SINSINAWA, Wis.—Sister Kathy Flynn, OP, will make her final profession Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, at the 10:30 a.m. Mass in Queen of the Rosary Chapel at Sinsinawa Mound, the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis.
A chance meeting with Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laura Goedken, OP, inspired Kathy to learn more about religious life. Sister Laura recognized that Kathy was asking lots of questions, so Sister Laura suggested Kathy attend a weekend designed for women who are contemplating religious life called “Dubuque’s Got Sisters.” Kathy participated in the weekend and has since followed the path that God has laid out for her.
During her five years of formation, Sister Kathy finished her undergraduate degree at Edgewood College, Madison, Wis., and served in ministries that focused on the needs of women and children who are living on the margins or dealing with mental health issues or addiction. She served in Wisconsin, Missouri, Washington, and Iowa. Her current ministry is with Opening Doors in Dubuque, Iowa, serving as education employment case manager. “I learn from the people who I get to know and work with. I’m grateful for them. Most of the women I have worked with in these places are so transparent and authentic. They make no bones about where they are in their lives or why. I want to be more like that.”
Kathy entered the congregation in 2012 and is now looking forward to the public commitment of her perpetual profession. Her advice to other women considering religious life is to listen deeply to their inner selves. “Don’t ignore it. The Spirit speaks to people all the time, in all walks of life, at all ages,” she said. Finding a spiritual companion or someone who can help you connect with different women religious congregations is important. Sister Kathy considers her path to religious life a mystery. She knew she had a yearning for something more, she just didn’t know what. Now, she is ready to make her perpetual profession.
Being part of the Sinsinawa Dominican congregation has offered Sister Kathy valued and unexpected outcomes. “I have unconditional love and support,” she said. “Being part of this congregation has helped me be the best person I can be.” Sister Kathy has been allowed, supported, and challenged to become this person. She views her life as a Catholic Dominican Sister as being accountable to not just herself and her Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, but the worldwide Dominican family, known as the Order of Preachers. “There is a sense of deepening connections to the wider world, to everybody.”
The support that happened within the process of becoming a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa was critical for Sister Kathy. “Being supported is like being held. It’s like floating in waves. You can just breathe and be yourself.” Yet there are still very real challenges one must face. “It’s like any relationship—it takes commitment.” She appreciates the way the community and those around her helped her recognize and listen to God’s calling.
Leading up to her profession of vows, Sister Kathy has a question: Is it final profession or perpetual profession?
In an article posted Oct. 1, 2018, on the Sinsinawa Dominicans’ Catherine’s Café blog (catherinescafe.blogspot.com), Sister Kathy reflected on the two terms used to identify this vow in religious life.
Final and perpetual can mean the same thing. In reality, for me, there is a big difference in the sound, meaning, and intentionality of those words.
One definition of “final” is “finishing, end, terminating” (kaput!). On the other hand, one definition of “perpetual” is “never ending or changing” (a fidelity to discernment).
For me, final is harsh and linear in comparison to perpetual, which seems more integrated and whole, representing a dynamic and ongoing conversation with God, rather than, “At last, I’ve reached my goal. . . .”
After reflecting on the two ways of looking at the profession of vows at the end of a woman’s discernment process, Sister Kathy expresses her own understanding of how to respond to God.
I think we are each called to live perpetually, rather than finally, to be constantly attuned to nuances in God’s voice, to where God is calling us, to what God is calling us, and to how God is calling us to [live] it . . . to how God is calling us to be, no matter the place or stage of life we find ourselves (ibid).
If you would like to follow Sister Kathy and other Sinsinawa Dominicans as they write about religious life, visit catherinescafe.blogspot.com online.
Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters invite you to learn more about our work by visiting our website at www.sinsinawa.org. The Sinsinawa Dominicans are part of a worldwide Dominican family, the Order of Preachers. For over 800 years, Dominicans have continued to preach the Gospel in word and deed. Today, thousands of sisters, nuns, priests, brothers, associates, and laity minister in more than 100 countries around the world.