Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation, 2023

Early this morning we had our traditional solemn chapter of the Annunciation. We have solemn chapter twice a year–on March 24 (the day before the Annunciation) and on December 24 (the day before Christmas). For March 24, a sister is asked to sing the account of the Annunciation to Mary from Luke’s Gospel, and on December 24 a sister sings the Christmas Proclamation. We know it looks like we had chapter in the middle of the night, but it was really about 6:30 AM.

Sister Mary Gabriel did a beautiful job singing the Gospel!

Sr. Margarita gave an excellent sermon centered on Mary’s fiat.

This is probably the last time you will see Sr. Margarita in this habit, because tomorrow she will receive our habit (same Dominican habit, just a different style) and her new name. We are all wondering what her name will be! Even Sr. Margarita doesn’t know for sure–she asked Sr. Mary Margaret to choose for her! We will try to post some pictures–and solve the mystery of the name–this weekend.

The ceremony will be at 10:30 AM in the same room you see above–the Chapter Hall. Please keep Sr. Margarita in your prayers as she concludes her retreat and prepares for a new beginning!

What’s Going On in the Novitiate?

Sr. Maria Goretti, Michelle, Sr. Margarita, Sarah, Sr. Marie Augustine, Sr. Mary Christine

Good question! We’re happy to say we have two sisters who are transferring to our community and two aspirants at present, with hopes for more. God is really blessing us! And Sr. Margarita will be receiving our community’s habit on March 25–along with a new name. We don’t know what it is yet, but we’ll keep you posted!

The sisters who live in the novitiate have their own dormitory, community room, library and classroom all in one convenient building. They spend most of their time there, although they join the professed sisters for evening recreation, meals, and (of course) prayers.

Our community policy is that a transfer from an active community of religious sisters spends about 6 months to a year as a visitor–that’s why we have the two sisters wearing their original habits. After receiving our habit, they remain in the novitiate for one year (required by our constitutions) and then spend a second year in the novitiate before they make the move over to the professed, where they spend some time integrating into the community before they make solemn vows. It’s a process, but the sisters who have done it say it’s worth it!

An aspirant comes for a specified length of time to get to know the community (and allow us to get to know her). If all goes well, they may return for the next step of religious formation–the postulancy, which lasts a year. After this, the postulant is clothed in the habit and receives her religious name.

Our novitiate has been having a lot of fun!

Recreation in the community room

Enjoying the cool March weather in the novitiate courtyard

The novitiate keeps the garden outside their building looking good.

Sarah and Michelle, our two latest aspirants. Please keep them in your prayers as they discern!

Sr. Maria Goretti and Sr. Margarita, our two active sisters. Sr. Maria Goretti is a Franciscan and Sr. Margarita is a member of an active Dominican community. Please keep them in your prayers!

Please pray for us, too, that we will be open to the Holy Spirit as we make our own decisions about these women!

Sister Mary Annunciata’s Funeral

Sister’ funeral Mass was held on February 27, 2023. It was a moving ceremony presided over by Bishop Joseph Strickland, and many of her remaining family members and a few friends were able to attend.

Before the funeral, Sister’s body lay in state in our chapel. We kept vigil with her all day and most of the night. We pray the Psalter as we stay with Sister–starting at the beginning and continuing on until time for the funeral, repeating as necessary.

After distribution of the Holy Eucharist, the funeral ceremonies begin:

Praying and incensing the casket.

Then we begin the procession to the cemetery, which is located on our property. THe cross bearer and acolytes (holding candles) go first, then the sisters, followed by the clergy and the Bishop. Then comes a car carrying some of the elderly sisters who can’t walk as far as the cemetery, and finally the hearse.

As the sisters move into the cemetery, the pall bearers bring in the casket.

Sister’s family in the front row.

And at the end, the prayers at the graveside and the final commendation.

We sang the “Magnificat” at the end, which is our custom, and then processed back to the monastery. It is hard to say goodbye to Sr. Mary Annunciata, but we hope and pray that we will all be reunited one day in the glory of heaven. As we have mentioned before on this blog, we go out to the cemetery for eight days following the funeral to pray a decade of the Rosary at the grave and sing a hymn, usually one that had special meaning for Sister. We can’t be certain, of course, but it does seem like Sr. Mary Annunciata has been interceding for us already!

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

COVID-19 Strikes the Monastery

Believe it or not, no one in our monastery had ever come down with COVID until just a few weeks ago! We were always careful about handwashing, wearing masks when out, and got our various shots, so maybe we were getting a little complacent. But somehow–somewhere–the COVID-19 virus entered our monastery and turned everything upside down for a couple of weeks. In fact, we’re still recovering.

It started small…just one sister. Then two more, and before we knew it more than half the community had it! The brave sisters who withstood the infection were nearly run off their feet bringing meals, keeping regular prayer times (although we did recite everything), checking on the sick, monitoring the telephone and dock (where we receive deliveries), and trying to keep from getting sick themselves. The only major observance we had to drop temporarily was adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We hope we can return to this soon!

Cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, Lysol, and gloves–essentials for dealing with COVID. The vases were filled with beautiful roses and given to each of the sick sisters. What a lovely thought! Carts were used to transport meals and medical supplies over to the dormitory from the kitchen.

Thankfully, everyone is out of isolation now and back in the community. We are singing at Mass and the Liturgy, and we even began having a short period of recreation. But for now we are still using disposable plates and wearing gloves when we pick up our meals from the table. No COVID rebound, please!

Our recent adventure with COVID-19 has made our prayers for those who suffer all the more heartfelt, since we now know first hand the struggles people go through. We are fortunate to be a community, where people can pitch in and help out when things get bad. We have always prayed for the victims of COVID, and continue to do so, although as mentioned we now have a more personal understanding of the magnitude of the problem. We have been opening up a little (we’ll bring you a post on Sr. Mary Annunciata’s funeral soon, where we went without masks) and hope to do more as time goes on. In the meantime, let’s keep each other in prayer.

Rest in Peace, Sr. Mary Annunciata

Sr. Mary Annunciata of the Holy Spirit, O.P., died on February 22, 2023. She lived 66 years of profession as a Dominican, 45 of these in solemn vows. Sister first entered the Dominican Sisters of Houston, where she taught and served as principal at some of their schools. However, she began to feel her own “call within a call” and transferred to our community. Sister served our community in many and varied ways, including in the demanding roles of novice directress, sub-prioress, and prioress.

Sr. Mary Annunciata was well-known for her love for St. Therese of Lisieux and cats–the latter a characteristic she shared with the late Pope Benedict XVI. She was a deeply spiritual woman and always firm and practical. You can see Sr. Mary Annunciata in our documentary, which is on YouTube (she’s in the section on study). She celebrated her 90th birthday on August 15, 2022. We miss Sr. Mary Annunciata very much, but we take comfort in the fact that she is with God now. May you rest in peace, dear Sr. Mary Annunciata!

Sr. Mary Therese’s Solemn Profession

Saturday, January 21 was a day of great rejoicing for our community as Sr. Mary Therese of Divine Mercy, O.P. professed her solemn vows as a cloistered Dominican nun!

The chapel was decorated with Sister’s favorite color–pink.

Sr. Mary Therese seated up front, waiting for Mass to begin.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Robert Merced, O.P., provincial of St. Martin de Porres province, and the ceremony was conducted by Fr. Scott O’Brien, O.P., our community’s vicar. There were lots of Dominican priests present, as well as others! The novices from our province were able to come, too, which gave us a chance to meet them.

Sister’s two nieces…

read the first and second readings beautifully!

Sister prostrating herself during the Litany of the Saints

Sister Mary Therese made her vows in the hands of our prioress, Sr. Mary Margaret, O.P.

After Sister’s veil was blessed, she received her ring, symbol of her mystical marriage to Christ.

Presentation of the gifts

The Mass continued.

Sister greets her family…

and more family…

and more family! You can see three of Sister’s nephews to the right–they assisted at Mass.

Next, Sister greeted the community.

There was a fun reception afterward! Our guests mingled in this parlor, while Sister and her family gathered in another parlor.

Sister got to sit at the prioress’ table for the day!

Her placemat

On Sunday night, we had a special recreation and watched as Sister joyfully opened all the gifts she had received. Many will go back to the community but some she can keep!

If you would like to see the Mass and profession ceremony, please go to our website and click on “About Us” and go to “Videos and Blog”. We hope you will join us in praying for more vocations, to praise and serve and intercede before God for the whole world.

Christmas Unwrapped

As always, there’s been a lot going on! We’d like to share some of the highlights of this Christmas season with you. Yes, the Christmas season lasts until the Baptism of the Lord and that’s not until January 9, so for us it’s still Christmas!

We had a beautiful Christmas, with many lovely decorations by our talented sisters and thoughtful gifts from our benefactors.

Tree and nativity scene in our community room

One of our benefactors had these great bags made–one for each of us! Note the Dominican shield!

Everyone loves puzzles!

Fr. Ian gave us a chime to ring at the epiclesis during Mass and at Benediction–much nicer than our old bell.

What could this be? Maybe something to eat?

I think this one’s popcorn…

Might need some help getting this one open.

On December 30, feast of the Holy Family, our bishop Joseph Strickland came to offer Mass and enjoy a visit and “family” meal with us. We were also privileged to have Br. Christopher Kalan, O.Cist., from Our Lady of Dallas Abbey, staying at our monastery for his priestly ordination retreat–so Br. Christopher served as our deacon at Mass and joined us for dinner afterward, as did our chaplain, Fr. Ian.

Bishop Strickland is always so kind and friendly to us, a true spiritual father.

We presented him with an afghan one of our sisters crocheted.

Brother Christopher is a tall man…

…or maybe we are just kind of petite?

We also had a delightful parlor visit with Br. Christopher. (Hope he got enough retreat!) He will be ordained in February, and we hope he will come back to celebrate Mass for us and give us his first blessing.

All together, Christmas has been a season of many blessings. There have been some serious events too, but everything balances out and we are filled with joy and gratitude as we welcome the New Year 2023, when Sr. Mary Therese will make her solemn profession (January 21) and we are expecting some new faces at our monastery!