Six Dominican sisters answer God’s call ‘for all my life’

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Six Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia made their perpetual profession of vows on Monday, July 26, 2021, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville was the main celebrant of the Mass and Bishop David Talley of Memphis was one of the concelebrants. The six sisters are: Sister Anna Kolbe Brown, O.P.; Sister Alma Marie Learner, O.P.; Sister Mariam Assaf, O.P.; Sister Anna Cecilia Kuhn, O.P.; Sister Anna Maria Schreyer, O.P.; and Sister Cecilia Klein, O.P. Photos by Andy Telli

See below for photo gallery

Six Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia made their perpetual profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for all their life during a Mass of the Rite of Religious Profession on Monday, July 26, at the Cathedral of Incarnation in Nashville. 

 “The Lord has chosen to call you to be … that bride of Christ, that one to bring Christ to the classroom” or another ministry he may call the sisters to, said Father Albert Trudel, O.P., the homilist for the Mass.   “The Lord has chosen you for all eternity.” 

The six sisters made their profession of vows before an audience of family, friends and fellow Dominican Sisters. They are: 

  • Sister Anna Kolbe Brown, O.P., a former parishioner of St. John the Evangelist Church in Westminster, Maryland, in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Sister Anna Kolbe is the daughter of Dave and Donna Brown, parishioners at St. Louise de Marillac Church in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 
  • Sister Alma Marie Learner, O.P., a former parishioner of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in the Diocese of Charleston. Sister Alma Marie is the daughter of Richard and Stephanie Learner, also parishioners at St. Peter’s.   
  • Sister Mariam Assaf, O.P., a former parishioner of Holy Name of Mary Church in Hunters Hill, Australia, in the Archdiocese of Sydney. Sister Mariam is the daughter of George and Nehmat Assaf, also parishioners at Holy Name of Mary. 
  • Sister Anna Cecilia Kuhn, O.P., a former parishioner of St. Mary’s Church in Neillsville, Wisconsin, in the Diocese of La Cross. Sister Anna Cecilia is the daughter of Richard and Donna Kuhn, also parishioners at St. Mary’s.   
  • Sister Anna Maria Schreyer, O.P., a former parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in La Plata, Maryland, in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.  Sister Anna Maria is the daughter of Michael and Laura Schreyer, also parishioners at Sacred Heart.  
  • Sister Cecilia Klein, O.P., a former parishioner of St. Bernard Catholic Church in Akron, Ohio, in the Diocese of Cleveland. Sister Cecilia is the daughter of Ruth and David Klein, also parishioners at St. Bernard Catholic Church. 
During the Mass for the Rite of Perpetual Religious Profession, Sister Anna Kolbe Brown, O.P., (from left), Sister Alma Marie Learner, O.P., Sister Mariam Assaf, O.P., and Sister Anna Cecilia Kuhn, O.P., sing. They were among the six sisters, joining Sister Anna Maria Schreyer, O.P., and Sister Cecilia Klein, O.P., to make their perpetual vows for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia congregation.

Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville was the main celebrant, and Bishop David Talley of Memphis was one of the concelebrants. 

Sister Mariam, who grew up in Sydney, Australia, as a member of a family from Lebanon, represents the increasingly international flavor of the congregation that was founded in 1860 in Nashville. 

The Nashville Dominicans were invited to serve in Australia to help with the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney. They remained, where today they serve as teachers, their main apostolate, and in university chaplaincies. 

Sister Mariam first met the Nashville Dominicans when they visited her high school. As a college student, she met them again at Theology on Tap events and started to get to know them. On a Nun Run for young women considering a religious vocation, the Dominicans were one of the communities the group visited, she said. 

“It was their Dominican life,” that attracted her, Sister Mariam said. “Their love of prayer, the contemplative life. Their monastic practices that allow them the space to listen to God. Their really strong community life” and the personalities of the individual sisters, she said. 

“I felt this is where I could be free to be myself,” Sister Mariam said. 

She came to Nashville seven years ago to join the congregation and begin the formation that led to her perpetual profession of vows. 

Some cousins, including Deacon George Esseff Jr. of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who read the Gospel during the Mass, were able to attend the profession, Sister Mariam said, and other family members in Australia and Lebanon were able to watch a livestreaming of the Mass. 

When Sister Mariam recited her profession of vows, she did it first in English and then in Arabic. 

“I was just grateful to God,” she said of her thoughts during the Mass. “Just as we are publicly vowing our lives to God, he’s publicly vowing his life to us. I was asking to be faithful to the graces he is pouring out on us for all our life.” 

On Aug. 8, the Feast of St. Dominic, nine sisters will receive the habit in a private ceremony, and on Aug. 10 four sisters will make their first profession of vows. In late July, 13 sisters renewed their vows during a community Mass. 

The congregation has just over 300 sisters. 

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