March 29, 2017, Nassau, Bahamas – Sisters Anne Liam Lees, OP, and Pat Erickson, OP, recently took part in a Mass of Thanksgiving marking the 60th anniversary of Aquinas College in Nassau, where they once taught. They were among 31 Adrian Dominican Sisters who taught at Aquinas over the years.
The Mass – which also marked the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas – was a highlight of the school’s celebration. The theme of the anniversary was “Ever the Flame of Faith.”
“It was a thrill,” Sister Anne Liam recalled. “I couldn’t help smiling, just to be there.”
Five Adrian Dominican Sisters arrived in Nassau in 1956 at the invitation of Bishop Paul Leonard Hagarty, OSB. In 1957, they opened Aquinas College, which started out as a teacher training program for lay teachers and Bahamian Sisters, the Benedictine Sisters of Blessed Martin Convent. The school operated under the principles of “goodness, discipline, and knowledge.”
Over the years, the school has changed its focus and now serves about 500 students – 95 percent of them Bahamians. The equivalent of a U.S. high school, Aquinas offers vocational and technical programs, along with academic, college-preparation programs. In recent years, along with the national Bahamian exams for the general education course or for college-preparation, Aquinas students can now take SAT and Advanced Placement exams.
Aquinas graduates have excelled in fields such as education, religion, banking, administration, sports, music, drama and business.
Sister Anne Liam – who arrived at Aquinas in 1959 and taught there for four years – recalled an earlier time at Aquinas, when students received the education they needed to work in the business world. Sister Jean Patricia McGowan, OP – one of the five Adrian Dominican Sisters to found Aquinas – approached a banker to ask why none of the Bahamians worked in the banks, and was told that they did not have the training.
“She asked if they would be hired if they received the training, and the banker said yes,” Sister Anne Liam recalled. “The school provided the training, and two women from Aquinas College were the first Bahamians to work in the banks.”
Sister Anne Liam also recalled a time when Aquinas College struggled financially and raised money through such means as raffles. “I was most impressed by the spirit which the school had, which they still have,” she said. “It’s the spirit of the school that’s outstanding, the spirit of the students and faculty.”
Reminiscing about the groundwork that the Adrian Dominican Sisters laid and the continuing excellence of the school, Sister Anne Liam said, “We planted the seed and they have the harvest. … We have every reason to be proud of our involvement with Aquinas College. Aquinas has developed into a resilient community.”
The Mass of Thanksgiving was a highlight of Aquinas College’s 60th anniversary celebration.