Two congregations of women religious in Rockland County, the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill and the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine, formally entered into a Covenant Relationship June 7. The relationship is a commitment between the two religious congregations to face the future together, as one completes its journey and the other assists in that completion.
In planning for their future, the members of the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine determined that due to their demographics they needed assistance with governance and the management of the day-to-day and future affairs of their members and ministries. In a process that began years ago, the sisters sought a partner congregation to work with them in these areas of leadership and administration. The Christian Doctrine and Sparkill congregations were a good fit because, each has a similar founding mission—to work with immigrants, particularly women and children, in New York City and because they are—located close to each other. Many of their sisters have known each other and worked together over the years.
The Covenant Relationship is not a merger or a union of the two congregations. The Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine will remain its own separate entity, preserving its unique identity, community membership and culture. The congregation’s leadership, however, now shifts from its own president, Sister Veronica Mendez, R.C.D., to that of a canonical trustee: Sister Mary Murray, O.P., the president of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. Sister Mary was appointed to the role by Cardinal Dolan to ensure that the Sisters of Christian Doctrine are able to carry out their mission and care for their members in the future. Three Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine will work as a team with Sister Mary in their new leadership structure. They are Sister Rose Vermette, R.C.D., Sister Marie de Lourdes Considine, R.C.D., and Sister Eileen O’Farrell, R.C.D.
“My congregation is very grateful to the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill for being willing to enter into this relationship with us,” Sister Veronica said. “They are a concrete sign of God’s providence. Our Sisters are hoping to continue doing ministry until the Lord calls us. Meanwhile, we know the Dominican Sisters will call carry out our legacy when we are no longer here.”
Sister Veronica, in a phone interview with CNY June 15, said that both religious congregations “took Vatican II seriously, as a call to us to renew ourselves and to get back to original inspiration and charisms of our foundresses.”
At one point, the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine had several missions along the East Coast. It was well known for its work in religious education. Just 16 sisters remain, and three are in their 70s, and the rest older. They live in several places, including Marydell Convent in Nyack.
“When we looked at the demographics, we said we have to do something,” Sister Veronica said.
The beginning of the relationship was marked with a morning liturgy June 7 at Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel in Dominican Convent, Sparkill. During the celebration, the presidents of the two congregations signed the Covenant Relationship documentation in the presence of sisters, associates and friends.
“We feel very blessed to be entering into this new relationship of support for the Sisters of Christian Doctrine as they face the challenges of their future,” Sister Mary said. “Our friendship as two religious congregations of sisters will deepen and strengthen each one of us so that our life and work as Catholic sisters serving others will continue to address the needs of our times.”
Speaking with CNY June 18, Sister Mary said the Sparkill Dominicans are approaching the convent relationship with a spirit of “friendship, openness and support.”
The Sparkill Dominicans “are glad to see our congregation” helping the Sisters of Our Lady of Christian Doctrine to remain an independent congregation, Sister Mary said.