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Dominican Sisters of St. Mary visit John Carroll

March 3rd, 2011

This past weekend, John Carroll University hosted four nuns from the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, which is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This order frequently visits high schools, colleges and universities to speak to students about discerning what God is calling each individual’s vocation to be.

These sisters gave three talks during the weekend. The first was on Friday and was titled “Everybody has a Vocation: Discerning God’s Calling for YOU in Today’s Culture.” This discussion revolved around explaining the ways the nuns discovered what God was calling them to do with their lives and showing how to pay attention to God’s will. On Saturday, there were two events: the first was for women only, in which the sisters made a presentation and discussed the vocation of being a nun. The final event dealt with re-discovering true womanhood and true manhood, based on the teachings of John Paul II in his “Theology of the Body.” Students were also able to sign up for a one-on-one talk with one of the sisters.

Four nuns founded the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in 1997. One of these original four nuns included one of the sisters that visited John Carroll over the weekend, Sister Joseph Andrew. Originally from Tennessee, Sister Joseph Andrew has been a nun since she was 17 years old, entering right after she graduated high school. She currently serves as the vocation director of the Dominican Order. She earned her undergraduate degree from John Carroll’s neighbor, Notre Dame College. Some of the aspects that make the order unique are a strong worship of Mary, Mother of God, daily Eucharistic adoration, and a close relationship between all the sisters. Sister Joseph Andrew explained how Mary was fundamental in the original creation of the order.

“We really wanted to honor Mary and to be able to highlight her image of motherhood in the world today through our work,” she said.

Over the last 14 years, the Order has grown to include 108 sisters and to represent over 33 states and several countries. The average age of a woman entering the order is 21 and the average age of the sisters in the order is 28. One of the Dominican Sisters’ main objectives is teaching grades K-12 in all subject areas. Not only do the nuns teach at schools around their mother house in Michigan, but some Dominican sisters are also located in schools in South Carolina, Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, and beginning this year, Ohio.

As the vocation director, Sister Joseph Andrew, O.P., has to travel frequently all over the country to help young people discern what God is calling them to choose as their vocation. In addition to visiting high schools and colleges, the Dominican Sisters hold three annual vocation retreats at their motherhouse in Ann Arbor. These retreats are for young women considering becoming a sister or looking to figure out what their vocation may be. The girls are taught how to truly pray and listen for what God’s vocation is for them. The retreats average about 400 girls each year and host girls from all over the world. One of the farthest girls to come to the retreat was from Switzerland.

At the sisters’ first event on Friday night, the attendees were treated to a dinner and first watched a film called “The Greatest Love Story” which showed the stories of many nuns and how they decided to join the Order. These unique accounts included a sister who broke off an engagement a week before her wedding, a former lawyer from New York, and a Buddhist who converted to Catholicism after studying in America.

Andrew then began to discuss the three types of vocations: single life, married life and religious life. She explained what all three vocations entailed and the hardships and joys of each of them. The other three Dominican Sisters then each had their chance to tell their personal story of how they knew God was calling them to join religious life. Sister Maria José, O.P., had obtained a science and computer science engineering degree and was doing very well at her job in Dallas, Texas. She was able to fully support herself and buy anything she needed but realized she was not truly happy and felt called to become a nun.

Twenty-three-year-old Sister Mary Ignatius spoke next explaining that in her freshman year of college she had actually lost her way and connection with God. After transferring to Creighton University in Nebraska she met a Jesuit who reassured her of God’s love and she entered the Order shortly after.

The last to speak was 22-year-old Sister Immaculata, who although raised Catholic, grew up in a heavily Protestant area and had no real exposure to sisters until hearing about the Dominican Order on the radio and flying to Ann Arbor to attend one of the vocation retreats. After debating about entering the Order for a year of college she decided to enter. Sister Immaculata commented that she felt she could not be hesitant and, “had to take a great leap of faith.”

The evening ended with the Sisters discussing and showing a clip of their Order’s appearance on Oprah. The Dominican Sisters were the only order of nuns to agree to open their doors to Oprah’s television cameras. Sister Joseph Andrew was one of the sisters that appeared on the television special. She said, “She’s [Oprah is] a wonderful woman, it was a wonderful experience to be able to have this life shown to the world.” Andrew now gets e-mails from all over the world after the exposure from the Oprah show. Some are in a different language but she can make out the name “Oprah” so she knows that the show only helped to make their Order more known to the world.

Sophomore Bridget Mason attended some of the sisters’ events and even had a personal one-on-one with Sister Joseph Andrew. She enjoyed the experience and said, “The nuns made me think a lot about my life and my vocation. I feel that they answered many of the questions that I had. They were also very entertaining and I enjoyed the one on one with Sister Joseph Andrew.”

For more information on the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, Mother of the Eucharist or their annual vocation retreats visit www.sistersofmary.org.