Dominican Sisters of Tacoma Creating “Something New”–Celebrating a Covenant Relationship

The Sisters of Providence Council and the Dominican Leadership Team with Sister Jo Ann and her advisers. L to R: Sisters Judith Desmarais, SP; Peg Murphy, OP; Senaida Rivera, OP, Advisor; Jo Ann Showalter, SP, Congregation Leader; Patricia Morisset, OP, Advisor; Josie Ramac, SP; Sharon Casey, OP; and Joan Galloper, SP. Missing: Sister Philomena McCarthy, OP, Advisor.

By Sharon Casey, O.P.

June 29 was a significant moment for the Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma. We gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Burien, WA, for the formal installation of Sister Jo Ann Showalter, SP, as our Pontifical Commissary. (Commissary is not a word we associate with a leader, but in Italian, commissario does mean leader, or one who is sent. Using more familiar language, we will refer to her as our Congregation Leader.)

Sister Sharon Casey presents Sister Jo Ann Showalter, SP, with the Constitutions and a key chain with images of St. Dominic and St. Thomas Aquinas (patron of the Congregation).

The nine-year journey completes the structural parts of our covenant with the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province (MJP). Our sisters needing assisted or skilled care have resided at St. Joseph Residence for over 25 years, our financial management is taken care of at the Providence Provincial Office in Renton, and our governance model is now in place. Although these structures are in place, we know that the covenant relationship between our communities will continue to evolve; adapting as needs change. The fourth part of a Covenant Relationship is Legacy which the Dominican Sisters have been addressing over the years. Critical to a covenant relationship is that neither community loses its identity. We will remain Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma until the last sister dies. At that time there is a process in place for finalizing our affairs.

Sister Peg Murphy reads the letter of appointment from the Congregation for Religious.

We knew we did not want to merge with another community but wanted to create our own preferred future. After several years of study, conversation and exploration, we discerned that the Sisters of Providence, MJP, were an ideal fit; our long-term shared values aided our discernment. Although we express them differently, our charisms unite rather than divide us. We are united as women religious, called to live the Gospels and Evangelical Counsels.

We accept this Covenant, this Sacred trust, in the spirit of our foundresses, Mothers Thomasina Buehlmeier, deChantal Brown and Sister Aloysia Burns as they traveled west in 1888 to establish “something new.” We, too, joyfully accept that we are creating something new even as we move toward the fulfillment of our mission. We choose to walk in friendship and love with the Sisters of Providence.

Sister Jo Ann signs and accepts her appointment.

Our image during this time of planning and transition has been a threshold. John O’Donohue says, “To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging.”

In the spirit of our Centennial Song we say, “for all that has been we say thank you; to all that will be we say yes.”

At the end of the service, the Congregation blessed Sister Jo Ann and her advisors by singing the Dominican Blessing.