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From left: Sisters Caritas Nakabane, Ethel Mthembu, Mary Malone, president, Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt; Lethiwe Mazibuko, prioress, Dominican Sisters of Montebello; Catherine Howard, Thobile Gumede and Nokwanda Mosia.

Blauvelt Dominicans
South African sisters live, learn as part of community

Sister Lethiwe Mazibuko, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Montebello, arrived in Blauvelt, New York on May 18. Two of her sisters, Ethel Mthembu and Caritas Nakabane, have been studying at Dominican College of Blauvelt since January 2008 and received their degrees on May 22. During that time, they lived in the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, shared life in a local community, and have blessed the congregation with their gift of music during numerous liturgies.

Sister Ethel, who received a bachelor of arts in social work, had been president of the St. John Vianney Children’s Home, which provides housing for orphans, children who have been abandoned, neglected, have behavioral problems, or are infected with HIV/AIDS, before she was asked to come to the United States to study. During her time here, she has interned with St. Dominic’s Home, the founding mission of the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, caring for adults with disabilities. For the last academic year, Sister Ethel has interned at Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center in Pomona, New York, where she has worked with the poor and marginalized of Rockland County. During the school holidays, she enjoyed volunteering at St. Dominic’s Home in the Bronx, Paradise House and Tolentine Zeiser, all ministries founded by Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt. When she returns to Montebello, Sister Ethel will be ministering as a social worker.

Sister Caritas, who received a bachelor of science in business administration, was completing her high school education and initial formation in Montebello before being asked to study. She professed her final vows in December 2007 just prior to leaving for the United States. Like Sister Ethel, Sister Caritas also volunteered at Tolentine Zeiser. However, Sister Caritas loves the beach and fondly remembers trips she has taken with sisters to Ventnor, New Jersey, and Cape Cod. She also enjoyed a trip to Washington, D.C., with visits to the Smithsonian being a particular highlight.

From left: Sisters Mary Eileen O'Brien, president, Dominican College; Lethiwe Mazibuko and Mary Malone.

Sister Lethiwe was surprised on her arrival in Blauvelt to find out she would be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Dominican College. At 41, she is the youngest prioress of her Montebello congregation, and has demonstrated a strong commitment to the poor and marginalized. She has been especially responsive to abused and abandoned women, as well as being active in peace and justice ministries in many areas of South Africa. Sister Mary Eileen O’Brien, president of Dominican College, and Sister Kathleen Sullivan, chancellor of Dominican College, had the opportunity to visit South Africa last December. Sister Lethiwe was a most gracious hostess, and it was there that Sisters Mary Eileen and Kathleen realized how close the Dominicans of Montebello were to the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt regarding their founding missions and current passion for ministry.

During her visit, Sister Lethiwe was able to visit several of the ministries of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, attend a Broadway show and see many of the famous New York City sites. She also met with Sister Mary Malone, president of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, and a group of sisters from the five congregations in the New York/New Jersey area participating in Committed Collaboration who are continuing to find ways to deepen the relationship with the Dominican Sisters of Montebello. Sisters Nokwanda and Thobile, who arrived in January to study at Dominican College, were delighted to be able to spend time with their prioress, as they have several more years of study before they will return to South Africa. They are progressing well in their studies and quickly adapting to the U.S. culture.

Previously, Sister Venentia Mthembu received a doctor of physical therapy, Sister Valentine Dlada received a master of social work, and Sister Yvonne Ndolvu received a teaching certificate. The collaboration between the Sisters of Montebello and the Dominicans in the United States is evidence of the strength of the Dominican Family, carrying on the mission of St. Dominic.

Story and photos provided by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt.