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Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia
Nashville congregation marks 150th anniversary
Front row: Mary Howard Johnstone, OP (Sinsinawa); Arlene Antczak, OP (Caldwell). Back row: Honora Werner, OP (Caldwell); Anne Catherine, OP (Nashville); Mary Brigid, OP (Nashville); Priscilla Wood, OP (Sinsinawa)

On Friday, June 25, 2010, an extremely hot day in Nashville, Tennessee, more than 1,400 people joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation for a celebration of their 150th Jubilee. Those attending included representatives of other religious communities, as well as families, friends, benefactors and students of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

In 1860, just prior to the devastation of the Civil War, four Dominican sisters arrived in Nashville, Tennessee at the invitation of Bishop James Whelan, OP, to begin a new foundation of Dominican religious women, opening an academy for the education of young women.

In 2010, the 250 members of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia are still educating Nashville’s young women who attend Saint Cecilia Academy, but have expanded their teaching apostolate to 14 states and Australia in 35 schools and Aquinas College in Nashville.

Marian Sartain, OP (Nashville) and Janet Welsh, OP, director of the McGreal Center

Wearing the distinctive black and white Dominican habit, the sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation live a traditional Dominican life in community while actively serving the educational and charitable mission of the Church. The congregation presently numbers more members than at any previous time in its history. The median age of the congregation is 36. Last year, the community welcomed 23 new members and they are expecting more than 20 will be entering at the end of this month.

The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Vatican’s Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, was the principal celebrant of the Mass of Thanksgiving. Concelebrating the Mass were Nashville Bishop David R. Choby; the Master General of the Dominican Order, Most Reverend Carlos Azpiroz Costa, OP; Most Reverend Anthony Fisher, OP of Parramatta, Australia; and 15 archbishops and bishops from around the United States. Over 85 priests, from Nashville and other U.S. dioceses, concelebrated.

Master General of the Dominican Order, Most Reverend Carlos Azpiroz Costa, OP, with Mother Ann Marie Karlovic, OP (on his right) and the General Council of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia.

Master General of the Dominican Order, Carlos Azpirioz Costa, OP, in speaking with the sisters, referred to Psalm 90 which calls upon God to, “…teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” The goal of such a jubilee celebration, is not to turn in upon ourselves, but rather, as Mary did, and to proclaim that God has done great things in us.

Bishop Anthony Fisher, OP, organizer of World Youth Day in Sydney, was the keynote speaker for the 150th Jubilee Dinner held at the Music City Sheraton Hotel. Speaking of the importance of recognizing the gifts of the past so as to effectively live that inheritance with the grace of the future, Bishop Fisher referred to the history of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia as, “…a story of loving service of the Church and nation, particularly of the young, especially through the teaching of truth, worshipping Him who is the Truth incarnate and living a rule of life that enables those things.”

The 150th Jubilee is a tremendous moment of grateful celebration. In her own announcement of the Jubilee observances, the congregation's Prioress General, Mother Ann Marie Karlovic, OP, confirmed that “This is above all a celebration of thanksgiving.”

The Nashville Symphony provided a fitting end to the weekend’s events with a concert under the grand tent on the Motherhouse’s south lawn.