Sister Spotlight: Mary Brenda, OP

Mary Brenda, OP approaches life and ministry with passion and enthusiasm. Originally from LaPorte, Indiana, she earned a nursing degree in Pennsylvania and became a registered nurse. While in college, she volunteered as a medical missionary working in the poorest of areas in Bogota, Colombia with the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence. During these missions, the idea of a religious vocation began to stir in her heart. “In 1989, I entered a religious congregation on the east coast.  My experience of initial formation was rich in scripture and prayer. After some years however, I realized God was leading me to something more.  As the spirit would have it, I discovered what that ‘something more’ was when I met members of the Dominican Order.” In 1996, Sr. Mary joined the Houston Dominican Sisters. 

Sr. Mary has touched many lives through ministry. She has served as the Director of HIV/AIDS Outreach Ministry for Catholic Charities in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese; as administrator of St. Bakhita Dispensary in Nairobi, Kenya; on the development staff at Our Lady of Grace School, Kisumu, Kenya; as a massage therapist; and in retreat ministry. “As a Dominican sister, my life of being rooted in scripture and prayer has only continued to grow more deeply.  The people and places where God has sent me only serve to remind me of how much gospel love is still needed in our world today.” 

Currently, Sr. Mary serves as school nurse at St. Agnes Academy in Houston. She enjoys ministering to the young women at St. Agnes and attending retreats and after-school events to support her students. She has also enjoyed sharing her passion for mission work with the students. While at St. Agnes, Sr. Mary has coordinated several mission trips. She has accompanied students to Eagle Pass, Texas, where they experienced first-hand the challenges the poor at the border face. She has coordinated an immersion mission in Kisumu, Kenya, where St. Agnes students rotated through a series of experiences, including being a student in the classroom for a day, following the same schedule of chores, daily Mass, and after school recreation. When they were not in the classroom the students lent a hand in the school kitchen, vegetable garden, cow stalls, chicken house, or fixing up and painting old dorm rooms. 

In 2017, Sr. Mary began taking St. Agnes students on annual mission trips to the Houston Dominicans’ Guatemala mission school, San Vicente de Paul Bethania. Until interrupted by the pandemic in March 2020, both San Vicente and St. Agnes students loved these annual trips, during which the young women from St. Agnes carried out service projects and taught lessons in English and Spanish. Sr. Mary feels blessed to have had these mission opportunities. “There couldn’t be a more meaningful life than being one who gets to plant new seeds of faith, hope and love in the hearts and minds of today’s young. For this I am more grateful than words can ever say.”  

Sr. Mary brings the same passion to her photography ministry that has evolved over the years. Her photos of the night sky, wildlife, and all creation are awe inspiring. She is a collaborating member of the Dominican Institute for the Arts. Last fall, ahead of the COP 27 UN Climate Change Conference, the DSC asked Mary to prepare a video using her photography that captures an abundance of natural beauty. During the video, Mary states: “I walk and preach with my camera that all may taste and see the goodness of the Lord and be moved to lift our hearts in awe, praise and thanksgiving as we learn to better care for all creation.” Bringing that care and appreciation for creation a little closer to home, Sr. Mary cares for a wonderful backyard kitchen-garden for her local convent house where she grows a variety of delicious fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

Sr. Mary loves being a Dominican. “I love being able to not only be in relationship with members of our community, but with the greater worldwide Dominican Family as well. I continue to look forward to many more years of serving God on this amazing journey as a Dominican sister.”