Foundation Day & Jubilee Celebration, 2024

Sister Aileen Donovan preaching on Foundation Day, 2024
Sister Aileen Donovan preaching on Foundation Day, 2024

Following are reflections shared by Sister Aileen Donovan on Mass at Dominican Convent on the occasion of our congregational Foundation Day and Sister's Jubilee celebration.

Good morning. How good it is to be together in celebration!

Our 2016 Direction Statement began, “Filled with the Spirit and compelled by compassion for the women and children in her midst, Alice Thorpe, with a small band of women, birthed in 1876 what would become The Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary.”

Happy 148th Birthday!

Earlier this week, I was with a small group of our Sisters talking about prayer. At one point, our conversation turned to those mysterious and special moments when the Spirit suddenly breaks into our lives in what seem to be ordinary encounters. A couple of the Sisters in the group shared examples of this from their lives - seemingly ordinary, yet at same time mystical. When this happens, if recognized, we are left pondering the experience. We don’t forget it. Sometimes, these moments can even change or confirm the course of our life.

Is that not what happened with Alice Madeline Thorpe and her sister Lucy, already pouring themselves into serving impoverished immigrant women and their children in lower Manhattan, but not knowing how they could accomplish what they came to this county to do; namely, to enter a religious community and serve the poor? They decided to attend a Lenten series given by Fr. Rochford, a Dominican priest, a seemingly ordinary thing to do. The rest is our history, our story as the Dominican Congregation of Our Lady of the Rosary.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (John 15:16)  And this past Friday evening, several of our Sisters joined an inspiring group of men and women at the Gala for One-2-One Learning. The program for the evening contained a short biography of each honoree and Sister Margie O’Doherty was one of the honorees for the evening. Margie’s biography mentioned the movement of the Spirit four times as some of the twists and turns of her life we recounted. So too with each of our lives. Do we allow ourselves enough time to ponder the movement of God’s Spirit leading and guiding our individual choices?

Yesterday, I phoned Sister Cecilia and asked her how she came to begin One-2-One Learning. She shared that when she was on the Executive Team and a member of the Education Committee, they learned of a nearby low-income housing neighborhood with mostly Ecuadorian residents who wanted and needed to learn English. One seemingly ordinary step led to the next until today. More than 8,000 immigrants have been served.

Is that not our story? Is this not who we are?

Early on in our history, a need presented itself and a home for children came to be. When that home closed, senior housing went up on the grounds. When educators were needed, schools were staffed, and sometimes built. A call came from St. Louis and we moved westward. A call came from Pakistan and we crossed the world. When we realized it is better to walk together than alone, the Associate Program came into being. Together we responded in the South Bronx, Rockland County, Montana, Peru, Africa, Bolivia, and on and on—the Spirit broke through, and we followed. What incredible trust has been shown for 148 years.

This is our story. This is who we are.

In her book, We Walk by Faith, Sister Mary Dunning, OP quotes the late Father Chris McVey, OP who served with our Sisters in Pakistan:

We seek to go where we are useful… to ‘the periphery’ to the marginalized and those far removed from the centers of power; to the “frontier” welcoming the new, the different, the other, to a dialogic way of life, in which we are being converted again and again.

This is our story. This is who we are.

In the beautiful first reading for today’s Mass, Saint Peter tells Cornelius, who kneels before him in homage, “Get up. I too am a human being.” He continues, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35) Today, 2,000 years later, we still struggle with the issues of exclusion and equality.

Our 2022 Direction Statement evidences our consistency in challenging ourselves to respond and bring our beginnings and our purpose forward. Still, the immigrant; still the children, the youth; still the sick and the elders; still the refugees; still the victims of war; still the victims of racism; still the sexually excluded; still the other, and on and on. And today more than ever before, God’s first temple, Earth, and all of her creatures, cry out to us for care. We challenge ourselves to go further, to deepen our prayer, to open our hearts more and more to conversion. There is no retirement from our Mission. (I’m sorry Jubilarians 😊)

Today, as we celebrate Foundation Day, we also celebrate the 350 combined years of service offered by you, our Jubilarians. 350 years of being where you were called and useful. Congratulations!

And we remember our beloved Sisters and Associates who have gone before us, a cloud of witnesses who are with us now and guide us.

Pope Francis instructs us, “You can’t announce the Gospel of Jesus without the actual witness of your life. Preach with your life, with your witness.” Whether in Pakistan, St. Louis, Montana, East St. Louis, the Bronx, the Counties or Siena Hall, today’s Gospel message remains: “This I command you: love one another.”

This is our story, still being written. This is our hope.

I would like to end with a 13th-century Dominican Blessing:

God, give us eyes to see You, and ears to hear Your voice.
God, give us minds to know Your will, and hands to work for justice.
God, give us feet to journey, a mouth to preach Your Word.
God, help us to proclaim aloud the Good News of salvation.
And may Your holy angel, watch over us in peace.
Then, in the goodness of Your love, direct us home to Heaven. Amen.

Scroll to Top