More than 1,600 people gathered at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center on July 30 to celebrate 25 years of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Since its founding in 1997, the community of Ann Arbor has become one of the fastest growing religious communities in the United States. (Photos by Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)
Ann Arbor Community Holds ‘Family Reunion’ to Celebrate Quarter Century of Blessings, Attributes Growth to Power of Holy Spirit
YPSILANTI — When Sr. John Dominic Rasmussen, OP, walked into the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center on July 30, she was overwhelmed with the memory of how 25 years ago she and three other sisters made an act of faith to say “yes” to the Holy Spirit and found a new community of nuns.
Alongside Mother Mary Assumpta Long, Sr Mary Samuel Handwerker and Sr Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, Sr John Dominic never imagined how the Lord would bless the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
After starting with four, the community now has more than 150 sisters in multiple states and a thriving teaching and evangelism ministry, with vocations increasing every year.
Over the weekend, the community gave thanks for 25 years of blessings in a celebration filled with hundreds of families, students, alumni, benefactors and partners in mission – all those who met the sisters over the years and were touched by the “yes” of the four founders in 1997.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist accompany family members and friends on the way to the 25th anniversary celebration at Eastern Michigan University.
“We never know what God is going to do,” said Sr John Dominic. “Since we said ‘yes’, it feels like we’re on the right track to grow. We never thought we would have to organize an event like this.
The big event, which one sister compared to a “family reunion,” included speakers, games and activities, as well as Mass and Eucharistic adoration. Booths representing Ave Maria University, Dominican laity and vendors such as “Chews Life” rosaries dotted the convention center, while food trucks and stalls offered snow cones, popcorn, ears of elephant and an extensive selection of dinners – all for free.
For the children, the sisters helped organize Catholic trivia games, rosary making, face painting, a bouncy house, a petting zoo and more. The crescendo of the celebration, called “Reaching Out of Truth,” was Mass with Bishop Lansing Earl Boyea.
Reflecting on the past 25 years, Sr. Jude Andrew said she and other members of the event planning committee were overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that Christ had been the light for their community.
A young girl enjoys cotton candy, one of many attractions for children and families at the 25th anniversary celebration. One sister called the event a “family reunion.”
The big event featured keynote speakers including Bishop Thomas Daley and Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV. There were booths representing Ave Maria University, lay Dominicans and vendors such as “Chews Life” rosaries. Food trucks and stalls offered snow cones, popcorn, elephant ears and a huge selection of dinners, all for free.
“He is the light of the nations, and the image of the light and the star and the torches is everywhere in Dominican iconography,” Sr. Jude Andrew said. “Our Lord gave Saint Dominic the charism of spreading the light of Christ in the darkness of our world. And it is our privilege as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, to stand in this Dominican tradition and to spread the light of Christ, and we are so blessed with our foundresses, with our benefactors, our families and the many sisters that God has given us that we want to celebrate the gift that God is.
Sr. Jude Andrew said the sisters are incredibly grateful for the courage of the four foundresses.
“It is through their faith, generosity and openness to the Holy Spirit that our communities have even had the space to grow so big in such a short time,” Sr Jude Andrew said.
Sr. Jude Andrew, OP, is pictured with his brother, John Link. He was one of many family members of the sisters to attend the event.
Craig and Kathleen Lewis traveled with two of their children from Davidson, North Carolina to be with their daughter, Sr. Marie Jeanette, OP, who has been in the community for 11 years.
“One of the things that initially attracted me (to the order) was simply the joy of the sisters and their sincerity,” Sr. Marie Jeanette said. “They were women who knew who they were, but also whose they were—they were real daughters of the Church, and that joy just attracted me. Once I came, I realized that was what He made my heart for. It was to be part of this family.
The Lewises said having a girl join the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist was a “huge blessing” and the journey required trust and surrender from them throughout. along the way.
“When she came in she was a beautiful young woman, but we were so amazed that she grew into an amazing, joy-filled person,” Craig Lewis said. Detroit Catholic. “It was like every time we went to visit him, there was just more joy about him.”
“She’s become more of herself,” Kathleen Lewis added.
Sr. Marie Jeanette, OP, is pictured with her parents Craig and Kathleen Lewis and two of her sisters. The Lewises flew in from North Carolina for the celebration.
Prof. Brad Elliot, from the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in California, has been working with the sisters for six months on their upcoming Virtue Series for Openlight Media, the digital evangelization apostolate of the sisters. Prof. Elliot said the Holy Spirit empowered the sisters to reach classrooms around the world through the company in a faithful yet engaging and accessible way for students.
This faithfulness and trust in the Holy Spirit has allowed the sisters to continue to grow as a community, Fr Elliot said.
“When a religious order grows, it is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” the father said. Elliot said. “The Holy Spirit gives the gift of growth. If we are faithful to the callings of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will be faithful to give them vocations.
Sr. Mercedes, vocations director of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, said it is beautiful to see God working in the hearts of the sisters. Sister Mercedes said she knows he is working in the hearts of young women who will one day join the fledgling community.
Earlier in the week, the sisters celebrated perpetual profession as well as a first profession of vows, and on August 22, six new postulants will be welcomed into the community. Sr. Mercedes, vocations director, said the community now has so many sisters that not all of them fit into the Ann Arbor mother house.
“It is beautiful to see our own growth and for me personally to be part of the community and to see my sisters grow and grow in number and holiness,” Sr. Mercedes said. “God works mightily, and we can see it in so many places, but in a special way in our community.”
Spending time with her sisters – her family – is a blessing, Sister Mercedes beamed.
“This event is amazing because you can see what God is doing in other people’s lives through my sisters and through the community,” she added.