Four women with ties to the archdiocese recently took vows as Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tenn. Within this community of 284 sisters, 16 have Minnesota roots.
Taking first vows were:
- Dominican Sister Josemaria Pence, a former parishioner of St. Helena in Minneapolis; and
- Dominican Sister Ann Dominic Mahowald, a former parishioner of All Saints in Lakeville.
Bishop Lee Pichè was the main celebrant at the Mass for the Rite of First Religious Profession celebrated July 28. Both women attend Aquinas College in Nashville in preparation for their teaching apostolate.
In addition, nine women professed their perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on July 25. Included in this profession were:
- Dominican Sister Sophia Lopez, who currently teaches at St. Croix School, Stillwater; and
- Dominican Sister Karol Marie Zachman, a former member of St. Michael in St. Michael.
Dedication to education
The charism of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation focuses on four major areas: contemplative focus, active apostolate, strong community life and love of the church.
“Responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, St. Dominic founded the Dominican Order for preaching and the salvation of souls,” said Dominican Sister Peter Marie, vocations director for the St. Cecilia Motherhouse.
“Our community carries out this mission through a rich prayer life and the apostolate of teaching,”?she said. “We teach and administer in grade schools, high schools, and colleges in the United States, as well as in Vancouver, Canada, Australia and Rome. As Dominicans we are called ‘to contemplate, and to give to others the fruits our contemplation.’ Therefore, we must first be women of deep prayer, and then we can go out and preach Christ to our students.”
Nicknamed the Nashville Dominicans, the community has seen an upturn in numbers. They currently have 95 women in formation, with 21 postulants this year alone.
“We have been blessed in our community with the great gift of vocations,” said Sister Peter Marie. “They are talented and well-educated young women from various backgrounds.
“However, they all have in common a desire to give their lives in service to the church,” she said. “Young people are generously responding to the Lord’s call to give everything. They are seeking a life that is in many respects counter-cultural.
Young women are drawn to our community by the gentle invitation of the Lord, and find here an authentic religious life that is joyfully lived in the heart of the church.”
On the rise
The congregation has experienced a surprising trend over the last 15 years, steadily adding at least 15 women each year while the national trend shows a continued decline of overall sisters in religious life in the U.S. In 2005, the Center for
Applied Research in the Apostolate reported 68,634 religious sisters compared to the current 2012 study showing 54,018.
In addition, the median age of the congregation is 36 years old and 87 percent of the community is under the age of 65. Part of the increase is due to an influx of young women from Australia.
“As in the United States, our sisters missioned in Australia have witnessed an intense desire in the hearts of young people to hold back nothing when it comes to responding to the Lord’s call,” said Sister Peter Marie.
“They are seeking to live a consecrated life that lays their gifts and talents at the service of the church for the salvation of souls. It is evidence of the ever newness and timeliness of St. Dominic’s mission.”