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Homily by Bishop Edward Malesic to Honor our Akron Sisters

June 18, 2024

Dear Sisters, Father Rosing, Dominican associates, volunteers, school leaders, community members, and friends of Our Lady of the Elms and the Dominican Sisters of Peace,

We come together today in a spirit of grace and thanksgiving to celebrate the remarkable, rich history of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, a community dedicated to the Dominican charisms of prayer, study, community and service, whose love of God is reflected deeply through their service to God's people. We also rejoice in a special way for the amazing, positive difference the ministry of the sisters. Sisters, your wonderful Dominican community has positively impacted the lives of thousands upon thousands of young and old throughout Akron and surrounding communities for over one-hundred years.

The announcement in early February was difficult to hear. It was equally difficult to accept the sunset of your presence here in Akron. Upon hearing the news, our hearts and minds were saddened and immediately turned to Our Lady of the Elms School, its students and staff, and its extraordinary Catholic educational tradition. Sisters, you have provided girls with an outstanding student-centered education. Thankfully, we are overjoyed in the knowledge that while the Sisters are departing, the school is thriving, and will continue to build on the foundation set in place by the Sisters so many years ago. Sisters, what you have planted will continue to live and grow in the lives of more young women who will be sent into our world as faithful disciples and good citizens.

I offer my sincere thanks for the invitation to be with you here today to celebrate Holy Mass on this somber occasion, yet one which also evokes a deep sense of joy and lasting accomplishment as we give thanks to God for what has been. Every Mass in an act of giving thanks. And that must be at the heart of what we are doing here today. We give thanks for what has been, and trust in God for what will be.

You who are Dominican Sisters of Peace find your joy in your daily walk with God and with your community, in the work you do for us, God's people, and in your companions who share your time and talent in fulfilling the Dominican tradition of Christian discipleship. No doubt this legacy of love and achievement will remain in our hearts forever. Sisters, you will continue inspire us, and, we know, pray for us. Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will do.

There is so much for which we can be thankful, most especially for the vision, courage, and resilience of the Dominican Sisters of Peace whose dedication to our community over the years has improved so many lives. The story of the Dominican Sisters began in the late nineteenth century as a small group of Sisters who came to Ohio from New Jersey to teach in small towns and country schools. Their work expanded and their numbers grew until they formed a new Dominican congregation here in Akron. It is interesting to note that their motherhouse - Our Lady of the Elms - was named in part for the beauty of the surroundings here. And even today, this stunning campus still exudes a sense of holiness and peace.

No doubt over the years, the Sisters faced many extraordinary circumstances like that of the need for expansion and the eventual recognition that it was better to gather all Dominican women together as you all share an ancient heritage, the same spirituality, and the same imperative to pray, to serve, and to preach the Gospel. And your myriad ministries were diverse and critical to our communities - You staffed the schools here at the Elms, St. Bernard elementary, Sacred Heart Academy, St. Paul elementary and schools in Barberton, Doylestown, Ravenna, Wooster, and Alliance. You cared for the sick and aged at St. Edward, helped shape the young through campus ministry at the University of Akron, helped staff the Diocesan Mission Team in El Salvador, and cared for the special education needs of the neurologically challenged. Not only that but you provided a deeply faithful, calming presence to the greater community through the Great Depression and the Second World War, among other challenging times roiling our diocese and our nation over the years.

My dear Sisters, you have lived here at Our Lady of the Elms for over a century. Years ago, these hallowed halls housed nearly eighty sisters. Today, less than 20 remain and all will have departed for Columbus by this December. I lived in Columbus as a seminarian for six years It's not a bad place, but we will miss you here in Akron and the Diocese of Cleveland.

As your school president, Deborah Farquhar Jones, said in February, "Difficult as this moment is, we embrace this time of change as a moment of grace, and we offer our thoughts and prayers to the Sisters during this time of transition." Indeed, we do. We can also draw perspective and strength from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes which reminds us that while there is certain sadness that often comes with major changes, "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens." Now is the time that God has appointed for us. God's grace is always in Season, even in the moves he asks us to make.

It is also fitting that our first reading today from the Old Testament Second Book of Kings shares with us the story of Elisha who succeeds the prophet Elijah who is taken up into God's presence. As Elijah departs for heaven, he leaves behind his mantle, a sign of the passing of his authority on to Elisha as he then went home to be with God, the God with whom he lived his life here on earth. It is interesting that the first book of Kings describes the great public events of Elijah's life as a prophet, the miracles, the wonders, the calling of a nation back to God. That was his public side. The other side of Elijah's life was a deep, intense relationship with God that inspired his public actions and made union with God his real home.

Just like Elijah, it is that deep, intense relationship with God which inspires the Dominican Sisters of Peace to carry out their mission of educating children, caring for the sick, ministering to the poor and marginalized, preaching the love of God through works of mercy as their congregation's motherhouse served as a spiritual center in the community. Like Elijah, the Sisters leave behind their mantle, their cloak of goodness, and their legacy of caring, kindness and compassion as they depart from here. Sisters, may God bless you always for establishing such a heritage of hope in our community.
Together we pray that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Elms, may the Lord grant the Dominican Sisters of Peace of Akron every grace and blessing. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold each of you in the palm of His hand.

As we go forth from this place today, we do so with joy and a profound sense of accomplishment for what has been. And we look to the future, filled with hope, for the lives this fine community of Sisters has touched, grounded in the knowledge that the legacy of the Dominican Sisters of Peace will live on for generations to come through the continuing mission and future growth of Our Lady of the Elms School. And your spirit, which was given to so many people here, will be carried out in the lasting legacy of your community.

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