Dominican Sisters of Mary on Oprah
By Brenda Steele
Today’s Oprah Show featured the Dominican Sisters of Mary alongside a trained Caucasian Geisha living in Tokyo. The idea behind today’s program was to give the world a glimpse of the lives of women living in “secret” communities.
Journalist, Lisa Ling, interviewed both the Geisha and the Sisters of Mary.
Sayuki (her Japanese name), born in Australia and Oxford educated, takes her role as a trained Geisha very seriously. She wanted to make a point, which she did several times, that sex is not now and never was a part of this tradition. In an odd way, her interview made a good introduction to the Dominican Sisters of Mary whose vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience require complete dedication and a desire to serve others.
Residing outside of Ann Arbor, MI, the Dominican Sisters of Mary have become widely known in Catholic circles due to their overwhelming success in attracting young women to religious service. Currently, there are 100 nuns whose average age is 26, though the youngest apostolate is 18. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist began in 1997 with 4 sisters.
Their mission statement reads, in part:
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is a Roman Catholic community of women religious . . . . .Through profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, along with a contemplative emphasis on Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion, our community exists for the salvation of souls and the building of the Church throughout the world.
Lisa Ling spent a day and night with the sisters at their convent, even rising at 5:00 a.m. for Morning Prayer. She followed the sisters throughout their day of prayer, Mass, silent meals, periods for meditation, duties, classes, the Rosary, athletic recreation twice daily, Compline, and time for personal prayer and study at the end of the day.
It would have been impossible for both the studio audience and the TV not to notice the happiness that exuded from the faces of the Sisters of Mary postulates, novitiates, and consecrated nuns as they lived their day.
Sister Frances Mary, 22, when asked by Oprah, “How did you know you wanted to become a nun?” responded by saying, “It wasn’t something audible; it was just something that came from here”(as she clutched her hands to her heart, beaming all the while.)
Another touching response came from Sister Mary Judith when Oprah asked about nuns being married to Christ — “It’s hard to have Christ as a spouse, when something goes wrong in the relationship, I know it’s me!”
There were the inevitable questions about sex. Nothing seems to throw these sisters, one of whom answered, “We’re human, we all have urges. I might have an urge to eat chocolate, but that doesn’t mean I have to indulge myself.”
Oprah asked if a sister could leave the convent if she realized she had made a mistake about becoming a nun. The sisters explained to her that it takes 7 to 9 years of discernment before one becomes a consecrated nun. In fact, the smiling countenances of the young women suggest no one is likely to leave the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
Oprah found out these nuns don’t live in a world devoid of technology. Sister Joseph Andrew said that when she’s in a hurry she “grabs her prayer books and her Blackberry!” She doesn’t want any young woman interested in joining the order to be left waiting to be contacted. Their technological savvy is underscored by the sophistication of their website. The sisters may not often watch television, but they do know how to reach out through the Internet.
Oprah seemed a bit in awe of these happy, selfless women who have put aside the material things of this world to instead “preach and teach the Truth.” Mother Assumpta, who has been a nun since the age of 17, responded when asked about having given up the possibility of motherhood, “I think every woman is called to be a mother. We are simply called to be spiritual mothers.”
The Dominican Sisters of Mary have come to Ann Arbor, Michigan from all walks of life to take their vows. Each felt something was missing in their former lives; something was “calling” them to service. Whatever the reason, these women, full of energy and youth, are spending their lives in prayer for the Church and in apostolic work throughout the United States and beyond.
Oh, and thank you, Oprah, for featuring them on your show.