One of those sisters taught at St. Mary-Oak Ridge, while another from Sacred Heart made her first vows
By Dan McWilliams
Two Dominican Sisters with East Tennessee ties reached important milestones over the summer.
Sister Anna Ruth Wilson was among eight Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation to make their perpetual profession of vows before Mother Anna Grace Neenan, OP, on July 25 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville was the principal celebrant at Mass.
And on Aug. 10, Sister John Magdalene McCoy and five other young women professed the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation. Sister John Magdalene is a former parishioner of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville.
Sister Anna Ruth taught fifth grade at St. Mary School in Oak Ridge for three years and is now assigned to St. Croix School in Stillwater, Minn. At St. Mary, Sister Anna Ruth taught her fifth-graders religion, math, English, literature, and social studies.
“Sister was a great teacher. She established her classroom as a community,” said Sister Marie Blanchette, OP, St. Mary principal. “They were more than just a group of students in one homeroom. They depended on one another and defended one another. They learned from each other and had fun together. They learned how to be a team.”
Sister Anna Ruth is from New South Wales, Australia.
“She would teach the students about some of the Australian culture. She taught the class how to play cricket, and they would often play it together during recess,” Sister Marie Blanchette said. “Several of her students and a few of the teachers traveled to Nashville to attend her final profession Mass.”
Making her final vows “is a blessing on so many levels” for Sister Anna Ruth, Sister Marie Blanchette said.
“In a time when the Church is suffering from the sexual abuse scandal, to see eight young women freely and gladly dedicate themselves to God alone for the rest of their lives is a powerful testimony,” she said. “They remind us that, with God’s grace, a celibate life lived for God is possible. The witness of these young women gives strength to all people to live the vocation God has given them. Their consecration is building up the holiness of the Church and is encouraging others to grow in their relationship with God.
“The Sisters in our community are blessed to be able to attend final profession every year. It is exciting when that can be shared with the families we serve around the country. One of the sisters who professed her final vows this summer taught in Cottleville, Miss., two years ago. Several families chartered a bus so they could attend final profession because that sister had touched their lives. I believe it was 34 students who came and several of their parents.”
Sister Anna Ruth said “the grace of making my final vows is very powerful and very real. I am filled with gratitude to Our Lord for the gift of my religious vocation and for this beautiful community of which I am a part. It was especially powerful having so many of our sisters home for the occasion. Their prayers were tangible on the day as was their joy at witnessing to our final profession.”
Her favorite memories of East Tennessee were easy to identify, Sister Anna Ruth said.
“My fondest memories of East Tennessee all surround our beautiful children. Children are naturally so close to God and unashamedly desire Him, which leads me to desire Him more also. Their purity of heart is inspiring,” she said.
Sister John Magdalene is the daughter of Patsy and Kyle McCoy, also parishioners at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Sister is a graduate of West High School in Knoxville, attended the University of Texas, and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor of science degree. She is currently studying for a master’s in secondary education (English) at Aquinas College in Nashville.
The Mass for the Rite of First Religious Profession was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. Father David Boettner, vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville and Sacred Heart Cathedral rector, was the main celebrant. The homilist was Father Mark Chrismer of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, chaplain of St. Cecilia Motherhouse.
For more information on the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, visit their website at www.nashvilledominican.org.