At the main office of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, newly elected leaders are committed to living up to their name — in all things.
So much so that Sister Anne Lythgoe stopped herself this week when she referred to “two birds with one stone.”
“Piece of bread,” she quickly corrected. “You can’t say stone around here. You know, Dominican Sisters of Peace.
“So we don’t use bullet points, we use buttons. Isn’t it fun?”
Lythgoe is one of two new leadership-team members who took office this month and will serve a six-year term. The other is Sister Pat Twohill, the congregation’s new prioress, who oversees 528 sisters in 25 states and three other countries.
Re-elected were Sisters Therese Leckert, Gemma Doll and Gene Poore.
It’s the first leadership change for the Dominican Sisters of Peace, established in 2009 by the merger of seven formerly independent Dominican congregations. An eighth congregation came into the fold in 2012.
Over the first six years, “we have become one,” Twohill said.
“Finding unity in diversity has been really the foundational work of the last leadership team,” she said. “We’ve come together, and we’re still growing in that identity. We’re benefiting from expanding our horizons by incorporating eight different cultures.”
As they look to the next six years, leaders hope to take what is now a well-oiled operation and deepen the congregation’s identity and advance its mission by strengthening its outreach, Twohill said.
Among stated goals: to study, contemplate and preach God’s love; to promote nonviolence, unity in diversity and reconciliation; to perform outreach to the marginalized; to create welcoming communities by inviting others to partner with the congregation; and to advocate policies that reduce the impact of global climate change.
“We want to always be asking ourselves, ‘How can we be clearer images of Christ’s peace and bring that peace to others?’” Twohill said.
Since its founding, the Dominican Sisters of Peace had been overseen by Sister Margaret Ormond, the congregation’s first prioress. She is now the first president of Dominican Academy, a high school for girls in Manhattan in New York City.
Ormond said her goal is to increase diversity by continuing to “provide opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t have them because of economic or ethnic constraints.”
Ormond received a concrete sign that unity had been achieved under her leadership of the sisters when delegates meeting to elect the new leaders no longer identified themselves with their premerger congregations.
“They said, ‘I am a Dominican Sister of Peace.’ That kind of solidification of our identity was a great joy for me,” Ormond said.
“I think the cultural cohesiveness was a great gift of the Holy Spirit and a great gift of the leadership and also of all the sisters who jumped into this new congregation.”
Dominican congregations seek to preach the Gospel to everyone and carry the credential O.P. after their names, representing the “order of preachers” founded by St. Dominic in the early 13th century.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace have motherhouses in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Kansas and Louisiana. Sisters have founded colleges, primary and secondary schools, adult literacy centers, health-care and housing facilities, ecology centers, and retreat or spiritual-outreach operations in 10 states: Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee and Virginia.
Sisters also serve in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
They work in parishes in 37 U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses and have missions in Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru.
But they don’t do it alone.
They have many lay employees as well as volunteers and 600 Christian “associates,” generally laypeople, who support their ministries. They also collaborate with other religious and community organizations.
Twohill had joined the convent after graduating from college, first working as a teacher at Holy Spirit Catholic School in Whitehall. After taking her final vows as a sister, she earned her master’s degree in systematic theology and began working to help welcome women interested in becoming sisters.
Most recently, she had been serving in her native New Haven, Conn., establishing a multicultural, multigenerational, multilingual “House of Welcome” at an unused convent attached to St. Stanislaus Parish.
With 80 being the median age of the congregation’s sisters, Twohill said it is unlikely that incoming women will keep...