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Sr. Venentia Mthembu (Montebello) and Sr. Mary Eileen O’Brien (Blauvelt), President of Dominican College

Doctorate Without Borders

BLAUVELT, NY, May 22, 2009-- After seven years of studies, Sr. Venentia Mthembu (Montebello, South Africa) is among the first group of graduates to receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY.  Sr. Venentia is one of five Montebello Dominicans that have come to Blauvelt to study.  Although all five have learned a lot, they have also shared life with the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt.

Sr. Venentia Mthembu and Sr. Valentine Dladla were asked by their Mother General to be among the pioneers of their Congregation and go to America to study for four years, then return to Montebello.  They agreed and arrived in Blauvelt in January of 2003.  Sr. Valentine completed her Bachelor Degree, and went on to receive a Master’s Degree from Fordham.  She is now the Interim Director of St. John Vianney Home in Montebello.  Sr. Yvonne came to study and is now back ministering to fifteen children in the Pre-school, or “Cresch,” as it is called in South Africa.  Sr. Venentia also completed her Bachelor Degree, but was offered a scholarship to pursue a degree in the new Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Dominican College.  She agreed to stay for the extended period and received her Doctoral Degree on May 17, 2009.

In January of 2008, Sr. Venentia was joined by Sr. Ethel Mthembu and Sr. Caritas Nkabane, who also came to study at Dominican College.  Sr. Ethel is studying Social Work and Sr. Caritas is studying Business Administration.  Srs. Ethel, Caritas and Venentia all agree that although there have been many cultural adjustments, the hospitality they received both from the sisters at the Blauvelt Motherhouse, and the Faculty, Students and Administration at Dominican College, have been wonderful.

At first glance, the two communities may seem very different, but there are many similarities between the Montebello and Blauvelt Congregations.  Both groups have German roots and were founded to care for orphans.  Even though care for orphans is no longer the primary ministry for either congregation, both communities have branched out into similar fields including, nursing, teaching, pastoral work, aid to women in crisis, and work with people who are HIV/AIDS positive.

Sr. Venentia is not only one of the first to receive a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Dominican College, she is also the first in her congregation to receive a Doctoral Degree.  Sister Edista Lembede, the Prioress General, and Sister Celestine Ndlovu, the Superior of Montebello, came to Blauvelt to be present for Sr. Venentia’s graduation, as well as to help her celebrate.  Not only did Sr. Venentia receive her degree, she also received the first annual Sr. Beryl Herdt award, which is given to the student who shows the most “integrity in the profession.” 

Following the formal Commencement ceremony, there was a reception at the Blauvelt Dominican Motherhouse.  Many sisters came to congratulate Sr. Venentia on her success, as well as to greet our visitors from South Africa.  Srs. Venentia, Caritas, Ethel, Edista and Celestine entertained the crowd with South African dances and songs.  “You have empowered our sisters by giving them the special gift of education and training.  If you had given us the dollars, they would be gone and leave us in our poverty, but by empowering these sisters, you have given wealth to the Congregation,” Sr. Celestine commented.  We are grateful for the blessings of the partnership between the Montebello and Blauvelt Dominican communities and wish Sr. Venentia our heartfelt congratulations! 

Jennifer Schaaf
Director of Communications

Blauvelt Celebration

Front:  Srs. Mary Malone (Blauvelt) and Barbara McEneany (Blauvelt).
Second Row:  Srs. Mary Eileen O’Brien (Blauvelt), Edista Lembede (Montebello), Venentia Mthembu (Montebello), Celestine Ndlovu (Montebello), and Beryl Herdt (Blauvelt)
Back Row:  Srs. Bernadette Burke (Blauvelt) and Kathleen Sullivan (Blauvelt)