By Katie Beckmann, Communications Manager
March has been a memorable month for the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, as they celebrated National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW) and Women’s History Month.
Since 2014, NCSW has been annually observed from March 8th – 14th and celebrates Women Religious, as well as raises awareness about the influence they have had on the Catholic Church and society, as a whole.
This year, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, were awarded a Mini-Grant for NCSW 2019 and celebrated the week with events that brought together Sisters, Associates, other Congregations, local students and community members.
On Friday, March 8th, Orangetown Supervisor Chris Day visited the Motherhouse to recognize both the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York and the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill with a Proclamation that formally deemed March 8 – 14 as National Catholic Sisters Week in Orangetown, as well as recognized both congregations for their impact on society. The Congregation Leadership Team of Sisters Michaela Connolly, Mary Ann Collins, Mary Flood, and Ellenrita Purcaro accepted the Proclamation on behalf of Blauvelt, while Sisters Mary Murray and Irene Ellis accepted on behalf of Sparkill.
A few days later on March 10th, the Sisters hosted over 150 attendees at their Ladies Celtic Tea event. This annual event is popular among the local community, and those in attendance enjoyed Irish tea, food, raffles, and preaching from Sister Miriam Catherine Nevins, OP.
In her preaching, Sister Miriam Catherine shared her experiences when she traveled to Dublin in April 2018 to participate in a tour of Ireland, referred to as a "Irish Odyssey". During this trip, Sister Miriam Catherine traveled all throughout Ireland in a bus and saw sites such as Newgrange, the 5000 year old burial tombs.
Sister Miriam Catherine's preaching also included thoughts about Celtic spirituality and heritage.
"The ingenuity of these ancient ones filled me with a sense of awe. Their desire to commune with their God, and their determination to achieve this goal speaks to our basic need to identify a power outside ourselves in whom we can/must have faith.
The early Celts adhered to the concept of a divine power diffused through all nature. The earth was/is holy. When I think of this, I recall God telling Moses “Where you stand is holy ground.” Aware of the ravages invading people thrust upon the land, we develop a deeper appreciation for a people’s respect for and love of the earth.
Besides a deeper love for and respect of the land, the early Celts also had a wonderful image of humans. The concept of humans in the Bible which seems to have permeated these people is from Genesis where we read, “God made humans in his image…in his likeness. If we are created in the image of God, we are powerful, yet we shrink from seeing ourselves in this light.
Irish heritage would have us march to a new drummer. We would claim our power, dependent of course on our faith and that what we purpose is in accordance with God’s will.
Somewhere along the way – over various centuries – we have been taught that we must seek pardon more than claiming our power. Yes, we are sinners; yes, we ask for forgiveness, but this should not negate that fact that power is also a gift. In the story of Job, when Job finally breaks down and asks God (as most of us have at some point in our lives) Why me? God tells him to stand up and to be the person God created."
-Sister Miriam Catherine Nevins, OP
Unfortunately, Sister Miriam Catherine was unable to attend the Ladies Celtic Tea due to an injury. However, Maureen O'Dwyer Zeiss, Associate, was able to share Sister Miriam Catherine's preaching with the guests and enthusiastically conveyed her message to all gathered.
Guests also were treated to a wonderful performance from the Pearl River School of Irish Music featuring Kian McGeever on the Accordian, Kaitlyn Heffernan on the flute, Gillian Vanderhoeff on the fiddle, as well as singing. Following this performance, Kaitlyn Heffernan joined Erin Hooker of Strings of Tara for a performance of Celtic songs using the harp. Closing out the entertainment portion of the Celtic Tea was Irish Dancer, McAllister Salter. McAllister is a talented 12 year old who has been dancing since she was four.
The remaining days of National Catholic Sisters Week were quite busy as on Monday, March 11th, students from the Tappan Zee High School Social Justice Club and their advisor, Ms. Parker-Hennion participated in a Ministry Service Day with our Sisters. The 15 attendees who participated in the event learned about Sister Dorothy Maxwell’s ministry as a Chaplain at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, the only maximum security prison for women in New York State. One of Sister Dorothy’s primary responsibilities is to minister to women in the medical wing who are both waiting for and recovering from surgery.
As a part of Ministry Service Day, Sisters and students assembled 40 bags with toothbrushes, puzzle books, greeting cards, and soap for the women as they are not permitted to take anything to the medical unit nor the hospital.
The following day, Tuesday, March 12th, Blauvelt Dominican Sister Ursula McGovern, OP, participated in a Facebook Live interview, “A Candid Conversation about Religious Life Today” with Sisters Jeanne Shary and Bridget Kiniry from Sparkill. During the interview, these Sisters spoke about their vocation journey, ministry experiences, and gave advice for young women considering entering Religious Life.
Later that evening, Sisters Mary Flood and Michaela Connolly joined Sparkill Sisters Mary Murray and Eileen Gannon at the Town of Orangetown Board Workshop where both Congregations were honored for Women’s History Month and National Catholic Sisters Week.
The two congregations joined together again on Wednesday, March 13th, as the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill hosted a movie screening of “Missions of Hope,” a documentary produced by the production team of Sister Story for National Catholic Sisters Week. This documentary focused on debunking misconceptions of women religious, as well as showing their diversity and relevance among young adults, and featured the stories of three Catholic Sisters throughout the United States and one Catholic Sister in Kenya who has worked for the United Nations.
While National Catholic Sisters Week formally concluded Thursday, March 14th, the Sisters of Saint Dominic continued their celebrations until Monday, March 18th, where we hosted our annual Prayer, Pizza, and Conversation event with Dominican College students. Over 65 Sisters and students were in attendance and during the event, they prayed together, enjoyed delicious food, as well as got to know each other.
March 10, 2019 - Photos from Ladies Celtic Tea at St. Dominic Convent
March 11, 2019 - Photos from Ministry Service Day
with Tappan Zee High School students at St. Dominic Convent
March 18, 2019 - Photos from Prayer, Pizza, and Conversation
with Dominican College Students at St. Dominic Convent