May 21, 2019, St. Louis, Missouri – For about a year, Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, has been engaged in a ministry that has far-reaching consequences for Dominican Sisters based in the United States. She serves as Co-Director of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN), along with Dominican Sister of Peace Cathy Arnold, OP, in helping the formation of Dominican novices.
Since August, Sisters Lorraine and Cathy have lived in the novitiate in St. Louis with two novices: Sister Rolande Kahindo Pendeza, of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, and Sister Phuong Vu, of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
When women first enter the Adrian Dominican Congregation, they are considered candidates or postulants and introduced to the life of the community. When they are approved to become novices, they enter into a two-year preparation for full participation in the life of the community.
“I feel called to be part of this [discernment process],” Sister Lorraine said. “I feel that God is saying, ‘There’s something at work here that is leading to the future that we might not yet fully see.’”
As directors, Sisters Lorraine and Cathy conduct a structured program to help the novices in their discernment process through their canonical novitiate year, centered on personal and spiritual growth in preparation for vowed commitment. The novices and directors live together in the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate building.
The schedule includes a half day of ministry, courses on preaching and the vowed life at Aquinas Institute of Theology; classes at the novitiate on the Dominican life, community living, and communication skills; the weekly intercommunity novitiate, in which novices from nine congregations in the St. Louis area gather weekly for presentations on spirituality, psychology, and a number of issues and the opportunity to get to know one another; and a day of reflection every Friday.
In addition, the novices participate in community meetings, including monthly facilitated meetings, and participate in monthly panel discussions on one of the four pillars of Dominican life – prayer, study, community, and ministry – or one of the vows.
During the spring semester, the novices also participate in a Dominican life Seminar on Tuesdays and Thursdays, receiving various inputs on religious life and Dominican life in particular, Sister Lorraine said.
The novices also experience community living with each other and the two directors. “All four of us take turns leading prayer, preaching on Sunday evening, and cooking,” Sister Lorraine said. “We divide up the cleaning of the house – all of that is shared in community.”
In addition, Sisters Lorraine and Cathy each serve as director for one of the two novices, walking with their respective novice and helping her in her discernment of the vowed Dominican life. The two directors also work together to prepare the input sessions for the novices.
The directors also participate in peer supervision. “Cathy and I have different groups with five other novice directors, and we share our experiences.”
The two directors have been formation directors for their respective congregations, and both attended the CDN as novices. “The biggest difference is I was in a group of 12 novices,” Sister Lorraine said. “Now there are two. Because we’re smaller, the presence of the directors is really more critical to form vibrant community. We end up doing more socializing and fun activities together.”
The diversity of cultures and backgrounds has also made community life a rich experience this year, Sister Lorraine said. Sister Rolande is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sister Phuong from Vietnam. “I continue to learn the richness of different ways of doing things and perceiving things, especially related to culture, but also personality,” Sister Lorraine said.
Sister Lorraine has also been enriched by her ministry with the novices. “When you walk with people, it always helps you to deepen your own vocation,” she said. “I’ve grown deeper in my appreciation of the vows and community life.”
Through her work with the CDN Board, Sister Lorraine said, she has come to feel “more a part of the larger Dominican family. This is an effort of the Dominican family, so I feel that perspective is even more present in my mind as I look to the future of our life.”
Sister Lorraine noted that fewer novices have been attending the CDN in later years, but that her role is still important. “In prayer I always get the message, ‘This is what I’m asking of you and it’s important.’ It’s about something bigger than the novitiate year. I get a sense that it’s about our future – it’s about our Dominican future.”
Sister Lorraine had some advice for others who might consider a ministry such as hers. “Ask yourself if you find joy in walking with people as they discern, because that’s the primary purpose – walking with women who are discerning this call. And make sure you feel a passion for our life, for our charism and for our vowed life, so you can transmit that passion.”
March 28, 2019, Cincinnati, Ohio – Sister Ann Ryan, OP, spends her days accompanying the residents of Bayley Village through the “sacred journey” of their lives. Technically retired, she receives a stipend for “work of the heart” that she considers a privilege.
Bayley Village – made up of more than 80 cottages for independent seniors – is the independent living component of Bayley, a continuum of care for seniors that also includes assisted living apartments, memory care, and nursing care facilities. Bayley is sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati.
Sister Ann began at Bayley in 1999 to serve as the Director of Pastoral Care for the seniors who required at least some care. She served in that position for almost 15 years. “I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I had such a good team of chaplains to work with.”
Three months after her retirement, Sister Ann was asked to minister in the Bayley Village – to extend Bayley’s pastoral care to all residents. “I feel privileged to be part of their lives, to touch their lives in some way,” Sister Ann said. “You never know what you’ll be called on to do.”
Sister Ann’s ministry can involve anything from visiting new residents to taking Communion to those who can’t get out of their cottages, listening to residents as they share their challenges and difficulties, and helping residents prepare for their funerals. She also, when asked, continues to conduct a quarterly workshop on the mission of Bayley for nurses aides.
“Whatever need there is, they call upon me,” Sister Ann said. When asked how she knows where to go or who to serve, she says, “The Spirit leads me. Sometimes somebody is having a hard time and I listen – it brings light to our spirit when somebody listens to us because it says, ‘I care about you.’”
Sister Ann finds that the residents of Bayley Village are also caring people who form a community. They bring cookies to welcome new neighbors. The women – who are the predominate residents of Bayley Village – gather monthly for a luncheon. Residents often come two hours early for Saturday Mass so they can spend time together.
Along with the camaraderie, Sister Ann also sees pain in the residents, who are sometimes bothered by slight lapses of memory, illness, or pain. “Sometime they become angry or sad,” she said. “I try to tell them that the spirit within can hold us together – or it can break us through loneliness.”
Sometimes the challenges that seniors at Bayley Village endure can draw them together. Sister Ann recalled the residents’ reaction when a woman at Bayley died by suicide. “It taught a lesson to all of us to bring the spirit of life to one another, to care about one another and to bring compassion to one another.”
“You have to have a heart of courage to be elderly today, to be patient with yourself,” Sister Ann said. “They try to be gentle in our world because they see so much stress. It’s the courage of heart and soul that helps you through these difficult days.” She gave the example of a resident who had had polio since his youth and was now in a wheelchair. “He has such a spirit of joy and trust,” Sister Ann said. “His wife also has a spirit of love and giving to be with him every day. They’ve helped one another through those years of marriage.”
Sister Ann sees her ministry with the elderly as a “sacred journey as I listen to the events and experiences in their lives and hear sometimes the joy, the pain, the anxieties and fears of life as we enter into another phase of our lives. I think transition continues until we reach our final resting place and each transition brings fears, anxieties, and joys in our lives.”
Family members and employees have also reached out to Sister Ann. “Sometimes families might call because Mom doesn’t want to go to the health care facility and she really needs some help,” she said. “They call me because they need someone to talk to.” She remembers the son of one of the residents calling from California to talk about the transition he’s going through with divorce and an estranged daughter, and a staff member in her 50s whose husband died in an accident.
Sister Ann said her ministry at Bayley has taught and inspired her. “I’ve learned that we just have to learn to trust that God does take care of us,” though maybe not always the way we want, she said.
Sister Ann has some advice for anyone who is considering the field of pastoral ministry of any kind. “It’s so important to be authentic – to be yourself and to be able to walk with the people that you serve,” she said. “You have to like people, enjoy people, bring your heart with you and open with compassion.” She added that a sense of humor is also important.
Recalling Jesus’ ministry of compassionate healing, she said, “I feel sometimes I help in that healing ministry by listening to their hearts, holding their hands, just listening to them. Pastoral ministry has to be something you want to do to bring that spirit of compassion and joy to people.”
November 27, 2018, Atlanta, Georgia – Like many lay people and women religious of today, Sister Mary Margaret Priniski is balancing her time between two ministries. While maintaining her work as Project Coordinator for the Catholic Committee of the South, Sister Mary has also taken on the role of Interim Director for the Aquinas Center at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
Sister Mary, who has ministered the past 38 years as a volunteer with the Catholic Community of the South, a network of clergy and laity founded in 1939 to minister in “solidarity with those on the margins.” She has been on staff since 2016 as project coordinator for Gathering for Mission, which “engages church leadership with the voice and vision of Pope Francis through a process of dialogue.”
While being involved in such far-reaching projects, Sister Mary is also learning a new ministry at the Aquinas Center. “I’ve been on the Board off and on since 2010,” she explained, and is now its interim director. With the resignation of the previous director in July 2018, Sister Mary was asked to fill in as interim director until the Board decided which direction to take the center.
The Aquinas Center serves as the “Catholic presence” within Emory’s School of Theology. While Emory is Methodist based, Sister Mary explained, the university also has Baptist and Anglican Studies Programs – and now a Catholic Studies Program.
Much of what the Aquinas Center does on the Emory Campus is to “arrange for speakers of renown” to come to campus and speak to the students – and often to the local parishes, Sister Mary said. Upcoming talks in December 2018 and January 2019 focus on issues such as end-of-life decisions, the immigration and refugee crisis in Africa, and an aesthetic of the common good. The Aquinas Center also has launched a fundraising campaign for the St. Catherine of Siena Lecture Series to “bring to the fore the voices of women theologians.”
Sister Mary recently worked with an ad hoc committee to plan a week of celebration at the time of the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
Sister Mary’s role is to contact speakers and arrange for them to addresses audiences at Emory or nearby areas. Alice Cameron, program coordinator, “does all of the behind-the-scenes work,” such as making sure that rooms are reserved for the talks and making arrangements for where the speakers will stay during their visit, Sister Mary explained.
“We’ve been given an endowment to do some work to bring together Greek Orthodox and Catholic communities,” Sister Mary said. She has helped to form a committee from both communities to plan the program.
In addition, Sister Mary is helping to plan for Aquinas Day, a celebration of the great Dominican theologian and scholar. Aquinas Day features a prayer service with a homily by a guest speaker – this year, Dr. Nichole Flores, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.
Sister Mary also works closely with two tenured professors at Emory’s Catholic Studies Program. “The Catholic Studies Program is new this year,” she said. “The Candler School of Theology has 11 Catholics in the theology program, out of more than 400 students. Emory hopes that having a Catholic Studies Program will attract more Catholic students.”
While working in all those areas can be demanding, “it’s been a lot of fun,” Sister Mary said. “You really need to plan ahead to get speakers – almost a couple of years ahead of time. But you can’t stop what you’re doing today. You have to keep a lot of things in the air at the same time, and I’ve learned that I can do that.”
She also learned a valuable lesson years ago from the executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, who responded to suggestions with a willingness to try new things. “Some people’s first response is, ‘That’ll never work,’” Sister Mary said. “I’ve learned, ‘Sure, we can try it out.’ I’d rather make a mistake than not do anything.”
Sister Mary said one of her biggest challenges is juggling her ministry at the Catholic Community of the South and at Aquinas Center. “Part of the challenge is to keep the two different hats going on at the same time,” she said. “I don’t want to let either one of them slide through the cracks.”
So far, her ministries appear to be coalescing well. Sister Mary feels that her work on the Catholic Community of the South – and all of her previous ministries with nonprofit organizations – has helped prepare her for her ministry at the Aquinas Center. “I work with bishops and the clergy” at Catholic Community of the South,” she said. “It’s helpful to have that background. A lot in my life has prepared me for this – you build on what you’ve learned from all your other ministries.”
Sister Mary cherishes the varied relationships she’s formed at Aquinas Center, the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and the Catholic Committee of the South. “It’s all about relationships,” she said. “[Good relationships] make everything else so much easier.”