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Dominican Sisters of Elkins Park Gather
for Motherhouse Closing Ritual 

PHILADELPHIA, PA ---August 13, 2007   The Dominican Sisters of Elkins Park gathered at their motherhouse property August 1-3 for the last time as a congregation.  Using a theme from T. S. Eliot’s poetry: The ending is where we begin, the community expressed its hope for the future while engaged in leave taking rituals and conversations about the future.

“It is a sad time for us, but we have much to remember and be grateful for, said Sr. Nancy Garson, retreat house administrator. About 70 sisters attended. There are 73 members. Sr. Joan Scanlon, OP (Kentucky) served as facilitator.

It was a mixed experience, full of remembering, ritualizing and enjoying each other’s companionship, sadness and laughter. The members seemed ready to move to the next phase of congregational life and happy for all the ways in which God has blessed the ministry and life of the community.

The days included a preaching and conversation with Sr. Dorothy Trosclair, OP, (EMD) prioress of the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic, who reflected on her congregation’s experience of Hurricane Katrina with its aftermath and resettlement with the Dominicans of St. Catharine Kentucky. She also offered insight into the movement of the Cluster Congregations.  These reflections mirrored the experience of the Elkins Park Dominicans who were letting go of what was precious to them in a different but deep way.

The community announced last year that the motherhouse property would be sold. The closure includes the Dominican Retreat House, which served for over 75 years as a place of spiritual renewal and St. Dominic Hall, part of the retreat ministry focused on specialized programs.  The sale includes the 42 acres of land and the five historic buildings of the campus: the main building (Our Lady of Prouille), St. Dominic Hall, St. Catherine Hall (the retirement community of the congregation) the Gate Cottage a cluster of cottages and workshops, and the administrative offices of the congregation in a building called Fanjeaux. 

Meeting LogoAlong with facilitator Joan Scanlon, OP (Kentucky) Dorothy engaged in conversation about what it was like to live in Kentucky, to build relationships there and maintain her own sense of congregation and identity.  “Clearly we are sisters to each other in a new way and we share a deep and meaningful bond,” said Dorothy. As the Elkins Park sisters reflected on their participation in the Northeast Six conversations, the cluster experience was both illuminating and stimulating.

Sr. Carolyn Krebs, OP President of the congregation, encouraged the members to carry with them the best of their experience and memory and to see this time as very similar to the days of the community’s founder, Lucy Eaton Smith, who recognized in her day the frontiers that were before her and the call to deep faith and trust in God’s care.

Later, the members had the opportunity to talk together about the conversations taken place among the six Dominican congregations of the Northeast. Social time, contemplation, visiting special places of memory around the property and connecting with each other were significant aspect of the gathering.

Of the 73 members of the congregation, 54 will be moving to new residences or have already relocated. Dominican itinerancy has been on everyone’s heart. Many of the sisters who are retired and those who serve the retired members will be living in Danville, PA at the Maria Joseph Continuing Care Community, operated by the Sisters of Sts Cyril and Methodius.  There, the sisters will be able to maintain thier own Dominican community setting within independent and assisted living residences.  Others will be serving as parish ministers in Quakertown, PA.

Judith McManus, OP who ministers in Detroit, MI came away from the gathering with this thought. “I would say that I experienced a deepening in my understanding that “change” is what the life journey is all about. So as a companion of St. Dominic, who certainly changed his life journey to meet a faith challenge of his day, I am challenged to help others identify God in our midst in our life experience today.”

Hung in the chapel along the walls were long silken banners carrying the names of every member of the community who every served since its foundation in 1880.  They were quiet reminders of the heritage we share and on whose shoulders we stand. Members spent time in places around the property that held particular personal memories and shared their hopes and feelings about the future.

Sr. Pat Moran, OP who ministers in Newtown, PA said, “One last time together, we celebrated the beauty and bounty of Dominican Life and Mission: praising our God and congregation for all that has been; blessing a fruitful past of 75 years; preaching the Word in our laughter and tears, prayers and chants; sacred days of disputatio and dance; moving through death to resurrection; gently closing a door to a beautiful past and opening a door to a possible future.”

The administrative offices of the congregation will be relocated later this year to St. Alice Parish, Upper Darby, PA, where the congregation will maintain administrative offices, archives, and provide hospitality.

The rituals of the days also included a 70th jubilee celebration for Srs. Josefina Rivera, 60th Carmelita Cramer and Clare Marie Wilson, the Golden Jubilee of Srs. Carolyn Krebs, Catherine Mary McKernan, Colette Heck, and Carmen Gonzalez, and the Silver Jubilee of Barbara Ebner and Cathy Platt.

The first profession of vows of Sr. Deborah Baker, OP was the final ritual of the gathering, which offered a new sense of life for the congregation and sense that in the letting go and leaving behind, God’s life is active in their midst.

Anne Lythgoe, OP (Catherine de’ Ricci) formerly Elkins Park

Elkins Park 1
Many of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de' Ricci (Elkins Park) gather for a group photo during the motherhouse closing ritual August 1-3.



A New Name with a Long History

Having closed the mother- house property, the Dominican Sisters of Elkins Park, were faced with a somewhat curious question about how we wanted to be called after the closure. 

The Congregation has always been the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci, so it seemed obvious that this name would be a right name for us.

The community agreed that we would like other congregations and provinces to refer to us as the Dominicans of St. Catherine de’ Ricci . Please do not shorten the name to de’ Ricci Domini-cans, that just doesn’t have the right ring to it. 

Catherine de’ Ricci will be just fine.  The name is a bit long, but not so much longer than Mission San Jose, St. Mary of the Springs or Eucharistic Missionaries. 





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