie én of the Eucharist was a student at Saint Ignatius’ College, Adelaide, along with her brothers and sisters. The headmaster was the now Bishop O’Kelly who went with her family to attend her final profession as a Carmelite nun.


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