The new Springfield Dominican Leadership team will begin their responsibilities after the planned June 15, 2019 installation ceremony at Sacred Heart Convent. From left to right are Sister Rose Miriam Schulte, OP (vicaress), Sister Marie Michelle Hackett, OP (third councilor) Sister Mila Diaz Solano (second councilor), and Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP (Prioress General).
A Prayer for the Life of the World promises solidarity with the marginalized, attention to the interconnected reality of creation, and a renunciation of racism and the misuse of power.
Springfield, Ill.—On Sunday April 28 the Dominican Sisters of Springfield capped off a week of common study, prayer and contemplation—called a General Chapter—by electing to leadership the sisters who will animate their common life and mission for the coming five years. Earlier during the meeting, they signaled the direction for ministry for the coming five years by affirming A Prayer for the Life of the World.
Re-elected as prioress general of the congregation is Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, who has led the Springfield Dominican Sisters during the 2014-2019 term. Sister Rose Miriam Schulte, OP, was elected as vicaress, and Sisters Mila Diaz Solano, OP, and Marie Michelle Hackett, OP, will serve as second and third councilors.
Sister Rebecca Ann has been in a ministry of congregational leadership since 2005 when she was elected to the general council. She served two terms as a council member before being elected prioress general in 2014. A native of Van Nuys, California, Sister Rebecca Ann made profession of vows in 1984 and ministered in elementary education as a teacher and a principal before becoming a licensed social worker. She worked in Springfield for the Rape Information Counseling Service and as a social worker at the Dominican Literacy Center, Aurora, Ill.
Sister Rose Miriam is returning to congregational leadership, now as vicaress of the Springfield Dominicans. The Quincy, Ill., native had a long career in elementary education and administration before her election as prioress general of the congregation in 1989. She served two terms in leadership which ended in 1997, then completed a dual master’s degree in pastoral studies and counseling at Loyola University, New Orleans. For the past 19 years she has ministered in Madison County, Ill., first with Call for Help, and then, since 2002, as a child and family therapist for Catholic Charities. She made her profession of vows in 1962.
Sister Mila, a native of La Oroya, Peru, made profession in 1998 and is nearing completion of her doctoral studies in Old Testament at the École Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem, a biblical studies and archeological institute in Jerusalem. She has worked in pastoral ministry in Lima, Peru, and completed a Master of Theology in theological research at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She currently resides in Lima where she teaches scripture at ISET, a graduate school of theology, while ministering at Instituto Bartolomé de las Casas, a Christian human development organization founded by Dominican theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez.
Sister Marie Michelle is a veteran educator, having just completed 28 years of administration at St. Edward School, Chicago. She currently serves as a consultant to parochial school administrators in the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Education. The Chicago native holds multiple degrees and certificates in education, including a master’s in nonpublic education administration from the University of Illinois. She is deeply engaged with collaborative projects within the U.S. Dominican Family. She made her profession of vows in 1964.
Installation for the new leadership team is scheduled for June 15, 2019. They will carry on the work of the outgoing team, which includes Sister Rebecca Ann and Sisters Barbara Blesse, Kathlyn Mulcahy, Kathleen Cour, and Kathleen Gallagher. A celebration of thanksgiving for the outgoing team is planned for June 14.
Delegates to the Springfield Dominican Sisters General Chapter signal their unanimous affirmation of A Prayer for the Life of the World. The prayer will be a source of inspiration and challenge to the sisters over the course of the next five years.
The Chapter of Life and Mission
Prior to the Chapter of Elections, the sisters spent the four days of the Chapter of Life and Mission, praying, studying, and conversing on the themes of relationship, mission, and identity. Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Mary Ann Nelson presented Vows in the 21st Century: Call to Right relationship with One Another, World, and Earth. She drew deeply on the words of the a former superior general of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, who said “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.” Our vowed life challenges us to trust where God’s love will lead us and to live in honesty, compassion, and authenticity if we are to be credible witnesses to the “Enough”—who is God.
On Wednesday, a day to focus on Mission, we welcomed members of the Springfield Dominican Antiracism Team (SDART) who spoke to us of their experience living inside the power dynamic scholar Gloria Anzaldúa named center and borderlands. Sister Mary Jean Traeger and Kelly Hurst provided an overview of the center-borderlands dynamic. Sister Mary Jean is a member of the Springfield Coalition on Dismantling Racism (SCoDR) and Kelly is a trainer for Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training.
The panel presenters were Robert Blackwell, director of Racial Equity Practice for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; Veronica Espina, a professor at the University of Illinois Springfield; and Springfield Dominican Sister Barbara Ann Bogenschutz, who is pastoral leader at Our Lady of the Sioux Parish, Oglala, South Dakota. The challenge presented this day was to authentically and deeply engage our congregational commitment to becoming an antiracist institution.
Thursday was a day given over to understanding what is of the essence, what is distinctive, and what is enduring about Springfield Dominican identity: The mission of Jesus, our profession in the Order of Preachers, and the ongoing revelation of the Spirit which keeps us, individually and communally, centered in the Word made Flesh.
It was on Friday that these themes coalesced for us, in the form of a prayer composed by a team of four “listeners” whose task during the week was to synthesize what they heard from the community discussion on each of the three previous days. The result of all this is a powerful prayer that will continue to guide and direct the life and ministry of every Springfield Dominican Sisters as we move forward in life, mission, and ministry. The listening team included Sisters Joanne Marie Delehanty, Karen Freund, Rose Miriam Schulte, and Mila Díaz Solano.
The Dominican Sisters of Springfield are part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers. For more than 800 years, Dominicans have preached the Gospel in word and deed. The Springfield Dominicans were established in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1873 and relocated to Springfield in 1893. Today, thousands of Dominican sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity minister in more than 100 countries around the world.