Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Did you watch the “Graduate Together: High School Class of 2020 Commencement” broadcast?

If you didn’t, you missed some inspiring moments. If you did, I hope you received some messages of hope and empowerment – I know I did!

Some of those messages are worth repeating because their relevance extends beyond the targeted audience of 2020 high school graduates to each of us.

LeBron James, philanthropist and NBA great, challenged students to recommit themselves to their communities, saying “building your community changes the world.”

Hmmm … I wonder what our world would look like if we worked together to rebuild our communities for the common good?

Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize laureate and Pakistani activist, declared that “The class of 2020 won’t be defined by what we lost to this virus but by how we responded to it.”

Hmmm … I wonder what our world will look like when we emerge on the other side of this pandemic?

President Barack Obama offered three pieces of advice: Don’t be afraid. Do what you think is right. Build a community. He encouraged students to “… be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights. Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path.”

Hmmm … I wonder what our world would look like if we were alive to each other’s struggle, if we stood up for the rights of others, if we left behind divisive ways?

What are you willing to do to set the world on a different path?

As we move forward, into the future, we all have the power to effect positive change. Each one of us can make a difference. Together we can change the world!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Be Who You Are Meant to Be

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” I find these words from Saint Catherine of Siena to be comforting, inviting, and challenging.  While it is comforting to rest in the belief that God, who is the source of my Being, accepts and loves me unconditionally, I find this journey of self-discovery is hard work.  What I find challenging is abandoning who I think I should be or who others want me to be. This journey of self-discovery, of becoming who I am meant to be, is a faith journey, a journey of courage, of letting go of fears, and being open to new revelations, new experiences that bring me to a greater appreciation of this life, living it with passion and purpose as God’s beloved.

Discovering who we are is a profound and sacred journey, a journey that unfolds and changes over time.  Our search to answer “Who am I?” is connected to the deeper question of “Who is God?” As David Benner notes in The Gift of Being Yourself, “both God and self are most fully known in relationship to each other.” He explains that “there is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God. Hence, to know God is to know self and to know self is to know God.  Or, as St. Augustine prayed, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.”

We are continually discovering who we are and who God is. We are not static beings.  We are always changing in one way or another because our experiences—our joys and sorrows– transform us.  We are often at crossroads between choosing one direction or another, one path or another.  Whether we decide to follow a familiar path or an uncertain path, our choices reveal who we are and who we will become.

In the biblical story of Ruth, we see the dilemma of three women—Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah–having to choose which life-altering path to take upon the loss of their husbands soon after moving from Bethlehem to Moab.  Orpah chooses to stay in Moab and do what is expected of her as a woman—to marry again and conform to cultural norms.  Ruth and Naomi, on the other hand, decide to return to an uncertain future in Bethlehem, and opt not to marry and rely on a man to care for them.  These choices put them at odds with their culture, their religion, their country, and their acceptable role in life.

Like Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah, our personal journeys often present us with choices of taking the familiar and safe path, or a new and uncertain path.  At different times in our lives, we may choose one or the other path—what is expected of us or we can break the chains that keep us from being independent and claiming our own voices, our own uniqueness.

Choices do change us and as Joan Chittister, OSB, states in The Story of Ruth, “like Naomi and Ruth we find not only that life has changed but that we have changed.  Then we know with certainty that God is working in our soul.” She also writes that “transformation is the process of coming to wholeness, of growing into the skin of creation in such a way that we become more than we ever thought we could be before we realized that God was our God, too.”

May Ruth, Naomi, and Catherine be your companions and guide you on your journey this day and always.

If you feel God may be calling you to life as a Dominican Sister, give us a call.  We’ll be happy to walk with you on this journey of discovery.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Dominican Sister of Peace Mary Joan Kane

Dominican Sister of Peace Joan Kane

Dominican Sister of Peace Mary Joan Kane died on March 26, 2020, at the Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH. Born in 1928 in Philadelphia, PA, she was one of Anna Harris’ and John Kane’s large family of 10 children. Sr. Joan entered the Congregation in 1949.

Sr. Joan began her service at the Dominican Retreat House in Schenectady, NY. Retreat ministry obviously agreed with her, because she went on to serve at Dominican Retreat Houses in Elkins Park, PA; Albuquerque, NM; Philadelphia, PA, and Dover, MA.

Sr. Joan was generous and sociable to her Sisters and to the many that she served at the Dominican retreats. She was also a good listener, a fine and resourceful cook, and could pull a delicious meal together on a moment’s notice – all important skills for a retreat minister.

In 1992, Sister Joan took a sabbatical and earned a Certificate in Spirituality from the Spiritual Life Center in Dover, MA, in order to better meet the needs of the retreatants she loved so well. While at the St. Catherine House at Elkins Park, she served the Sisters of her community by driving them to appointments and visiting those who were ill or in the hospital.

Sr. Joan also served at St. Alice Convent in Upper Darby, PA, and in Quakertown, PA.

In 2018, Sister Joan entered a ministry of Prayer and Presence at the Congregation’s Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH.

Joan had a great love for her many nieces and nephews and talked about them frequently. She is preceded in death by her parents, John and Anna Harris Kane, her brothers John, Jr., Joseph and Harry, her sisters Catherine Cassidy, Helen Gehringer, Elizabeth Serrierson and Anna O’Connor.  She is survived by her sister, Harriet Malin, and nieces and nephews.

Memorial Services and burial in Springfield, PA will take place at a later date.  Funeral arrangements are by Egan-Ryan Funeral Home.  Memorial gifts in Sr. Joan’s memory may be sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr.

To donate in Sr. Joan’s memory, please click here.

To view or to print a PDF copy of Sr. Joan Kane’s memorial, please click here. 


Posted in News, Obituaries

A Look Back at our Foremothers During the Spanish Flu in 1918

The Dominican Sisters of Peace was founded in 2009 through a union of seven Dominican Congregations: the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine, KY; Dominican Sisters of Akron, OH; Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs, Columbus, OH; Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, KS; Dominican Sisters of Oxford, MI; Dominican Sisters of St. Mary’s, New Orleans and the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic, New Orleans, LA. In 2012, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci merged with the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

Our founding Congregations have a long history, with the first, the Kentucky Dominicans of St. Catharine, founded in 1822. Given that long history, it seemed appropriate that we take a look back at how our ancestors responded to the Spanish Flu of 1918. In all, five of our founding congregations: the Kentucky Dominicans of St. Catharine; St. Mary of the Springs, OH (founded 1830); St. Mary’s New Orleans (founded 1860); St. Catherine de’Ricci (founded 1880); and Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, KS (founded 1902), were active during that tragic time in our history. Four of those congregations chronicled their experience with the 2018 epidemic.

Dominican Sisters Respond to the Spanish Influenza Epidemic

Kentucky – Founded 1822
Excerpted from Signadou, A History of the Kentucky Dominican Sisters,
by Sr. Paschala Noonan, OP

School had no sooner started than the Spanish influenza struck. In McCook, as elsewhere, schools, churches, places of public entertainment were closed.  Two of the sisters were stricken but the others went to the homes of those incapacitated by the disease. In an area predominantly Protestant, people grew accustomed to seeing the sisters ministering to all, regardless of religion. Because of their dedication and kindness, anti-Catholic prejudice gradually lessened.

A vintage postcard image of the St.Catharine, KY, Motherhouse.

The disease raged across America and assumed pandemic proportions as it blitzed through Europe and Asia. So virulent was the epidemic that death was not uncommon. It was estimated that the mortality rate exceeded the casualties of the War. Twenty million died worldwide, 548,000 in the United States.

Once again, the sisters left the classroom to care for the sick, in Spalding, Nebraska, 14 of the Academy resident students became ill but under the constant care of Sr. M. Paul Philbin, they were nursed back to health.

In Kentucky, Fr. Regis Barrett, chaplain at Camp Zachary Taylor, pleaded for sisters to help at the camp where over 25% of 50,000 soldiers were sick. Twelve Dominican Sisters from Holy Rosary, Louisville, and from the Motherhouse joined sisters of various communities to assume nursing duties.

One of the Knights of Columbus buildings was converted into a dormitory for the sisters. They divided the work into day and night shifts, often working more than 12 hours because each had a patient load of 100 or more, desperately ill with fever, dysentery and vomiting. Some of the men, back from overseas, had been gassed or wounded.  When any of the sisters became ill, they were sent back to their own convents.

At St. Catharine, R. Barrett spoke to the students and faculty saying, “high tribute to the zeal of the Dominican Sisters in their labors among the influenza victims at the camp and in the mountain districts of Eastern Kentucky. Srs. Vallina Young, Vincentia Maguire, Louis Bertrand Lancaster, Laetitia Keen and Marietta Kilgannon went to Wheelwright, Van Lear, Wayland and Auxier.  They went from house to house nursing the sick, irrespective of creed or nationality. The mountaineers had never before had any contact with Catholics, much less with Catholic sisters. Having heard only anti-Catholic stories from their preachers, they were amazed that Roman Catholic sisters were not the embodiment of evil or the anti-Christ. The quiet labors of the sisters brought a change of vision in the plague-stricken Big Sandy and Elkhorn camps in Eastern Kentucky.

In Massachusetts, when the flu broke out at Camp Devens, the sisters from St. Michael, Lowell, nursed the victims at the camp as well as their own parishioners.

September was a short month in school as the epidemic broke out. All the schools of the city were obliged to close so dreadful was the sickness….Pitiful sights were witnessed by every sister here as each one joyfully went day after day to care of the sick and in some cases the dying….In all, the homes we visited were about four hundred and sixty, sometimes making two or three trips a day wherever we thought we could give a little helping hand or speak encouraging words to helpless victims of the flu.

As the epidemic abated, the sisters resumed teaching in good health and ready to return to the sick at any time if needed.

St. Mary of the Springs – Founded 1830 

Written by Sr. Estelle Casalandra, OP

Soon after the Sisters had gone to their respective assignments in August 1917, Mother Miriam began a visitation of the houses of the congregation.  Because of its entrance into World War I in April, the nation was experiencing something of the anxiety and inconvenience of wartime. By fall American troops were in European trenches; and food, fuel, and transportation were under government control. Mother Miriam found that many of the Sisters had brothers or other close relatives in the conflict, but she encouraged all to make the necessary sacrifices generously. By the end of her visitation in December, however, Mother Miriam was to begin to know a more immediate trial in the sickness and death of many of the Sisters during 1918, a year to be remembered more for its deaths from influenza than its casualties of war. Even apart from the flu, as the disease was popularly called, there were a number of deaths from other causes among the Sisters.

1914 image of Saint Mary of the Springs

Before Christmas, 1917, death had claimed Sister Mary Peter Moran and Sister Aloysius Tardeval, both victims of influenza. On February 12, 1918, Sister Josephine Gordon was taken to the hospital for an operation. On making the incision the surgeon realized that an operation would be useless as the cancer had developed too far. Sister was brought home, where after intense suffering she died on May 2. Several weeks after the funeral, the General Council elected Sister Frederica Kearney to replace her as fourth councilor and secretary-general. Meanwhile, two other Sisters had preceded Sister Josephine in death. Sister Mary Clement McKee in March and Sister Sybillina McHugh in April. The next death, that of Sister Elizabeth Lawler, occurred in July.

On Rosary Sunday in 1918, Mother Miriam received word from St. Thomas Convent, Braddock, that Sister Adrian Healy had been taken to Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA. Mother and Sister Hilda McGannon went to Braddock the following morning. On reaching St. Thomas Convent, they found five other Sisters stricken with influenza: Sisters Anacletus Oger, Grace Beaulao, Victoria Leonard, Clotilde Dougherty, and Immaculata Ulsheimer. Within eight days three Sisters of the St. Thomas community died – Sister Adrian on October 13, Sister Clotilde on October 25, and Sister Victoria on October 21. The remains of each were brought to St. Mary of the Springs and rested in the Holy Hall until time for burial.

The epidemic continued to spread in all the houses of the congregation. Some of the Sisters were seriously ill for weeks before they recovered. The distress of many of the Sisters was increased by news of illness and death in their immediate families. By Christmas, 1918, five other Sisters had died, three from influenza and two from other causes.

Shortly after three o’clock on the morning of October 21, the Sisters sleeping in the cloister rooms were awakened by the cries of Sister Ursula Brehl, who had retired the previous night seemingly in good health. When they reached her bedside, she was already in her death agony. Father Pendergast was called and he arrived in time to give her absolution and Extreme Unction. Within a half-hour she was dead. At ten o’clock the next morning, a telegram announcing the death of Sister Victoria reached the motherhouse. The remains of Sisters Ursula and Victoria lay side by side in the Holy Hall after the body of the latter was returned from Braddock. Theirs was the first double funeral in the congregation. On October 24 Sister Mary Austine Rush died of influenza-pneumonia at St. Vincent Ferrer Convent. Her remains were brought to St. Mary of the Springs accompanied by Sister Atonia Healy, Sister Mary Urban Wolpert, and Father Joseph Reginald Heffernan, prior of St. Vincent Ferrer’s. On November 29, Sister Mary Edwin Magruder died at Holy Name Convent, Steubenville. Sister Mary Edwin had had an operation for appendicitis in Columbus but after a convalescence of several weeks had returned to Steubenville on November 1. A few weeks after her return to her mission, she had contracted influenza. Her good and kind father, Dr. Magruder, had visited Sister Mary Edwin in Steubenville, and on his return to Columbus had called Mother Miriam to tell her that he was much encouraged as Sister was better. The following morning, Mother Miriam had to call him to announce the death of his daughter, who was only twenty years old. In later years, Mother Miriam commented that this announcement had been one of the hardest things she had to do in her life.

In December 1918, the epidemic struck the motherhouse. As a preventive measure, the place had been quarantined from October 7 to November 18, during which time no visitors had been received and no pupils had been allowed to go home. Four days later, however, the pupils had been permitted to go to their homes for the Thanksgiving weekend. A few days after their return to St. Mary’s, some of the pupils began to show symptoms of influenza, and by Friday, December 6, twenty-three of them were seriously ill. These were taken care of by Sisters Anselma Basler, Sabina Magruder, and Francis Borgia Gerber until they themselves contracted the disease. Then Sister Evarista Gall and Catherine Madden were called home from St. Francis School, Columbus, to take care of the sick girls. A number of the professed Sisters and seventeen in the novitiate also contracted the disease. There was a total of forty-five cases. In the midst of this epidemic, on December 11, Sister Mary Thomas Scanlan, who had been an invalid in the infirmary for several months, died.

In the death of Sister Mary Thomas, the congregation lost one of its most valuable members. Before entering St. Mary of the Springs, she had been a successful teacher in the public schools of New York City. Sister Mary Thomas was professed on May 22, 1873, under Mother Rose Lynch, and almost from the time of her profession, she began to hold one responsible position after another.

She possessed a lovable personality and a deep but unostentatious piety. In the days when Holy Communion was permitted to the community three times a week, Sister Mary Thomas was one of the very few who received daily. In the fall of 1918, she was obliged to remain in the infirmary. She only left it to spend long hours before the Blessed Sacrament in chapel, to which she went in a wheelchair. On the night before she died. Father Pendergast spent his time between praying for Sister at her bedside and visiting the chapel. Bishop Hartley presided at the funeral of Sister Mary Thomas as he said he wanted to give all possible honor and testimony to her extraordinary character. His admiration was further expressed in an oil painting of her which he had done in Rome during his visit there shortly after her death. The painting now hangs in the front parlor at the motherhouse.

Between the funeral of Sister Mary Thomas on December 18 and Christmas, there were two more deaths at St. Mary of the Springs:  Sister Mary James Moynagh, who died from influenza on December 20, and Sister Servatius Bradley, December 23. Both were Novices and had been professed in articulo mortis.

The Christmas of 1918 was a sad one for the motherhouse community. The funeral of Sister Servatius took place on Christmas Eve; and although Father Pendergast sang the usual midnight Mass, there were only three Sisters to sing in the choir, As a Christmas gift, Bishop Hartley had sent the large statue of Our Lady of Peace, which now graces the colonial room in Sansbury Hall.

Two days after Christmas, on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, Sister Mary John McGowan, a professed Sister, died from influenza. She was buried the next day, the feast of Holy Innocents, at two o’clock in the afternoon.

On December 29 Bishop Hartley came to St. Mary’s for the annual drawing of the New Year cards, but the usual joyful occasion was clouded by the critical illness of two of the novices. As both were expected to die that night, Father Pendergast and Mother Miriam stayed with them while the good Bishop tried to cheer the other Sisters in the community room. He later visited the sick and gave each a blessing. One of the novices recovered, but the other, Sister Many Samuel Jones, died about noon on December 31, having already been professed in articulo mortis. Her funeral was held on New Year’s Day.

As soon as the girls were better, Sisters Evarista and Catherine went to the novitiate to help Sister Hildegarde to care for the novices. There were so few novices able to perform their customary duties that the professed Sisters had to substitute. Sisters Jerome Gerber and Alice O’Sullivan were versiclarians, and Sisters Louise Wallace and Raphael McNamara were readers in the refectory. The last victim of this first epidemic was Sister Ruth Grigsby who died in Coshocton on January 6, 1919. She had been professed only one year. Her remains were brought to St. Mary of the Springs, and the funeral took place the following morning. As the epidemic seemed to have subsided, the academy reopened in January 15. The pupils had been notified that no one was to return who had any symptoms of influenza, or in whose home any person was ill of the disease. All returned except three or four.

In her annals, Mother Miriam speaks of the heroism of the Sisters during the trying days of sickness and death. The annals of many of the other Sisters, however, refer to the indefatigable help of Mother Miriam herself and of Sister Hildegarde, the novice mistress. Sister Imelda, who was fifty years professed, nursed the sick during the day and remained up all night several weeks in succession. Sister Cyprian Fallon, one of the most loved infirmarians the congregation has had, was on duty the greater part of the day and night, though she was ill herself.

During this epidemic, Father Pendergast gave that extraordinary devotion to the sick and dying, which was to remain characteristic of him until his death in 1942. Moreover, every morning after Mass he recited with the Sisters who were able, the litany of the saints for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the sick. A novena of Masses, rosaries, litanies, and Benedictions was made for the same intention for the feast of the Epiphany, 1919. Father Pendergast’s selfless devotion, however, eventually exacted a toll of his never-too-robust constitution, for in January 1920, he himself became so dangerously ill with pneumonia that he was anointed and prepared for death by Father M. S. Welsh, O.P. But happily, for the congregation, Divine Providence spared him for twenty more years.

Bishop Hartley was most sympathetic during the months of hardship and trial. Soon after each death, he visited St. Mary of the Springs to offer his condolence. Bishop Regis Canevin in Pittsburgh was also kind and wrote to Mother Miriam after the death of her Sisters in Braddock. The annals of the congregation for 1918 mention with gratitude the devoted services of Dr. Joseph M. Gallen, uncle of Sister Sebastian Gallen. The self-sacrificing doctor did all in his power to help the Sisters, frequently coming out at night and working for hours at a time.

But it is part of the providence of God that even months of war, sickness, and death are interspersed with days of happy memories; for birthdays and feast days and anniversaries recur on their accustomed dates as if to remind the weary that it is indeed a long road which has no turning. During the first two years of Mother Miriam’s administration, some important anniversaries occurred, the most important being the fiftieth jubilee of the establishment of St. Mary of the Springs in Columbus, and the centenary of St. Joseph’s in Somerset.

From the Annals of St. Mary’s New Orleans  – Founded 1860

Excerpted from Fortune Favors the Bold:  Annals of the New Orleans Dominican Sisters,”  compiled by Sr. Mary Bonaventure Exnicios, OP

Chapter 1x “On Wings of Time”

Although every hour was crowded with the business of their province, the Fathers did not intend that their Sisters should be overlooked, therefore, the first Saturday in May, found the Sisters assembled in the large beautiful parlors of their convent, to welcome and greet their Father General, the seventy-seventh successor to Saint Dominic.

His Paternity spoke in a kind fatherly manner to his dear daughters and autographed a souvenir holy card for each Sister, then imparting the blessings of Saint Dominic, Father Theissling returned to St. Anthony’s rectory – and – the memorable occasion was at an end.

Another gleam of joy penetrated the hearts of the Sisters on the evening of May 16, 1917, when Miss Bernadine Delaney, the charming daughter of Mr. And Mrs. W. S. Delaney, of New Orleans, entered the postulate. However, because of the war drain on the young manhood of America, conventual pessimists conjectured that no other postulant would apply until the war was over as the demand for young women to fill the positions left vacant by American volunteers was becoming so great.

To add to their dismal forebodings, three distinct and deadly waves of influenza spread over the country. The loss of soldiers in camp, and of civilians was terrifyingly increasing when not that infectious disease but one as insidious claimed Sister Mary Helen Voinche as victim.

Possessing a true solid vocation and assured of this by her spiritual director, Miss Juniata Voinche, a young orphan protegee of the Daughters of the Cross, Marksville, Louisiana, applied for admission to the Dominican Community. After a novitiate, during which she was energetic, dutiful, and found capable of great sacrifices, she was admitted to Holy Profession, and missioned first to St. Thomas Aquinas school, Hammond, Louisiana. Apparently in excellent health, she was attacked by typhoid fever and left an easy prey to tuberculosis.

She was a patient sufferer and endeared herself to the nurses at the hospital and edified her Sisters at St. John the Baptist convent, where she died on July 23, 1918.

Notwithstanding the European cataclysm and the influenza pandemic, dauntless characters flamed with zeal for the spread of God’s Kingdom on earth, and this summer of 1918, saw seven courageous young women in the persons of Misses Jeanne Casteix, Jessica Sherlock, Mary Leppert, Laure Pollet, Rita Hayes, Margaret Ray and Florence Englert, of New Orleans, enroll beneath the Dominican standard of Veritas.

Influenza appeared in New Orleans at the end of September and did not wane until December. Schools, theaters, churches, public buildings, etc., were closed.

Even before the pupil-boarders at Dominican college could be sent to their homes, thirty-eight had caught the flu.

Dear old Sister Mary Vincent Comerford was infirmarian. Her knowledge and competence equaled that of any registered nurse. Soon practically every Sister in the house had the flu. One of the most serious cases was that of the little postulant Sister Mary Imelda Pollet. One night her temperature was mounting alarmingly, when Sister Mary Vincent went to her without waiting to put on shoes or stockings. Noticing the bare feet, the sick postulant exclaimed “oh, Sister Mary Vincent, you’ll catch your death!”  The holy old nun replied, “Never mind me, child.” But in the morning, she could not leave her bed. She was the sole victim in St. Mary’s, of the epidemic, dying from sheer exhaustion on October 24, 1918, or rather being cured of all earthly ills by the archangel Raphael, whose feast it was.

The venerable prioress, Mother Borgia, had been prevailed upon to leave the city as soon as the malignancy of the epidemic became evident. A long-distance message to the Hammond bungalow informed her that Sister Mary Vincent was dying. Mother Borgia returned at once, but before the Hammond train arrived Sister Mary Vincent was dead.

Rev. Joseph Raymond Gonzales, O.P., of St. Anthony’s Church, celebrated a low requiem Mass for which no altar boys could be permitted to serve. The funeral was sad and lonely.

Sister Mary Vincent was in her seventy-fourth year of age, and the forty-ninth of her religious profession, in fact very near her fiftieth anniversary, already the choir had begun practicing for the Jubilee Mass.

As “Mary Comerford” she had entered Cabra in 1867 and had come to New Orleans as a postulant. Intelligent, fearless, slight, vivacious and deeply spiritual, the many years of her life had been devoted to the teaching and training of the juniors (as the pupils in the primary and grammar grades were termed), the growth of the library, the instruction of First Communion classes, the restoration to health of the ailing, and as adviser to superiors in the capacity of councilor.

The following beautiful memorial appeared in the Regina Rosarii:

“When day is done and night folds peacefully over carefully accomplished tasks, with what satisfaction can the faithful soul survey its labors. When a long life is replete with noble deeds each eloquent of generous sacrifice, how eagerly can the soul expect that blessed greeting, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” These thoughts came to us when we were told our devoted infirmarian had gone from us to Heaven.

What is there to say of the obscure life of a nun hidden away in the sheltered seclusion of her convent? Ah! much that goes to make up the true type of noble womanhood.

For more than fifty years Sister Mary Vincent was to the students of St. Mary’s, the incarnation of the Valiant Woman. What a wonderful example she was of absolute self-forgetfulness and resolute endurance. How often have marveled that one so slightly build, so seeming frail, could bear not only the responsibility of serious illness, but the fatigue of constant nursing; but no one ever knew her to shirk the hardest work or lose interest even in the youngest of her patients. Her keen and practiced eye distinguished at once the sick child and the imaginary idler, hence it was useless to seek the infirmarian to escape the classroom. But many an aching brow will miss her soothing touch and many a home-sick heart long for the sympathy that used to ease its pain.

There are many motherly hearts at St. Mary’s, ever ready with affectionate sympathy in our little physical or moral sufferings, but no one did things just as Sister Mary Vincent did. She was just herself, that is why we shall miss her presence as much as we shall miss her ministrations.

A few months more would have set the golden seal on her holy profession, and we had planned to do violence to her humility on that occasion, and force upon her a full knowledge of our affectionate esteem; but God decreed otherwise and all unexpectedly called her to wear that fadeless crown for years, her toil, her prayers had won her.

One would almost think her passing away in the midst of work was in answer to her prayer, for she had always hoped not to outlive her usefulness. To die “in harness” was her ambition, and God gratified her, for just when we thought we could least spare her He called. And as promptly as she answered every call – even our own importunate ring – she simply said, “Thy Will be done” folder her tired hands, closed her tired eyes, to open them on Him, whom she had loved and served so well.”

Only when the nation’s bells rang in wild exultation on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, and hearts in the convent, as well as in the world, beat high in thanksgiving for the end of the World War, did the sense of loss resulting from the death of Sister Mary Vincent lift.

The Regina Rosarii for December told of the unexpected honor conferred on St. Mary’s, December ninth, when His Excellency, Most Reverend John Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate, accompanied by His Grace, Archbishop Shaw and Bishop Allen, of Mobile, and Bishop Morris, of Little Rock, visited the community.

The Regina is more detailed in describing the appearance of another distinguished guest: “On December eleventh, a visit was enjoyed from Bishop Schuler, S.J, the only Jesuit Bishop ‘neath the Stars and Stripes. He honored the students by celebrating Mass at eight o’clock. After having breakfasted, he was ushered to the Assemble Hall, where he was given a hearty greeting.

Cabra was preparing for a general convocation of all its Irish foundations when the notice of the death of Sister Mary Xavier was received. As the ecclesiastical superior of the New Orleans Community had not reached a decision regarding “amalgamation” the Sisters were unable to send any definite message to the Dublin conference.

1920 dawned with all the charming possibilities of a New Year, only to have glad expectancy changed to grief for the New Orleans Sisters in the very second month.

A vintage postcard featuring the campus of St. Mary’s of New Orleans.

Sister Mary Clare Phelan was stationed at Our Lady of Lourdes school. Influenza was prevalent in the city. One Sunday morning during High Mass, Annie Reilly, R.N., who lived just across the street from the convent, and sent for Dr. C.V. Unsworth who pronounced the case “flu.”

With skillful nursing, the fever was broken by Wednesday, and Sister Mary Clare was so much better that she sat in the sun for several hours Thursday afternoon, in fact, she even played marbles with some little boys from her class. At three o’clock, Sister Mary Joseph, her superior, came from school and said: “Sister Mary Clare don’t you think you have been up long enough? You begged to stay “just a little longer in the sun” and remained outdoors until the shadows fell.

That night, she had a relapse. When Dr. Unsworth came Friday morning, he was shocked at the change in his patient. By Saturday one lung was congested, and the doctor ordered her to be taken to Hotel Dieu. The superior, Sister Mary Joseph, stated that she would first have to get in touch with the Prioress, Mother Borgia.

Dr. Unsworth, brooking no delay, went himself to the Motherhouse. As the Lourdes convent had no telephone, Sister Mary Joseph, with a companion, also went to see Mother Borgia; arriving at St. Mary’s, Mother Borgia told her: “I have already seen Dr. Unsworth. The ambulance will be at Lourdes at six o’clock, I shall go with Sister Mary Clare.”

Sister Mary Joseph never forgot the strange grave expression in Sister Mary Clare’s large blue eyes as she was placed in the ambulance.

Pneumonia developed. Mrs. Phelan and family, living in Natchez, Mississippi, were notified Sister Mary Clare’s condition grew worse She received the Last Sacraments, and amid the prayers of her mother, brothers, and the Sisters, her labored breathing ceased on February 28, 1920, in the twenty-eighth year of her age and her eighth as a Dominican Sister.

Her remains were brought to the Motherhouse where everyone remarked how beautiful she looked with a smile on her lips. Monsignor Kavanagh, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes church, was the celebrant of her Requiem.

Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’Ricci–Founded Upstate New York in 1880

From the Congregation’s Annals

Former retreat center for the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of di Ricci, Elkins Park, PA

The years of the Pandemic did not impact the sisters themselves in terms of deaths among them, but it did impact the sisters who ministered in the residences in Albany, NY, Saratoga, NY, Philadelphia, PA, and Dayton, OH.

A number of the women who resided with us became ill. The residents were cared for by the sisters and most of them returned to full health, a small number succumbed to the virus and died.


Posted in News

Racism and a Pandemic

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

Straddling the borders of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation (the size of West Virginia), is finally making the headlines in the overwhelming hardships of the COVID – 19 pandemic. While only representing 5 percent of the population of New Mexico, Navajo Nation has suffered with 20 percent of the COVID – 19 cases.  According to the New York Times, Navajo Nation, with a population of 175,000, has more cases of COVID – 19 than eight states.

Many physical realities work against Native Americans during a pandemic.  While most of the country is busy washing their hands, 30 percent of Navajo Nation has no running water.  Many families live in crowded conditions and remain in close physical contact with other families.  Inadequate infrastructure has hampered the ability of Native Americans to get to medical appointments; as a result they travel as long as an hour on dirt or gravel roads in New Mexico, and those roads are frequently impassible after heavy rain or snow.  Only 1/5 of the roads are paved, and poor road conditions can mean life or death for patients needing regular medical attention, like kidney dialysis.  Often, many miss their appointments.

Family of 2 Navajo Women Outside Their Traditional Hogan Hut

The overarching problem for Native Americans in a health care setting is discrimination.  The Cochran Colloquium – Toronto, in its study, “Discrimination in the United States:  Experience of Native Americans,” noted that “more than one in five Native Americans (23 percent), reported experiencing discrimination in clinical encounters, while 15 percent avoided seeking health care for themselves or family members due to anticipated discrimination.”  Even in a pandemic, it is no surprise that many Native Americans would hesitate to seek medical treatment and face more discrimination.

With the passage of the CARES ACT by Congress, Native Americans are scheduled to receive eight billion dollars for protective equipment, testing, and related services.  They faced three problems: delay, delay, delay.  The process is slow and complicated.

Like every citizen in the United States, Native Americans will continue to face an unrelenting and deadly pandemic, made more difficult by the effects of crippling poverty, an inadequate and distant health care system, poor education, and inadequate infrastructure

The deadliest disease that Native Americans face is racism.  From the racism of the early settlers, to the “Trail of Tears,” to the present reality, racism is stealing lives among our first citizens.  Having awareness of racism does not make it go away.  Do we have the will to eliminate the disease of racism?  There is no vaccine.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog