Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, is the president-elect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for a 3-year term that begins in August 2021.
LCWR members voted online June 5 to June 26; the results of the election were announced June 28.
The LCWR presidency is a three-person team of Catholic sisters which includes the president, president-elect, and past president who collaborate to lead the conference. Sister Rebecca Ann will serve as president-elect for a year, moving into the president’s chair in August 2022. The LCWR president for 2021-2022 is Sister Mary Jane Herb, who is president of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Monroe, Mich. Adrian Dominican Sister Elise Garcia will become the past president in August and is a general councilor for the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“LCWR has played a vital role in the transformational leadership of congregations of Catholic sisters throughout the years,” Sister Rebecca Ann said. “It will have a positive impact on religious life now and into the future. I look forward to serving the 49,000 Catholic sisters served by LCWR during these coming years, as we strive to dismantle racism and embrace a leadership of mutuality and reconciliation.”
Sister Rebecca Ann notified the members of the Springfield Dominican congregation of her election with an email thanking the sisters for their prayerful support during her discernment.
“I trust the Spirit will guide all of us as this unfolds,” she wrote. “My prayer is that this service will enrich all of us as we continue our presence and preaching for the life of the world.”
LCWR has about 1350 members—all elected leaders of their congregations—who represent nearly 80 percent of the women religious in the United States. Founded in 1956, the conference assists its members to collaboratively carry out their service of leadership to further the mission of the Gospel in today's world.
A native of Van Nuys, California, Sister Rebecca Ann made profession of vows with the Springfield Dominicans in 1984 and ministered in elementary education as a teacher and a principal. She has been in congregational leadership since 2005, has served two terms as a council member, and is in her second term as prioress general, which began in 2019. She holds a masters of administration in education and a masters in social work, and is a licensed clinical social worker. She worked as an adult counselor for the Springfield Rape Information and Counseling Service (now the Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault) and as a social worker at the Dominican Literacy Center, Aurora, Ill. She has also spent many years in board service on the local, regional, and national levels.
She is no stranger to collaborative service as a member of LCWR. She served three-year terms as secretary, vice president, and chair of LCWR Region 8 and is completing a term of service on the national LCWR board that comes to an end when her term as president-elect begins in August.
In Springfield she was an organizer of the Race Study Circles and a founding member of the Springfield Dominican Antiracism Team, where she is still a member. Past board service includes M.E.R.C.Y. Communities, which provides housing and supportive services for homeless and at-risk women with children, and a recently completed term as a member of the Dominican Futuring Task Force of the Dominican Sisters Conference. In her role as prioress general of the Springfield Dominicans she is the president of the member board of the three high schools sponsored by the Springfield Dominicans.
Under her leadership, the Dominicans transferred the sponsorship of St. Dominic Health Services, Jackson, Miss., to the Franciscan Missionaries of our Lady Health System (FMOLHS), Baton Rouge, La., and now Sister Rebecca Ann serves on the mission and sponsorship board of the PJP, called Franciscan Calais Ministries, and the FMOLHS systems board. Unique among sponsorship transfers, FMOLHS and the Dominicans are integrating the charisms of both communities as they steer the course in the complex world of Catholic Health Care.
Members of the current Springfield Dominican leadership team are happy to support Sister Rebecca Ann in this new ministry. “Sister Rebecca Ann is eminently well qualified to serve as a collaborative leader of the Leadership Council of Women Religious,” they said. “Her commitment to the consecrated life and mission in lived experience and theological understanding will serve the membership well even as it has served her congregation.” The members of the Springfield Dominican leadership team are Sisters Rose Miriam Schulte, Mila Díaz Solano, and Marie Michelle Hackett.
"In my experience of working with Sister Rebecca Ann on the LCWR board, I have come to know of her experience in leadership and her passion for the prophetic call of religious life, ready to challenge and be challenged. I look forward to the journey of LCWR presidency with her." — Sister Mary Jane Herb
“Sister Rebecca Ann is a wonderfully contemplative soul with a passion for religious life and a heart for engaging the critical issues of our day. I am delighted to offer her my wholehearted congratulations and a warm welcome to the presidency of LCWR! Our conference and all we serve will be richly blessed by her gifted leadership and Dominican joy.” —Sister Elise Garcia, OP
“Sister Rebecca Ann is eminently well qualified to serve as a collaborative leader of the Leadership Council of Women Religious. Her commitment to the consecrated life and mission in lived experience and theological understanding will serve the membership well even as it has served her congregation.” — Springfield Dominican Leadership
"In my experience of working with Sister Rebecca Ann on the LCWR board, I have come to know of her experience in leadership and her passion for the prophetic call of religious life, ready to challenge and be challenged." said Sister Mary Jane. "I look forward to the journey of LCWR presidency with her."
Sister Elise Garcia also said she is looking forward to working alongside Sister Rebecca Ann as the second of three Dominicans in LCWR leadership.
“Sister Rebecca Ann is a wonderfully contemplative soul with a passion for religious life and a heart for engaging the critical issues of our day. I am delighted to offer her my wholehearted congratulations and a warm welcome to the presidency of LCWR! Our conference and all we serve will be richly blessed by her gifted leadership and Dominican joy, says Garcia.”
Sister Maureen Geary, a council member of the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Mich., is the third Dominican and will serve as a member of the national LCWR board.
The Dominican Sisters of Springfield invite you to learn more about our mission by visiting www.springfieldop.org. The Springfield Dominicans are part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers. For more than 800 years, Dominicans have continued to preach the Gospel in word and deed. Today, thousands of sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity minister in more than 100 countries around the world. To learn more about our global family, visit www.op.org.