Sister M. Trinita shares her friendship with Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, the two sisters whose murder in Mississippi last week has shocked the nation.
Yesterday afternoon I called Sister Mary Trinita at the community health clinic she’s run for twenty years in Jackson, Miss., wondering if she knew the two sisters who were murdered last week in the nearby town of Durant. The details of the sisters’ deaths are available elsewhere. Here I want to share Sister Trinita’s testimony, and offer a challenge.
“Hi Trinita, you’re answering the phone,” I said, stating the obvious.
“Just walked in the door. I was at the memorial. At the cathedral. It was beautiful. Not an empty place in the church.”
It shouldn’t have surprised me that she would know Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill. Durant is in the Jackson diocese just sixty miles from Jackson, the place Sister Trinita has called home for her entire religious life, and all three sisters in the business of caring for the poor in one of the poorest states in the union.
What I didn’t realize was that they were good friends who enjoyed the time they could steal to visit, share a good meal, and laugh. “I last saw them in April,” Sister Trinita recalled. “They’d come to Jackson to shop and we went out to lunch. We talked and enjoyed reminiscing.”
“They lived the Gospel. Talk about giving your life to God. They proved that they did.”
What I didn’t realize was Sister Margaret and Sister Trinita’s friendship began 21 years ago when they studied together to become nurse practitioners. They shared the weekly three-hour drives back and forth between Jackson and the campus in Columbus, Miss. “Margaret was feisty,” Sister Trinita said. There was a soft chuckle; I waited for the story.
“Once we drove through a storm to make it to class on time,” Sister Trinita explained. The teacher walked in late and announced that the inclement weather meant she was not prepared for class. “Sister Margaret stood up and spoke her mind: ‘We drove through snow and ice to be here and we are prepared for class. Don’t tell us you are not prepared for class!’”
I asked what she’d like our friends to know about Margaret and Paula.
“They lived the Gospel. Talk about giving your life to God,” she mused, “They proved that they did. They would do anything for anyone at any time. They were lovable, and I loved them.”
What I wasn’t prepared to hear was the normalcy with which Sister Trinita considered her friends’ deaths. She told me that on Thursday she received a call at the clinic from one of our sisters who thought of her when she heard the news and called to make sure she was okay.
“It wasn’t me this time. I assured her I was okay but shaken by the news.” That’s what she said. It wasn’t me. This time.
The people of Holmes County, Mississippi, are now wondering who will come to take Sister Margaret’s and Sister Paula’s place.
I asked her if she worried about potential violence in her ministry at St. Dominic’s clinic. “I think about it once in a while,” she admitted. “It could—and does—happen anywhere.” She rattled off a list of incidents she recalled.
“I’m careful, but I don’t let it bother me; otherwise it might keep me from doing what I need to do.”
This, from a woman who three weeks ago was home in Springfield with her community celebrating the three sisters she lives with in Jackson who marked 60 years of consecrated religious profession. A woman who has served in Mississippi since before I was born. This week, this sister of mine buried two friends who were killed in the midst of their ministry and went back to work at her clinic in Jackson.
The people of Holmes County, Mississippi, are now wondering who will come to take Sister Margaret’s and Sister Paula’s place. As Mississippi columnist Sid Salter wrote, “The role these sisters played in the lives of the poor and the sick in Holmes County will be assumed by . . .whom? When the faith-based ministries that politicians like to talk about are targeted, just who takes up that slack?
“Because remarkable souls like these innocent, dedicated women don’t choose to come to rural Mississippi every day.”
Mr. Salter’s point, I believe, is that Sister Margaret and Sister Paula, and My sister, Trinita, are filling a need that so often our governments fail to meet.
My point is, where are the Catholic sisters to stand in the gap?
We have seven remarkable Springfield Dominican Sisters serving at St. Dominic in Jackson, all but one of whom are nearing retirement, and I’m on the downside of my fifth decade.
Who will take their places?
Will a young woman you know? Will you? Will you “Talk about giving your life to God”?
We’d be so happy to hear from you, and to help you discern whether God is calling you to serve him as a Dominican Sister, either in Jackson or in any one of many other challenging, life-giving ministries.
For more information about becoming a Dominican Sister of Springfield, call Sister Teresa Marron, OP, at 217-787-0481 or contact us here.
Springfield, Ill.—The Dominican Sisters of Springfield welcomed 29 new associates from Illinois and Missouri during Mass at Sacred Heart Convent Chapel on May 15.
One of the largest associate classes in recent years, the group included residents from seven Illinois communities and, for the first time ever, ten new associates that hail from Columbia, Missouri. They made their commitment after completing a 9-month course in the history, spirituality, and mission of the Dominicans.
Welcome to all our new associates!
From Bloomington, Ill. Pat McLean, St. Mary Parish (Sponsor: Sister Philip Neri Crawford, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Marianne Nolan)
From Carrollton, Ill. Phyllis Didier, St. John Parish (Sponsor: Sister Henrianne Schmidt, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Ancilla Caulfield)
From Chatham, Ill. Teri Casson, Christ the King Parish (Sponsor: Sister Regina Marie Bernet, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Francene Harbauer)
From Chicago Heights, Ill. Joan Anderson (Sponsor: Sister Agnes Ann Pisel, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Edwina Finnegan), Marcela Bermudez (Sponsor: Theresa Sovereign, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Clarice Kniery)
From Concord, Ill. Sharon Beniach, Our Saviour Parish, Jacksonville (Sponsor: Patty Fitzpatrick, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Stephanie Kapusta)
From Jacksonville, Ill. (all Our Saviour Parish) LaVonne DePauw (Sponsor: Sue Brosmith, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Helen Wolf) Becky DeVore (Sponsor: Sister Margaret Ann Cox, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Bernice Juip) Barbara Dunseth (Sponsor: Sister Margaret Ann Cox, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Myra Flahive) Sandra Keesee (Sponsor: Jan Fellhauer, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Melanie Roetker) Rosella Spreen (Sponsor: Sue Brosmith Prayer Sponsor: Sister Aniceta Skube)
From Monee, Ill. Diane E. Brandstetter, St. Boniface Parish (Sponsor: Sister Agnes Ann Pisel, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Alan Russell)
From Mt. Sterling, Ill. Jane Veith, St. Mary Parish (Sponsor: Sister Jean Patrick Ehrhardt, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Doris Taylor)
From Springfield, Ill. Glenda K. Becker, Christ the King Parish (Sponsor: Patty Fitzpatrick, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Stephanie Kapusta) John Freml, St. Joseph Parish (Sponsor: Sister Linda Mary DeLonais, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Gael Daley) Betty Goldasich, Little Flower Parish (Sponsor: Sister Mary Linda Tonellato, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Norma Somers) Michael Goldasich, Little Flower Parish (Sponsor: Sister Mary Linda Tonellato, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Noel Plummer) Beth LaFata, St. Joseph the Worker, Chatham (Sponsor: Sister Joan Sorge, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Rose Schleeper) Christina Saunderson, Blessed Sacrament Parish (Sponsor: Sister Katherine O’Connor, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Pauletta Overbeck)
From Columbia, MO (Sacred Heart Parish) Rosa Caubet (Sponsor: Sister M. Clare Fichtner, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Samuella Volk) Deacon William Caubet (Sponsor: Sister M. Clare Fichtner, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Gabriella Luebbers) Joanna Guzman (Sponsor: Sister M. Clare Fichtner, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Blaise Galloway) Barbara Head (Sponsor: Sister M. Clare Fichtner, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Marion Sitkiewitz) Vanessa Velez-Rivera (Sponsor: Sister M. Clare Fichtner, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Dominic Joerger)
From Columbia, MO (St. Thomas More Newman Center) Nancy Howard (Sponsor: Sister Karen Freund, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Carole Dittrich) Martha Lerch (Sponsor: Sister Karen Freund, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Carole Dittrich) Michele Sisson-White (Sponsor: Sister Karen Freund, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Xavier Kelly) Phyllis Stoecklein (Sponsor: Sister Karen Freund, Prayer Sponsor: Sister Margaret McCormick) Mary Waters (Sponsor: Sister Karen Freund, Prayer Sponsor: Sister M. Anton Uthe)
Baptized Christians from any tradition may be candidates for the Dominican Associate Program. Women seeking vowed membership as sisters are required to be single and Catholic. For more information about becoming a Dominican sister or a Dominican associate call 217-787-0481 or email. DominicanSisters@spdom.org.
National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW) is an annual week-long celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States dedicated to promote vocations to ordained ministry and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering one of these particular vocations.
Lean more about us here: http://springfieldop.org/join-us-2/join-us/
We are joyful women committed to preaching the Gospel through our lives lived in community, our personal and communal prayer, and our varied ministries. The model for our preaching is Jesus, whose mission is “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18).
Sister Teresa Marron, OP, Vocation Director
(708) 207-1874 • firstname.lastname@example.org
March 8-14, 2015 is National Catholic Sisters Week (NCSW); keep the conversation going and share your reason why you love Dominican Sisters!
Facebook Page: facebook.com/springfieldop
Music: Kevin MacLeod; Blue Paint
YouTube video link:
Sister Rose Marie, OP shares her experience of mutual relationships in religious life during National Vocation Awareness Week 2014.