Cloudy skies and afternoon tornado warnings could not keep Sisters, Associates, and friends from gathering in the cemetery at St. Catharine, Kentucky on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to bless a Memorial Monument remembering the enslaved men and women that were brought by the young women who answered the call to begin the first congregation of Dominican Sisters in the United States.
Although it is not a proud moment in the history of St. Catharine’s or the Dominican Sisterhood, it is a reality that there were slaves brought with the founding members of the congregation (1822-1865), while in other cases, wealthy supporters and relatives of the nuns donated enslaved people to the convents. These enslaved men and women were instrumental in the building of the original community in Siena Vale (the valley) and in assisting the young pioneer Sisters in their mission to teach the children of the frontier families.
Sister Barbara Sullivan welcomed all who were present to honor these men and women who worked alongside these pioneer women 200 years ago. The service began with the recording of the song, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” sung by Michael Preacely.
Associate Elaine Riley shared a reflection on John 16:12-13.
In 2000, the Spirit of Truth opened the door to forgiveness for the sin of slavery within the reconciliation service hosted by the Dominican Sisters, Sisters of Charity, and the Sisters of Loretto at St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Kentucky. This same Spirit of Truth brought us to this moment of recognizing those men and women, named and unnamed. Their collective spirits were present. This same Spirit will lead us into the future with hope and truth.
Fr. Kevin McGrath, Pastor of St. Rose Church, blessed the memorial monument. Sister Blaise Flynn led everyone in a final prayer reminding us that “In All That We Do, We Will Remember Them.”
The prayer service ended with those present joining in singing “Down to the River to Pray.”
Following the service, all were invited to attend a reception in the Motherhouse dining room.