These Sisters make joy a habit

During a recent trip to New York City, a group of Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, enjoyed ice skating at Rockefeller Center, located in the center of Midtown Manhattan. (photo courtesy of Monica Fitzgibbons)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

LEE’S SUMMIT — The religious community of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, through three charisms – Education, Television and Music – are participants in the New Evangelization. They teach preschool through college students, serve as librarians for North American College in Rome, Italy, and have multiple appearances on television. Just two months ago, a new Christmas CD, “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, Christmas with the Dominican Sisters of Mary”, was released Oct. 13, and by the end of November, had reached Number 1 on Billboard’s Classical charts as well as Amazon’s charts. Part A capella and part with chamber orchestral accompaniment played by Sisters in the community, the CD was recorded over the summer in the chapel of the Motherhouse of the Sisters in Ann Arbor, Mich. The enthusiastic reception of the new CD was a highlight of the 20th anniversary of the community’s founding.

Beginning with four sisters professing their vows in 1997, the community has grown to about 125 Sisters, whose average age is 30. Led by Mother Assumpta, the Sisters, through their ministries and assignments, reach out to people throughout North America and in Rome to let them know of God’s love for them.

Four Sisters learned early this past summer that they were being assigned to teach at the new St. Michael the Archangel High School in Lee’s Summit. Sister Miriam was excited. She had heard a lot about the new high school and could hardly wait to begin teaching when it opened in the fall.

She grew up in Western Canada and after earning a science degree, was working as a pharmacist when she realized God was calling her to the religious life. She entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary in 2006. Sister Miriam then obtained her teaching certification for chemistry and biology, and was sent to teach at San California’s Marin Catholic college prep. After that, she was sent to study at the Catholic University of America, earning her Master›s degree in Philosophy. She now teaches theology to about 90 freshmen and loves it. In her theology classes, she shows students the relationship between theology, science and philosophy.

The four Sisters teaching at St. Michael the Archangel were part of the group of Sisters singing on the Christmas CD. Sister Miriam, science teachers Sisters Mary André and Stephen Patrick, and math teacher Sister Mary Cecilia recently traveled to New York City to appear on FOX News, on an NPR broadcast and taping several other appearances, including Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The Dominican Sisters of Mary are no strangers to television appearances. Several Sisters have been guests on The Oprah Winfrey Show several times and made it to the finals of the Game Show Network’s The American Bible Challenge.

While in New York, the Sisters took in some of the sights, including ice skating at Rockefeller Center, in their habits.

Later, the Sisters walked to a tree on a nearby street corner, and began singing some of the carols from “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring: Christmas with the Dominican Sisters of Mary.” Sister Miriam recalled the small crowd that gathered around, smiles lighting up their faces. She and the other Sisters were applauded and thanked for bringing joy to them in that moment.

Another traveler went everywhere with the Sisters — Flat St. Michael the Archangel. A take-off on Flat Stanley, Flat St. Michael visited art galleries, museums, and churches and the Sisters enjoyed taking selfies with “him”.

Back in Lee’s Summit, Sister Miriam jumped back into teaching. Her freshmen Theology students have had classes in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel, sung The Twelve Days of Christmas on the Learning Steps while Sister Miriam played the piano and sang with them, and contemplated how faith, science and philosophy all fit together.

She said her hope and prayer is “for people to know they are loved by God, they are made by and for God.”

Sister Miriam said singing is something the Dominican Sisters quickly grow accustomed to. “Even if someone didn’t have much experience with singing when she entered the convent, we chant the Office prayers several times each day, and sing at Masses, so she learns to chant. We sing so frequently, she gets the hang of it!”

Her mother was a musician, and considered her talent a gift from God to be passed down to her children. Sister Miriam and her siblings were taught piano, even when they protested practicing. “Now I am grateful,” she said. When she entered the convent, she had the opportunity to learn to play a pipe organ as she was experienced in playing piano. On the CD, she plays the pipe organ on several tracks.

There’s something wonderful about religious Sisters singing together, she said. “I had sung in choirs before I entered the convent, but this is different. There’s a unified sound to the music. The Sister singing next to me lives with me, prays with me, we eat together, teach together, we have the same heart and mind for Christ. When Sisters practice, we’re just doing it for the Lord.”

When the four Dominican Sisters moved here, they found a place to live on the campus of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist in Independence. Sister Miriam loves living there. “The Sisters are so dear and they’re Franciscans and we’re Dominicans and St. Francis and St. Dominic lived in the same century and knew each other and here we are!”

The Dominican Sisters of Mary surprised the music industry with a remarkable debut on multiple Billboard Charts, including #1 overall Classical and #3 overall Holiday, besting veteran recording industry acts such as Josh Groban and Celine Dion. #1 has become a ‘habit’ and they have since remained atop the Billboard Classical charts – reigning at #1 again this week on the Classical Chart. “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring: Christmas with the Dominican Sisters of Mary,” is an unusual success story, as the Sisters spend their lives as educators with a semi-contemplative focus, not touring.

Their multi-media Disciple of Christ, Education in Virtue series can be found online, in schools, businesses and households the world over, and has recently been turned into a cinematic mini-series. The Sisters have now released three international albums, to wide acclaim including reaching No. 1 for several weeks on Billboard’s Classical Charts and the spirit and personalities of the Sisters themselves attracts media coverage. Most recently the Sisters reached 1,000,000 likes on their Facebook page. Along with “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Christmas with the Dominican Sisters of Mary,” the Sisters celebrate their 20th anniversary by sharing two other special projects dedicated “To Jesus through Mary.” These initiatives represent their teaching charism via the “Disciple of Christ, Education in Virtue: Miniseries;” and, a new book with an insider’s view to vocation discernment entitled, “And Mary’s Yes Continues.”

Sister Miriam said her community is blessed to see so many young women answering the call to the religious life, wanting to give their lives to God through Mary. And they want to share their blessings and joy in the music, both familiar and heard for the first time outside the Chapel of the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Mary in Ann Arbor. The CD is available on the Motherhouse website, www.sistersofmary.org and on www.amazon.com.
 

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Thursday
April 19, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph