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This is the second of a two-part post where I interview Mother Assumpta Long, O.P., the Mother Superior of our community, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. If you have not already, you might want to read, listen to, and/or watch Episode 12 before continuing with this episode.
Mother and I go way back through my religious life. We have shared many beautiful things including an amazing providence of God. We certainly didn’t anticipate that the two of us, along with Sister Mary Samuel Handwerker and Sister John Dominic Rasmussen would, by God’s grace, found a new branch of teaching sisters in the Dominican order. Here, Mother discusses the beginnings of our community.
For the Video Presentation of this article click here:
Sr. Joseph Andrew:
So Mother, where would you like to start in sharing about the beginnings of our community?
My goodness! You gave me kind of a difficult topic to even try to put in a nutshell. But I can say that in your life, you hope that you always do God’s will.
The four of us felt that it was God’s will to make a new foundation because we came from a wonderful Dominican community in Nashville. It had superb formation, good training, good education, all of that. If you knew what all was involved in making this new foundation, you probably wouldn’t do it. You just take a leap in faith and let God work it out. When we got permission from our own community and from the Vatican, and once the decision was made, God took over. If I had any doubts about what we’re doing, he was saying, “This is needed. Get on with it.” He was not just doing it but also pushing us.
Sr. Joseph Andrew:
How did we and why did we go to New York?
I think the reason we went to New York is because I had helped Cardinal John O’Connor with the Sisters of Life. When they were established for only about a year, I went there. It was one of the most wonderful experiences in my whole life because I worked so closely with the Cardinal and this new community that he loved so much, the Sisters of Life.
As busy as he was, he would make time to talk to me if I needed to speak with him. I think he had the whole archdiocese, and yet he was so available and approachable. The Sisters of Life have certainly proven what a gift to the church they are. When he heard that we were thinking about making a new foundation, he said, “Come to New York.” We had a year of prayer and discernment, and then all of it worked out so beautifully.
Sr. Joseph Andrew:
How did we live there?
The Cardinal didn’t have any place for us to stay. One Sister in the community said, “Why don’t you live with my parents, Peter and Bridgette Flannigan? They live in Purchase, New York, and they have a barn on their property you could live in.” This was God’s way of taking care of it. Now, I want the audience to know, this was not just an ordinary barn. This was beautiful. We all had private rooms. It was incredible. We had our own plans, but God just took over the plans. So we went there. The Cardinal lent us a tabernacle. We had a beautiful little chapel in a former horse stall, which allowed us to have time to pray. We had time to play. It was a beautiful property.
We were there, and we had a year to pray about the decision to start our own order. The cardinal gave us a marvelous canon lawyer because he wanted us to do everything correctly. His canon lawyer worked with us to make sure that we did everything according to canon law and ensured it was in line with what the Vatican would approve. By Christmastime, we felt as though we had everything ready and knew that this was certainly God’s will for us.
In January, we got everything all settled. On February 9, 1997, in the private chapel of St. Patrick’s in Manhattan, New York, Cardinal John O’Connor established us as a Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.
However, we were so preoccupied that we didn’t even think to have money to do this – it was the only thing we didn’t think of. If you are going to accept postulants, you have to feed and educate them all. We had very little money, but the only thing we needed when we were in Purchase was gas and food. The Flannigans luckily had a gas pump on their property, and Bridgette Flannigan gave us a Discover card for food. That was a miracle. We will always be so grateful to them. We had a great balance of deep prayer and hard work due to immense amounts of red tape, but thanks to Cardinal O’Conner, we succeeded.
Sr. Joseph Andrew:
I remember one guest would come up from time to time in a rickety car and surprise us with books or bread. It was none other than Father Benedict Groeschel, and he always said he wanted to support us however he could. That was so beautiful.
We submitted our documents on December 4th, and some of the priests and other friends were telling us not to send anything to Rome at Christmastime because it would get lost. But it went out, and our answer always was that this was God; it wasn’t really about us at all. By January 4th we received the permission to become a new Dominican community, one month to the day that we sent it. So then, someone else came into the picture. Who was that amazing person?
I think it was the day after we arrived in New York. We were going into vespers when the phone rang. It was Tom Monaghan, and he had heard what we were doing. He said to me, “I want to build these little schools.” I thought, “Oh, what does this have to do with us.” He said, “I want to build these schools, and I will give them to you.” I thought and wondered, “Is this the Holy Spirit, or is it just the devil?” But I listened to him. I went in to pray and told the sisters. I called Cardinal O’Connor, and he said to pray about it. Tom and I were visiting, and I remember saying to him “Tom, we’re educators, and we will teach. We will teach.” But I said, “We are concerned and focused on forming a new community.” And he said, “Well, I will help you do that.”
Now, we didn’t ask for it. We didn’t expect it. It had to be of God. I mean, it had to be of God because we had no money. If Tom had not stepped into the picture, I don’t know what would have happened. We will always be eternally grateful. He would fly us out to Ann Arbor and show us property. He sent Frank Shaika out to be his emissary to write down everything we needed. We could list all that we figured that we would need, and Tom always came up with it.
The night before we were founded as a community in St. Patrick’s rectory chapel, they were having this big Legatus summit in Naples, Florida. Cardinal O’Connor was one of the speakers, and Tom Monaghan flew him down in a private plane. We didn’t know this, but Cardinal O’Connor said to Tom Monaghan, “I’m establishing the sisters as a community tomorrow. Would you like to come?” Tom said yes. We were supposed to get there early on the morning of February 9th. We were sitting in the parlor and heard footsteps coming down the stairs. We thought it was Cardinal O’Connor, but in comes Tom. He must have stayed at the rectory the night before. We were shocked. It was a good thing he was there because he was the only one to take a picture of the occasion.
Sr. Joseph Andrew:
Mother, in closing, our viewers and listeners need to go to our website, SistersofMary.org, and see these beautiful medals that we as Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist wear. What a great gift this is. Would you like to please explain that to our viewers and listeners?
Oh, I think you do a better job.
Sr. Joseph Andrew:
So the picture is Mary holding baby Jesus. Remember we are Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Behind them is the white host, the Eucharist – the precious body blood sowing divinity – and the chalice holding the precious blood. Above that is the eight-pointed star of Saint Dominic and below it is the year 1997, the first year of the three-year preparation, which began when Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Letter for the Great Jubilee.
As our community progresses, we see the many things that we lived through, kept running through, and prayed through. Mother, we really want to thank you and your humility, and all your years of standing up very strong and with great prudence, wisdom, and fortitude for religious life. That is certainly why Cardinal O’Connor, other Cardinals, Tom Monaghan, and people of deep, deep faith were there to help us out when we needed them. They’re a part of our family. And now, you the reader and the listener are too because you are watching and listening to “The Truth Shall Set You Free.” God bless you.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast “And The Truth Shall Set You Free” can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. The podcast can be seen on YouTube at GoLEDigital.
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