Ann Arbor community hosts 'family reunion' to celebrate quarter-century of blessings, credits growth to power of the 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 a leap of faith to say "yes" to the Holy Spirit and start a new community of women religious.
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 counts more than 150 sisters in multiple states and a booming teaching and evangelization ministry, with vocations growing every year.
Over the weekend, the community gave thanks for 25 years of blessings during a celebration full of hundreds of families, students, alumni, benefactors and partners in mission — all people who had encountered the sisters over the years and been impacted by the "yes" of the four founders in 1997.
“We never know what God’s going to do,” Sr. John Dominic said. “Ever since we said 'yes,' it's like we've been on the fast pace to expand. We never thought that we’d have to host an event like this.”
The large event, which one sister likened to a “family reunion,” included speakers, games and activities, along with Mass and Eucharistic adoration. Booths representing Ave Maria University, the Lay Dominicans, and vendors such as “Chews Life” rosaries dotted the convention center, while food trucks and stands offered snow cones, popcorn, elephant ears and a huge dinner selection — all for free.
For kids, the sisters helped run Catholic trivia, rosary making, face painting, a bounce house, a petting zoo and more. The crescendo of the celebration, called “Radiance of Truth,” was Mass with Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea.
Reflecting on the last 25 years, Sr. Jude Andrew said she and other members of the event planning committee were overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that Christ has been the light for their community.
“He's the light to the nations, and the image of light and the star and torches are all over Dominican iconography,” Sr. Jude Andrew said. “Our Lord gave St. Dominic the charism to spread the light of Christ in the darkness of our world. And it's our privilege as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, to stand in that Dominican tradition and to spread the light of Christ, and we're 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's because of their faith and their generosity and their openness to the Holy Spirit that our communities even had the space to grow so big in such a short amount of time,” Sr. Jude Andrew said.
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 drew me initially (to the order) was just 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 true daughters of the Church, and that joy just drew me. Once I came, I realized this is what He made my heart for. It was to be a part of this family.”
The Lewises said having a daughter join the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, has been a “tremendous blessing,” and the journey has required trust and surrender on their part along the way.
“When she entered, she was a beautiful young woman, but we were so amazed throughout all this that she just became an amazing, joy-filled person," Craig Lewis told Detroit Catholic. “It was just like every single time we went to visit her, there was just more joy about her.”
“She became more herself,” Kathleen Lewis added.
Fr. Brad Elliot, from the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in California, has been working with the sisters for six months as part of their upcoming virtue series for Openlight Media, the sisters' digital evangelization apostolate. Fr. Elliot said the Holy Spirit has allowed the sisters to reach classrooms all over the world through the venture in a way that is faithful but attractive and accessible to students.
That faithfulness and trust in the Holy Spirit has allowed the sisters to continue to grow as a community, Fr. Elliot said.
“When any religious order grows, it's because of the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Elliot said. “The Holy Spirit gives the gift of growth. If we're faithful to the Holy Spirit's calls, then the Holy Spirit will be faithful to giving them vocations.”
Earlier in the week, the sisters celebrated a perpetual profession as well as a first profession of vows, and on Aug. 22, six new postulants will be welcomed into the community. Sr. Mercedes, director of vocations, said the community now has so many sisters they no longer all fit into the Ann Arbor motherhouse.
“It's beautiful to see our own growth, and, for me personally, to be a part of the community and see my sisters grow and grow in numbers and holiness,” Sr. Mercedes said. “God's working powerfully, and we can see that in so many places, but in a special way in our community.”
Getting to spend time with her sisters — her family — is a blessing, Sr. Mercedes beamed.
“This event is amazing because you get to see what God is doing in the lives of others through my sisters and through the community,” she added.