Though the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor are celebrating the completion of the construction of their Motherhouse, they are already near capacity, with 17 new sisters entering at the end of this week. The community has grown from four sisters to 99 in less than 13 years and shows no signs of slowing down.
The community of sisters, which has an average age of 26, was founded in 1997 by four Dominican sisters responding to John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization.
Though their primary apostolate is Christian education, they are open to other areas of evangelization as well, a fact evidenced by their new catechetical show on EWTN called “Truth in the Heart,” the multiple summer catechesis camps they host each year and their frequent vocation talks.
CNA recently spoke with the sisters’ vocations director, Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, who credited the community’s tremendous growth to “God’s goodness and mercy” in providing “spiritual mothers” for the world. She also pointed to the example of John Paul II who “embraced all the world” and gave witness to truth, joy and suffering.
Drawing Women to the Community
Spiritual motherhood is what drew Regina Rispoli, 23, to Ann Arbor, Michigan from her home in Florida. She described the sisters as not only caring for the physical needs of God’s children but their “spiritual well-being as well.”
Rispoli noted that the sisters strive to live out their spiritual maternity by nurturing them through prayer and love.
“Like any mother,” she said, “they look at you with a love that is both unconditional and expects much - they expect us to become, with God's help, saints!”
Rispoli related to CNA her experience of how she knew she was called to be a spiritual mother. While she was visiting the sisters, Rispoli passed a statue of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus and saw that beneath her mantle there were “children of all colors and in clothing from all over the world.”
When she saw Our Lady, she understood that the spiritual motherhood of the sisters is “to at once be one of the children under Mary's mantle, reaching up to Jesus, and to also offer that kind of hospitality to the 'children' God sends us, whatever age they may be.”
It was then that Rispoli knew her vocation. As she explained it, I “understood that I was being invited into that kind of motherhood.”
Another woman who will join the sisters this week is 21-year old Amanda Ayar who met the community in 2005 when she was invited to attend a final profession of vows. She recalled, “As soon as I saw the Sisters they all seemed to be glowing and filled with so much joy, and I think it was at that time that I knew in my heart that I would end up in this community one day."
Ayar noted that even though it hasn't been easy turning from the lifestyle the media offers, she had a longing for “something more than the world had to offer.”
“I'm so excited that it's finally happening. I'm finally becoming a Sister! I feel as though my longing to be with God and to serve Him always as His bride is finally coming to be and I'm very excited about that,” she exclaimed.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary consist of women from 32 states as well as Canada. Sr. Joseph Andrew explained that the sisters are drawn to the community because they are real, faithful and joyful. She added that women come because the sisters share a common, clear vision, place emphasis on the Eucharist and use Mary as the example for their spiritual motherhood. Finally, said Sr. Joseph Andrew, women are drawn because the sisters are “on Fire with the Love of Mother Church and all her children!”
Assisting with Discernment
To help the women learn more about the sisters, the vocations director explained that the community offers three 24-hour discernment retreats each year. Attracting over 400 participants from all over the U.S. and Canada, as well Australia and countries in Eastern Europe, she explained that the retreats teach them how to “open up before God in an all-night Eucharistic Adoration and then how to ‘unpack’ what He has been trying to say to them all along.”
Perhaps, Sister Joseph Andrew surmised, “it took the motherly love of the Sisters for them to trust God enough to begin to really listen to Him.”
When women express interest in the community, Sr. Joseph Andrew works hard to stay in touch with them to assist them during their time of discernment. “I walk with each one both prayerfully and through email,” she explains, saying that it helps the young women know that she cares.
On August, 29, one day after the 17 new women arrive to join the community, the sisters are planning to host an event celebrating the completion of construction on the final new additions to their Motherhouse.
The construction, which started last May, brought the total number of monastic cells to 100, explained Sr. Maria Guadalupe Hallee, OP, director of mission advancement. “If all 17 Aspirants enter, we will have 99 Sisters – again, we are at capacity.”
“In short,” she added, “we can hardly build fast enough to keep up with the growth of the community.”
To celebrate the completion of the latest phase of construction, the Bishop of Lansing, Michigan, Most Reverend Earl A. Boyea, will bestow a blessing on the Motherhouse. According to Sr. Maria Guadalupe, the celebration will consist of the Liturgy of the Word, a homily, the Litany of the Saints, and then the blessing of the people and of the building.
After the blessing, a few sisters will make remarks, followed by tours of the public areas of Motherhouse.
For more information about the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, visit: http://www.sistersofmary.org.