Dominican Sisters of Peace: ‘A Chapel is Reborn as a Gift to the Community it Served’

Watertown, MA: Rosary Manor was founded in 1888 as an outgrowth of Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine, KY. Mother Regina of the Kentucky Dominicans, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, sent seven Sisters to Watertown, MA, to help manage the new schools in the parish. Over the more than 130 years that the Sisters of Rosary Manor served the people of the Boston Diocese, they founded more than 20 ministries, including schools, community outreach, and an ecology center at Crystal Spring.

As the long history of Rosary Manor draws to a close, the Sisters made a final gift to the religious community in the diocese by donating their chapel furnishings to Sr. Mark’s Church in Dorchester, MA. Sr. Blaise Flynn has prepared a reflection about this special gift.

Parishioners pack and move items from the Rosary Manor to the chapel at St. Mark’s Church.

On the feast of St. Catherine, Fr. Joseph Linh T. Nguyen, pastor of St. Mark’s Church in Dorchester, arrived with several of his parishioners to move the Rosary Manor chapel to its new home in the basement of St. Mark’s church. There is a very large and long-standing Vietnamese community connected to the church, as well as a newly-arrived Irish community, many of whom still speak Gaelic. They have four masses every Sunday, and many standing-room only.

These Chapel furnishings were not only needed by this church community, but helped us Sisters to make a very meaningful connection for us as well, given our long-standing ties with our Vietnamese sisters and associates.

Fr. Nguyen, who will be ordained 20 years on Pentecost, has wonderful memories attending TET celebrations at Rosary as a young priest, and of course, we are happy to help welcome the increasing number of Irish immigrants who have historically been such a rich part of our church and our congregation.

As the contingent, garbed in masks and gloves, entered the chapel, their eyes lit up with delight. Phont, one of the older members, went straight to the organ and began to play. We asked him where he had learned to play so beautifully, and he explained that when he first came here from Vietnam, he was sad and lonely. One day he found a discarded organ. He figured out how to fix it up and then taught himself to play.

A Rosary Manor parishioner plays the grand piano in the Rosary Manor Dining Room.

Phont is the music minister at St. Marks and Fr. Nguyen proudly boasts that there is nothing he cannot do, including plumbing, electrical work and carpentry. Phont was a dentist in Vietnam and his father was also a dentist with the U.S. Army, but when he came to this country, his life’s work was no longer an option for him.

Later in the day there was beautiful music coming from the dining room. Phont was in his glory, playing the grand piano while several of us sat mesmerized at the music coming from this piano that has been mostly silent for years. Over the course of the next few days they dismantled the organ and the piano, carefully moved them to St. Marks, and reassembled them.

These days were bittersweet, but we were blessed to see the excitement, joy, and gratitude of those preparing to give birth to our beloved chapel in a new space.

In one room we had collected all the crucifixes from the rooms in the house. When the men entered the room, they were quite taken with the collection of crucifixes. Fr. Nguyen explained to us that many of his parishioners had no crucifixes for their homes and that he would make sure that they were given to families who would treasure them. It was touching to see how reverently the men packed these sacred items away.

Statues, conference room tables and chairs, tools, air conditioners, ladders were also packed on the truck. It was a pleasure to watch them, as they worked hard and with an obvious sense of joy. The pastor worked as hard as any of them. It was obvious he liked his parishioners and that they liked him.

It was a symphony of sorts, and when all was said and done, we found ourselves feeling as grateful and happy as they did. God’s grace is a wonderful thing.

Parishioners from St. Mark’s Church were very happy to receive both Chapel items and furnishings from the Convent.

As they were preparing to leave, a young man shyly approached Sr. Kathleen and asked if there might be a statue of the Blessed Mother that he could have for his wife. The only statue left at this point was one Kathleen had on the dresser in her room which she of course promptly retrieved it and gave it to him.

On Saturday we ordered take-out Chinese food and set up a table in the now-empty chapel. We broke bread, we reminisced, and somehow the impending move began to feel less daunting and more a part of an ordained plan.

The Rosary Manor Ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace will be closing later this year.