As a high-school student in Baltimore, Tara Showalter admired the Dominican sisters who taught her. They were smart. They were good at sports. They were fun to hang out with.
But spend the rest of her life with them?
Nope, not what Showalter planned. She was going to college, intending to become a scientist, a wife and a mother.
But in late July, as Sister Maria Faustina, Showalter took permanent vows in the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, an order based in Ann Arbor Township.
"God puts this call in your heart; he places it there, and it’s a gentle call. You can choose to ignore it, and I tried to for three years," said Showalter, 27.
The Sisters of Mary, founded in 1997, are growing at a time when many other Catholic religious orders are shrinking or simply disappearing. Four young sisters, including Sister Maria, made perpetual vows in July and six more made their initial vows in August. A new group of 17 postulants – beginning sisters – is expected in September, which will bring the community total to 64.
To meet the growth, the Sisters of Mary are adding a new residential wing and a large, domed chapel to their property, essentially doubling the 26,500 square feet built by Tom Monaghan, a Catholic philanthropist and the founder of Domino’s Pizza.
When finished later this year, the convent will have space for 100 sisters.
The order is different from many others today in that members wear the traditional, floor-length habit; place strong emphasis on community life; and spend at least three hours each day in traditional, communal prayer, some in Latin.
Some church observers say that the sisters are attracting young women because they are doing something different – even countercultural – and their clear, strict standards appeal to such women. In a number of cases, the women have rejected religious orders that revised or moved away from traditional ways, including the habit, after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The council relaxed some of the more strict, traditional rituals in the Catholic Church.
This newer crop of sisters deeply desires the traditional habit, the hours specifically set aside for communal prayer and communal life, said John J. Fialka, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the author of Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America.
Now an article of this type can’t be left alone with out the following near-mandantory statement..
Some church observers, however, question what they see as an attempt by small but wealthy and politically powerful groups to turn the faith clock back to a supposed golden age.
"There’s always been a rear-guard action among Catholics who don’t like Vatican II," said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, the former chairman of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame and a longtime observer of Catholic life in America.
Get that. A growing convent is in response to rich and politically powerful groups who don’t like Vatican II. Funny though how a "rear-guard" action is larger than the supposed Vatican II (Spirit) embracing convents where the word novice has dropped from their lexicon. In fact to be a novice master in some of these convents is like getting the job of high-impact aerobics instructor at a nursing home.
"Young women are attracted to the total gift of self," said Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, the vocations director for the Sisters of Mary. "They trust Christ and are willing to pour out their lives first to him, then through him, to all his people. This total commitment is most attractive to a generation starving for authenticity."
As a community, the sisters operate two Spiritus Sanctus Catholic elementary schools. Add to that the hours committed to prayer and the duties of running the convent, and the sisters put in long days.
Fialka, in an interview, compared such traditional religious life to another difficult one: "It’s like joining the Marines: full regalia, tough mission."
Teaching and nursing are burn-out jobs, Fialka said, but nuns can do it for 50 years. "The secret is prayer life, living together in the convent, bucking each other up."
Sister Ave Maria Hayes agrees.
Hayes, 33, came to the Sisters of Mary as a registered nurse a year out of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She had met Mother Mary Assumpta Long, a founder of the Sisters of Mary and now its prioress general, at a Mass arranged by Monaghan.
Long invited Hayes to a cookout at the convent. Later, she and the other sisters allowed Hayes and a roommate to live in a house next to the first Spiritus Sanctus Academy while they worked as nurses at the University of Michigan Hospitals.
These days, Hayes follows the Dominican tradition of teaching. The past two years, she has taught kindergarten. "I never would have guessed I could teach, much less kindergarten, but I’ve enjoyed it, loved it," she said.
The sisters acknowledge that life in a convent isn’t easy. Community time sometimes conflicts with desires to be alone. Personalities sometimes bump and scrape against each other. Schedules must be followed, and sometimes work assignments are just plain hard.
They rise at 5 or 6 a.m. each day, depending on the time of year. They meet in the chapel for prayer and Mass, then usually go off to school, or in the case of novices, remain at the convent for theology classes. Noon brings more prayer as well as lunch; teaching sisters remain at school until the late afternoon, when the community gathers for spiritual reading and more prayer.
At dinner in the convent refectory, the sisters listen to spiritual instruction either recorded or read aloud. Afterward, there is another hour of recreation followed by a last hour of prayer.
At 8 p.m., community silence begins, and lights are turned out at 10.
The sisters organize their days with careful thought. They say that there is never enough time for all that needs to be done. "But when you’re giving a total gift, and can’t give more," Sister Maria said, "God takes care of the rest." [Source]
Yup. That aspersion casted by Fr. McBrien was unnecessary. It makes the OP convent seem more sinister than it is.
The Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist were invited to our diocese (Baker,Oregon) by our faithful Bishop Vasa to assist at chilren’s summer camps this summer.(In the recent past, these camps had become nothing more than parties with watered down theology) They are inspiring, hard-working, Spirit-filled women who are a credit to thier order and our faith. The children, inculding high schoolers loved them, flocking to them at every session. The example set by these sisters has fostered an interest in several of the students to consider becoming sisters. The younger generations of our Church are hungry for the authentic realities of Catholic women living the faith. God bless them. We hope they come back every year!
More Than a Matter of Habit
Today’s Post has an article in the Metro section (B9) about the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The article’s not online; it’s from the Religion News Service, and you can get a taste of it here. (“Traditional…
Isn’t part of their daily prayer Eucharistic Adoration? I didn’t notice that particular practice mentioned in your excerpt. But it sure explains a lot about their success, no?
Why is this so hard to understand: orthodoxy = vocations. It’s that simple. Probably too simple for the likes of McBrien and his ilk.
I think part of their success comes from the *joy* the vocation brings them, which radiates and is very inviting. I met Sr. Joseph Andrew and a few of the postulants a few years ago, their joy and energy were very striking. I’m glad they’re growing!
McBrien just doesn’t get it. His version of Vatican II resides in his own interpretation and quite frankly, can be found in the secular world. These wonderful women are not denying Vatican II, on the contrary, they are living it – in it’s fullest sense. Women are attracted to holiness, inwardly and outwardly.
How do you solve a problem like McBrien?
How do you hold a moonbat in your hand?
How do you hold a problem like McBrien?
A Will-is-my-God? A Flap-of-the-Jaw? A Clod?
How do you hold a mooooooonnnbat
In Your Hand?
With apologies to Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein.
Later this month, Fr. McBrian is speaking here in Knoxville on behalf of the Notre Dame Alumni club. I’m trying to decide whether to attend or not. I can’t really think of anything to ask him, but after reading this article, maybe I’ll ask some of the local Dominican Sisters to attend. Seeing a nun in full habit might really freak him out.
I also noticed that Fr. McBrian is listed as “a longtime observer of Catholic life in America”. I suppose this is accurate… observer as opposed to participant.
I’m good friends with Sr. Mary Dominic who just took her vows a few weeks ago. She is a blessing, especially because she has been blessed with so much!
Its so sad that some feel so threatened by orthodoxy that they see a conspiracy behind every Sister in a traditional habit.
Someone in Gotham City needs to shine the Neocath Signal on the skyline, so “Neo” can go and take care of “The Joker” (Fr. McBrien).
We’ve got a novitiate for the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matar� in our parish, and they are busting at the seams with vocations. Again, they wear a floor-length habit and are utterly orthodox.
I talked with one of the sisters there once about how she came to choose that order, and she said that a floor-length habit (I believe the actual term she used was “real habit”) was one of her drop-dead criteria.
The attraction of orthodox and prayerful convents should not be difficult to understand. I’ve been saying it for years: if a girl is going to give up a family and all the comforts of the world, it isn’t going to be for the sake of hanging out with a bunch of bitter feminists in their seventies and doing the Kumbaya thing. She wants to throw herself into the heart of Divine Love and be one with its everlasting life. McBrien is so far out of the mainstream that he doesn’t even realize where it’s going anymore.
Exactly Elinor– why would anybody, man or woman, give up marriage and family life to essentially become a social worker? Why bother?
Bravo Elinor and Margaret – I’m a single person who has discerned religious life and I often think, I already wear regular clothes, live on my own and come and go as I please. Why would I want a religious order that would just have me living the same way I do now? Or a religious order that has all these characteristics plus contempt for the true faith. Right….sign me up for that one.
You can’t really call McBrian a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I think at one time he was a good sheep, He’s more like a sheep who’s traded in his wool for rayon, and is deperately trying to convince us he’s got the better deal. Sorry McBrian, but the original is always better, It just fits better, and God made is always better than man made.
Dad29, that was hiLARious!
As a born-Michiganian, I’d just like to point out that both the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and Judith Stegman (later post)are from one of the warmer (Holy-Spirit-wise) spots in MI…here’s to even greater fidelity in that state and all the rest!
Where is THOROUGHLY MODERN MARY with all this? Is Sister Mary Biko, PhD a man or a mouse?
[By the way, should not The Dawn Patrol be part of the Bloghood of the Faithful?]
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