Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville celebrate Associate Program 40th Anniversary

Lousie Climo (left) and Rosemary Oliveri (right) join the first class of Associates 40 years ago.

On Pentecost Sunday, May 28th, 2023, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Associate Program as well as the Bonding and Renewal Ceremony for Candidates and Associates at a Vespers Service.

Dominican Associates are women and men, single and married who live out their baptismal call to follow Jesus Christ in the spirit of St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena. Associates are companions to the Sisters in the journey of “Holy Preaching,” and bonded to the congregation through this commitment.

“In 1983 the first formal bonding took place,” said Dominican Sister Victoria Toale. “Six women became ‘alternate members.’ Today, we celebrate 40 years of what has come to be known as Associate Membership.” Two of the first Associates — Rosemary Olivari and Louise Climo — renewed their commitment to our Congregation on Sunday and have now been Associates for 40 years!

Associate Rosemary Olivari had only met one Dominican sister in her youth as part of her parish religious education program: Catherine McGuigan who “was a riot,” she recalled. When Rosemary was in her 30s, she decided to attend a retreat on discipleship and discovered you “can’t just sit in the pews, you have to do something — but what could I do?” she asked. She began teaching religion at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Brookville under the guidance of the late Sister Regina Kraft. Rosemary enjoyed teaching, but also enjoyed Sister Regina’s meetings held in between weekly sessions in which the teachers would meet and pray together. “As a single woman, I had been praying by myself — I really liked community prayer,” said Rosemary. Sister Regina noticed Rosemary’s interest and one day invited her to be part of an emerging new form of Dominican life. “Sister Regina had said ‘You know, we have something, I don’t know what it is, but I think you would like it,'” Rosemary recalled her saying. “Sister Regina was so insistent that I proceed with it, she drove me to Queens to meet the director.” Rosemary not only became an Associate, but also became the first non-vowed Dominican to become a co-director of the Associates (on three different occasions) and eventually worked for the Congregation as our Director of Information Technology (IT) for 12 years.  “I’m always going to be a Dominican,” she said, noting the four pillars of prayer, study, community and mission. After the renewal this past Sunday, there was “a voice mail on my machine from S. Catherine McGuigan (the first Dominican she had known) congratulating me on my 40 years,” said Rosemary. “It was a full circle moment.”

Associate Louise Climo attended Dominican Commercial High School in Jamaica, Queens ever since she was 14 years old. “It was my second home,” she gushed. “That’s where I first got involved with Dominican Sisters. I made wonderful friends: the sisters themselves and also classmates at the all-girl school.” She especially loved performing on the piano, playing with the orchestra and also accompanying the Glee Club directed by the late Sister Clare Marie Wenzler. “Dominican Commercial was a family,” she said. Her association with the Dominicans continued later at her home parish of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Centerport where there was a “crew” of Dominican Sisters including Marie Danaher, Margaret Galiardi, Elaine Jahrsdoefer and Joan Bernard. Louise was involved in many parish ministries such as the folk choir with S. Elaine, home retreats, seasonal retreats with S. Joan, religious education and Eucharistic Ministry at Mass and at home. Louise marvels about how many connections she has had with the Dominican family from Dominican Commercial to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs to even being married by a Dominican priest. “It’s been such a blessing for us for all of these years, a continued blessing and it’s still here and it goes on,” said Louise. “How wonderful is that? After 40 years– it’s still our family.”

That day, the Dominican Congregation celebrated many wonderful associates including our new associates Gina Calabrese, Jean Donnelly, Joseph Martin, Sharon Mc Vernon; those celebrating 35 years including Joanne Bruno and Alice Doyle; 30 years including Anna Mary Norton and Pauline Szabados; 20 years including Virginia Campbell, Anne Carter, Glenda Harry and Mary Jane Ryan; 15 years including Patricia Chambers-Daly, Ann Marie Ellingham, Lidia Ferrari, Marie Gragnaniello, Carol Guilfoyle, Mary Morris, Rena Nowacoski, Gloria Petrone, Kathleen Sheridan; 10 Years including Patricia Reid-Marcotte, Barbara Shotter and Lynn Zeuner and 5 Years including Jennie Amendola, Catherine Healy, Kathleen Macbeth and Debbie Zaino.