Mission and Truth: New Springfield Dominican Sisters leadership team takes office

Members of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield leadership team stand arm in arm in the beautiful chapel light. From left: Sisters Elyse Marie Ramirez, Joanne Delehanty, M. Paul McCaughey, and Kathlyn Mulcahy.

Sister M. Paul McCaughey greetss newly installed council in the Sacred Heart Convent chapel sanctuary.Springfield, Ill.—The Springfield Dominican Sisters’ leadership team, elected last April during general chapter, began a five-year term of service last week after their formal installation during Mass at Sacred Heart Convent here on Saturday, June 15.

During a brief, moving ritual, Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, the outgoing prioress general, formally questioned Sister M. Paul McCaughey, the prioress general-elect: “Sister Mary Paul, the general chapter of the Dominican Sisters has called you to serve as prioress general for a period of five years. What is your response?”

“With faith in God and the support of my sisters I accept the call to serve,” Sister M. Paul responded, before signing her name to a document that formalized her role of leadership.

Now the canonical superior of the congregation, Sister M. Paul asked similar questions of Sister Joanne Delehanty, the vicaress general-elect, and sisters Elyse Marie Ramirez, and Kathlyn Mulcahy, councilors-elect: “The general chapter of the Dominican Sisters has called you to serve. What is your response?”

Each responded, as Sister M. Paul had, and the congregation affirmed their generosity with the words “May God bring to completion what has begun in you,” and a hearty round of applause.

During an address to her sisters, Sister M. Paul drew on the themes of the general chapter the ancient Dominican call to preach the truth.

“The gospel carries the imperative for authenticity, transparency, honest approaches, real reconciliation, and the commitment to speak and be truth,” Sister M. Paul said. “To be what we say we want to be is the charge before us every day as Christians and consecrated religious.”

“What will these movements of mission and truth look like in real life?” she asked. The challenge will require that the sisters "Face hard truths with centered and loving hearts; search the pathways with each other, knowing that sometimes we will disagree, but we will remain faithful to the beauty of seeking the truth in love; forgive past hurts after looking so honestly at them; say yes to our own gifts and use them to the best of our current abilities, to be authentic witnesses of God’s love for persons and God’s Earth; look at each other with fresh eyes and confirm the capacity to grow.”

Completing their elected leadership of the congregation are Sister Rebecca Ann, Sister Rose Miriam Schulte, Sister Mila Diaz Solano, and Sister Marie Michelle Hackett.

“To be what we say we want to be is the charge before us every day as Christians and consecrated religious.”

About the new leadership team

Sister M. Paul McCaughey at the ambo, Sacred Heart Convent Chapel.Sister M. Paul McCaughey, OP. For the past seven years, Sister Mary Paul was a full-time faculty member at DePaul University, Chicago, where she taught master's and doctoral students and coordinated the graduate studies and internship programs for Catholic Educational Leadership in the College of Education.  She was superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the country’s second largest Catholic education system, 2008-2015, and then 2015-2017 was appointed the Cardinal’s Advocate for Catholic Schools, where she was instrumental in helping to pass the Invest in Kids legislation at the Illinois Statehouse. Prior to that she spent many years in educational leadership at Sacred Heart Academy/Sacred Heart-Griffin, 1985-1991; and Marian Catholic High School, 1992-2008, where she served at various times as president and principal. Under her leadership Marian had two successful capital campaigns, which doubled the campus size. The school earned the U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon in 1996 and was twice recognized among the top 50 Catholic high schools in America.

She began her ministry in elementary school and high school teaching and pursued doctoral studies in theology and social sciences at Chicago Theological Seminary. She has a master’s degree in non-profit business administration from Notre Dame University and a master’s in theological studies from St. Louis University.

Sister Mary Paul was raised in Park Ridge and Olympia Fields, Illinois. She holds a certificate in clinical pastoral counseling, and master’s degrees in education, theology, and business and school administration.

Sister M. Paul will reside at Sacred Heart Convent, the motherhouse of the congregation in Springfield.

Sister Joanne Delehanty, OP.  A Chicago native raised in Park Forest, Ill., Sister Joanne was an elementary school teacher at parochial schools in Algonquin, Springfield,Sister Joanne Delehanty, smiling. and Chicago from just after her profession 1969 through 1989, when she became a pioneer at St. Benedict the African Parish, a consolidation of eight parishes, in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. She served there as pastoral associate, religious education coordinator and director of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults until 2021. In February 2022 she began her ministry as support staff at St. Bernard’s Hospital, Chicago. She has a master's in pastoral studies and an undergraduate degree in education. She will continue to reside in Chicago.

Sister Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP. A Springfield native, Sister Elyse Marie was, since 2019, director of formation for the congregation and most recently for this past year, the director of formation for the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago, where she facilitated the spiritual and professional growth of five novices from three Dominican congregations. She served the congregation as vocation director, 1998-2006, during which time she was also promoter of preaching and campus minister at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. She was coordinator of religious vocation ministry for the Archdiocese of Chicago, 2007-2014. After her profession of vows in 1985 through 1994 she completed a bachelor’s degree then taught elementary school in Aurora, Ill., and at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Hammond, La. Her bachelor’s degrees are in history and theology. She holds a certificate in preaching and a master's in theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology. Sister Elyse Marie will reside in Springfield.

Sister Kathlyn Mulcahy, OP. Born in Chicago and raised in Kankakee, Ill., Sister Kathlyn previously served in congregation leadership, 2009-2019. After her profession of vows in 1981 she taught junior high school and high school math and computer at St. Christina Parish Chicago, St. Patrick School, Springfield, and Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, Ill. In 1996 she was missioned to Peru where she did pastoral work and helped to found a new mission in San Juan Bautista, Jarpa, where she served 2000-2004 and 2005-2006. She was director of formation for the sisters in Lima, 2006-2009. After completing her prior term of leadership, she began part-time ministry at Bethany House of Hospitality, a home for women in the asylum process, in Chicago, where she remains in residence as the director. Sister Kathlyn has a bachelor's degree in math, a master's in computers in education, and a certificate in cross-cultural ministry from Catholic Theological Union.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield are members of a global Dominican family that includes apostolic sisters, contemplative nuns, friars and priests, and laity and associates. They were founded in Jacksonville, Ill., 150 years ago. Learn more here about how to get engaged with the mission of the Springfield Dominicans.

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