Dominican Sisters of Peace Memorialize Enslaved Persons at Prayer Service

As the Dominican Sisters of Peace celebrate the 200th anniversary of Dominican Women Religious in the United States, the Sisters of the Congregation have also chosen to recognize the sin of slavery.

Sr. Rosemary Rule, OP, opens the prayer service honoring the enslaved persons who helped to build the St. Catharine Motherhouse and farm during the early days of the Congregation. Program speakers, from left, included Barry Burton and Marshall Fields, as well as vocalist Dr. Michael Preacley.

In an October 2, 2022, service at the Congregation’s Motherhouse in Springfield, KY, the Sisters offered a memorial to the enslaved men and women whose labors supported the young women from St. Rose Parish who founded the first congregation of Dominican Sisters in the United States.

This memorial service was created and presented in collaboration with the “I Was Here” Project, a Kentucky-based art exhibit that seeks to reframe the conversation around racism and slavery through the lens of art.

The service included music by nationally recognized vocalist Dr. Michael Preacley and from Congregational vocalists, comments by Marshall Fields, founder of F.R.E.E.D.O.M. from RACISM Training, and by Barry Burton, a Kentucky-based writer. Sr. Rosemary Rule served as the host of the ceremony.

Recent historical research done in the Springfield area allowed the Sisters to recognize a number of the formerly enslaved persons by name during the ceremony.

Angela Crenshaw, OPA; Sr. Mary Louise Edwards, OP, and Sr. Louisa Derouen, OP, sing the Litany of Blessing of the Enslaved.

Sister Barbara Sullivan, OP, worked closely with the “I Was Here” project team to present the prayer service. “Working with “I Was Here” was a blessing.  We were able, for the first time,  to name and honor some of the enslaved African-American women and men who were here with us at St. Catharine in founding the first mission of Dominican Sisters in the United States. Through the power of the arts, we are able to see others for who they were and are, and to help in healing the legacy of racism.”

The Dominican Sisters of Peace have conducted a number of congregational studies on racism over the past years, and in 2017, welcomed Shannen Dee Williams, associate professor at the University of Dayton and author of Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle, to address Sisters.

To view the “I Was Here” memorial service on the Dominican Sisters of Peace YouTube channel, please click here.

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