By Michael Chapuran
Executive Director, Dominican Volunteers USA
The board and staff of Dominican Volunteers USA recognized Sister Pat Howell, OP (Blauvelt) at its first annual Benefit and Silent Auction with a presentation of the second annual DVUSA Mission Award. The event occurred April 21 at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Sister Pat Wormann, OP (Caldwell) presented the award, which was accepted by Sister Liz Dunn, OP (Sinsinawa) on behalf of Sister Pat.
Sister Pat was an instrumental part of the planning process that made Dominican Volunteers USA a national collaboration of the 18 congregations/provinces of the Dominican Family. And since it took off, so did her energy. She lived with volunteers for years in the South Bronx, even consoling them during the 9-11 tragedy in New York City. She made sure St. Luke’s School where she was principal always requested a volunteer to minister in its classrooms as teacher, assistant, even theater director. When she was elected to leadership of her congregation, the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt, New York, she maintained a supportive presence as a member of the support team for the first Dominican Volunteer lay pilot community, including her coordination to find and furnish the residence.
Jeff Guhin, Dominican Volunteer (2003-04), who shared community with Sister Pat and published an article (“Living with My Sisters”) in America Magazine about his experience, wrote these remarks, which were read during the award’s presentation:
Sister Pat [Howell] was, more than anyone else, the person who taught me how to live with others. This took many different forms. Sister Pat, as some might already know, is a particularly particular person, and, well, I am not. I would leave the bathroom a mess, would come home late and tromp up the stairs, and would often laugh loudly on the phone well after Pat’s 9 p.m. bedtime. She let me know, in no uncertain terms, how my actions were affecting others (e.g. her) and I, the product of a very large and very loud family—and then four years of college that were no less large and loud—eventually learned what it means to be a responsible member of a community.
In the process, I got to know one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met. When I told people I wanted to be a sister (but the church was just going to keep me down), I was really referring to Sister Pat, whose ability to plant herself into one community in the South Bronx and just stay was a constant source of amazement to me. I wanted nothing more than to see the world, to travel and adventure, to do more and more and more. And here was this woman, intelligent, ambitious, hard-working, who had settled into one community and one job and poured her heart into it.
I suddenly understood what the Catholic mystics were talking about when they said that the wonder of God can be found my sitting as much as by moving. This is not to say that Sister Pat was sitting; that is, she was and is a font of energy, constantly working at her school and as a member of her local and larger communities. In fact, even when she does sit—which is usually to watch a basketball game—she still does not really sit, per se: she moves with the game, leaning in, sitting straight, throwing her hands in the air. I’m so grateful to have known Sister Pat. I’m a better person and a more serious Catholic because I know her.
The Mission Award acknowledges an individual who supports and advances the DVUSA mission. By proclaiming the gospel through ministry, living common life within an intergenerational community, contributing to the development of the program, committing to a life of prayer and study, participating in DVUSA projects and events, and/or mentoring volunteers, DVUSA has been enriched by this individual’s dedication leadership, and example. It is determined by an open nomination process led by the Event Committee including board, staff, and former volunteers of DVUSA.
Sister Pat Howell has honored the DVUSA program and its shared Dominican mission through her dedication and passion the last 11 years. Thank you, Sister Pat, for the profound difference you have made.
For more information about Dominican Volunteers USA, visit www.dvusa.org.