NEW HAVEN – Not many women today think about becoming a Catholic nun, that is, a member of an active community of women religious, but that does not stop the Dominican Sisters of Peace from inviting women to consider it. In fact, they just opened a new house on Eld Street to do just that – invite women to join them.
The house was opened so that women who are considering becoming a Dominican sister can spend time with the sisters and get to know what it is all about.
According to Dominican Sister Pat Twohill, vocation minister, the Dominicans opened the house, the convent of St. Stanislaus Parish, so they could host women who want to consider becoming one of them.
“We are very excited about this new initiative. The house gives us the opportunity to offer an immersion experience into being a Dominican Sister,” Sister Pat said.
Most women who are considering becoming a nun do not have ways to get to spend much time with sisters beyond an evening or weekend. This venture will offer four- or five-day opportunities to get a feel for and experience the life.
“This house is intended to offer a longer period of time when a woman can really get a taste for our prayer life, our community, our ministry and relationships,” Sister Pat said.
The effort is paying off right away. In a ceremony on Jan. 18 that began at the House of Welcome and continued in the sanctuary of St. Stanislaus Church, Ana Gonzalez began her formal journey with the Dominican Sisters of Peace as a candidate.
Joining in the ritual and celebration with the Dominican sisters and associates were Ana’s mother Ana, her sister Lulu, her brother Hector and guests from the New Haven area.
Welcoming Miss Gonzalez, Sister Margaret Ormond, prioress, said, “Ana’s willingness to place her many gifts at the service of our Dominican mission at this time is a blessing to us and gives us hope and renews our call to be preachers with our younger generation.”
Sister Pat said, “I am very happy about Ana’s entrance, and consider it a privilege to have walked with her to this point. Her passion for Dominican life and her strong desire to deepen her relationship with God and witness to the Gospel are just some of the gifts she brings to the Dominican Sisters of Peace and to the church.”
Miss Gonzalez, 32, is originally from El Paso, Texas. She works at Albertus Magnus College, where she recruits adult students for the school’s programs.
She will live at the House of Welcome for a time to learn about being Dominican by living and praying with the community, and to begin her training that ultimately leads to making religious vows.
“I am thrilled to be on this great adventure,” Miss Gonzalez said. “It is a perfect environment to learn and listen to God’s desire without the clutter, the myths and doubts that people have about Catholic sisters.”
Miss Gonzalez first met the Dominicans in New Orleans while studying at Loyola University. She volunteered at the Dominican Conference Center there and got to know Sister Dorothy Dawes. Eventually, Miss Gonzalez completed a master’s degree in communications from the University of Texas and returned to New Orleans for a family gathering. When she visited the sisters there, they asked her to consider becoming a Dominican.
“I did not really consider it at all,” said Miss Gonzalez. “I did not say no outright, but I was praying to God to show me the purpose of my life and I was looking for signs that would point the way.”
She attended a number of weekend programs designed to help women understand what Catholic sisters are like, including their prayer, ministry and community. Over a three-year period, she came to realize that God was inviting her to become a Dominican sister. Everything began to fall into place, she said.
The sisters hope the house eventually will contain a small community of interested young women who live there for a time to learn about being Dominican while living and praying in the community.
“I think the sisters have been a great inspiration to me. They are empowering and I have felt very loved and supported in my journey,” she said.
“I was inspired by and in awe of the Dominican sisters I met in New Orleans. They were educated, talented and vibrant women, who could be CEOs in the corporate world. Their ministries were making New Orleans a better place through education and various ministries. I aspire to be just like them.”
Sister Pat said a good deal of work was done to prepare the house.
Vincentian Father Roman Kmiec, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish, arranged to have the house painted. Sisters and volunteers pitched in to do some painting, as well as to repair, redecorate and restore the 18-bedroom convent, which had been vacant.
Besides Sister Pat, the Dominican community living there includes Sister Maria Beesing and Sister Mary Vuong. The community also includes Anrong Liu, a fellow at Yale Divinity School.
The sisters participate in the activities of the parish and expect to become more involved with other needs in the area.
The Dominican Sisters have done a great deal of work in the Archdiocese of Hartford since they came in 1901.
Besides founding Albertus Magnus College, they operate two learning centers that specialize in English as a second language, work in the archdiocesan Family Life Office and minister in chaplaincy at Yale-New Haven Hospital.