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Twelve profess final vows with Nashville Dominicans, including Sydneysider Sr Moana Grace

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Sr Moana Grace after her first vows in 2016. Photo: Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia

By Katie Peterson/OSV News

Hundreds of family, friends, and Nashville Dominican sisters witnessed 12 women profess the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience during a Mass for the Rite of Perpetual Religious Profession celebrated July 25 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.

The 12 women—including Sydneysider Sr Moana Grace Taufa’ao—made their final vows for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation following eight years of formation.

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“Truly today is a day of great joy for us as a Catholic community, whether you are part of the congregation of St. Cecilia or the wider church,” said Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding, who was the main celebrant of the Mass.

“Truly, we gather here and are mindful of the dedication of these women to Christ. As we begin, let us be mindful that God has blessed us with those who have responded with the great ‘yes’ to the call of God.”

The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop David P. Talley of Memphis, Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Izen of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Abbot Cletus D. Meagher, abbot emeritus of the Benedictines’ St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama.

For Sr Eva Marie Gorman, the day was the fulfillment of a dream that first began when she was 12.

“As I got to know the Dominican sisters, I was drawn by our charism to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of our contemplation,” Sister Eva Marie told the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Nashville Diocese.

“I longed, and still long, for deep union with God in prayer and for the grace to let this prayer overflow in preaching, spreading the truth of the Gospel for the salvation of souls.”

Sr Rachel Marie Boyd said her call came much later in life while she was a senior at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, where she was taught by the Dominican sisters and friars.

“As I listened to the Lord more deeply in prayer throughout the next year, He made it abundantly clear that he was calling me to enter the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and filled my heart with peace and joy at the prospect,” Sister Rachel Marie said.

“In this community, I find the echo of the desires of my own heart—a deep love for Jesus, a dedication to preaching and teaching His truth and His love, a simple and beautiful spiritual motherhood, and the freedom that comes from living a life completely given to God.”

Twelve sisters kneel as Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Tenn., makes examination on their readiness to dedicate themselves to God and to seek perfect charity, as they prepare to pronounce final vows with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville July 25, 2023. (OSV News photo/Rachel Lombardi, Tennessee Register)

Before officially making their vows, the 12 sisters, along with the rest of the community, heard a homily from Dominican Father Peter Martyr Yungwirth, of his order’s Province of St. Joseph, who told the story of St. Dominic, patron of the Dominican order, and his vision of the Lord and Mary.

St. Dominic was “lifted from the earthly dormitory to the heavenly mansion where he beheld all kinds of religious from various other orders but none of his own, and, for lack of his own brothers and sisters, he began weeping and kept his distance from the Lord and his mother,” Father Yungwirth explained.

When the Lord asked St. Dominic why he was weeping, he replied, “‘Because I see all the other orders here but there is no sign of my own,'” he continued.

“Then, our Lord, putting his hands on the shoulder of the Blessed Virgin, said to our father Dominic, ‘I have entrusted your order to my mother,'” he continued. “At that, the Blessed Mother opened wide her mantle and spread it out before our holy father Dominic, and to him it seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven and, under it, he saw a large multitude of his brethren.

“Prostrating himself in their presence, St. Dominic gave thanks to God and to blessed Mary.”

This is not just a story of old, Father Yungwirth said.

“It truly is applicable to us even now,” he said, noting a line in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Canon, which reads, “In communion with those whose memory we venerate.”

“It’s about sharing in something … and in that sense, it’s very interpersonal in its meaning,” he said. “In other words, since we are sharing what is theirs in an interpersonal way, their merits and prayers aren’t those of someone removed from us. … These merits and prayers are coming from those who are invested in us and are willing to share with us both the fruits of their labors and the fruits of their heavenly peace.”

Following the homily, each of the 12 sisters were examined by the celebrant, proclaiming their readiness to dedicate themselves to God, prostrated themselves upon the altar as the litany of saints was sung, and finally, one by one, made their profession of vows, as received by Mother Anna Grace Neenan, prioress general, and signed the document of profession on the altar.

“The Mass was heaven on earth from the moment it began. To make final vows is a gift beyond anything I could have known or for which I could have asked. The entire day is so deeply imprinted on my heart, full of deep graces and abundant joy. I think that if I had to say how it felt, my answer would be: simple and complete,” said Sister Rachel Marie.

Sister Rosaria said she also enjoyed professing her vows the most, making them twice, once in English and once in Tagalog in honor of her family and all those watching via livestream from the Philippines.

“I wanted to proclaim it for all to hear and to mean every word I said,” said Sister Rosaria, who has felt the call to religious life since she was 14. “I hope to be faithful to my vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for all my life. I want to live my vows more deeply each day for the love of Jesus and his church. … I have desired to give my whole life to Jesus for so long, and at last he was granting me this gift through my community with the blessing of the church. After my life and the sacraments, my religious vocation is God’s greatest gift to me.”

Following the vows, the new sisters lined up to receive the sign of peace from their fellow Dominican sisters.

“My favorite part was the sign of peace, when all the perpetually professed sisters embraced us as a sign of our acceptance into the congregation,” said Sister Eva Marie. “It was a joyful experience of the fraternal love of our community life, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my sisters’ goodness, mercy, and love.”

Katie Peterson is a reporter with the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.

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