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Jubilee 2021—Celebrating the Joy!

Jubilee 2021—Celebrating the Joy!

The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael gathered to celebrate our Jubilarians in a special liturgy held on July 24 in the Gathering Space in San Rafael. Presiding at Mass was a dear friend to the sisters, Father Jude Siciliano, OP, and Mass was live-streamed to nearly 400 guests consisting of family members, friends, sisters from other congregations, and partners in ministry. [Note: scroll to the bottom to find a link to event photos and a video recording.]


Prioress Sr. Carla Kovack, OP offered a special welcome and introduced the Jubilarians. Her words are included here:

I want to welcome you, the sisters physically present in this sacred space, and those viewing virtually. Our spirits are united as we gather to celebrate our Jubilarians.

As a very new sister I can remember Sister Imelda Marie, prioress at the time of Santa Sabina, our novitiate house, intoning at the beginning of our multiple hours of the office throughout the day: O sacrum convivium…O sacred banquet, oh holy coming together…..that prayer, used as a beginning prayer in some of our local communities to this day, goes on to remind us that

Christ becomes our food, we celebrate the paschal mystery of passion, resurrection and we are filled with grace.

Gathering at this Eucharistic table is for us today a time of remembering the presence of Jesus. We recall the gift of His very self, but we also remember the vowed gift of self each Jubilarian offered 25, 60, 61, and 70 years ago. They united their gift of self to that of person of Jesus the Christ.

The word Eucharist means to give thanks. My heart is filled with gratitude to you, Sister Karen Marie (Franks), and Sister Susannah (Malarkey) for your 70 years of commitment.

Last year due to the pandemic we did not publicly celebrate Sisters Judy Lu McDonnell and Gervaise Valpey’s profession of 60 years. We do so with joy this day, now marking 61 years.

They celebrate along with Sisters Patricia Bruno, Katherine Hamilton, Francine McCarthy, Diane Smith, Aaron Winkelman, celebrating 60 years.

And in celebration of 25 years, we are grateful for you Pat, Sister Pat Farrell.

We are filled with joy and gratitude for each of you sharing our Dominican life mission with us.

Today we also remember all those personal relationships of our Jubilarians…we are grateful for your parents, your family, your classmates, your colleagues in ministry, for those you taught and served, and all of you who are now their friends. Your mutual faithfulness of friendship has deepened and blossomed bringing love into our broken world.

While most of our Jubilarians are here present with us, some have gone before us. We celebrate their memory today because their love and presence remain in our hearts and minds. We remember Sisters Samuel Conlan, Marie Foraboschi, Petra Fuselman, and Leona Marchand who would have been celebrating 70 years. Theresa Kuss, Kathleen Owen, and Kristin Wombacher, and Linda Berlanga who celebrating 60/61 years

From the teachings of Pope Francis, we are more conscious that everything is interconnected—things from the past are connected to the present and will flow into our common future. This Eucharist gathers us around this table, once used in our old Motherhouse, was handcrafted by Tom Valpey, the brother of Sister Gervaise…connections! The flowers, notes, and cards here and in many of the convents where our Jubilarians live bring beauty and are signs of love from those of you watching this Livestream.

Finally, we welcome Francisco Ortiz and Lianni Castro, former students and now colleagues in ministry and friends, to accompany Sister Patty Boss and our sister choir.

We welcome our Dominican brother and good friend, Father Jude Siciliano to preside at our prayer.

This truly is a O Sacrum Convivium….a sacred banquet.


Sr. Pat Farrell, OP, celebrating her 25th Jubilee, offered a special preaching after the Gospel. Her words are shared here:

What Comes Next?

I recently watched Hamilton – the screen version. A couple of years ago when I was in New York, my Amityville Dominican friend Margaret and I had high hopes that we might get tickets through the lottery. That was not to be. Yet, it was very enjoyable to watch Hamilton on TV with the sisters in San Rafael recently. And since it was made available during the pandemic, I assume that many of you, who have not had the opportunity to see it on stage, have seen it on screen. There is a song that King George sings to the fledgling founders of this new nation after the British troops have surrendered and walk away from the fight. The song is, “What Comes Next?”

What does come next? This is where our Gospel reading leaves us this morning. The size of the crowd isn’t given to us by John. Luke said there were 5,000; Mark said 4,000. Matthew told the story twice, once with 4,000 and the other with 5,000. None of the accounts included women or children, so you could probably double the number of the crowd. Whether it’s 5,000 or 10,000, there’s a lot of hungry people heading toward Jesus and the disciples. And Jesus turns to Philip and says, “Where are we to buy bread? What comes next?”

Whether we are watching Hamilton or listening to a Gospel story, we know the ending of these stories. We have playing in the backdrops of our minds, both a 246-year history of our nation and the stories we’ve heard of how Jesus fed the multitudes. It is difficult for us to experience these stories with the suspense of cliffhangers now.

But let’s put ourselves in Philip’s sandals. Can’t you imagine him thinking, “What do you mean, what comes next? You’re the one who heals sick, blind, and lame people and changed water into wine. There is no bakery anywhere near here! And we left the lakeside and walked up the mountain. We’re not anywhere near our fishing boats. You’re asking me what comes next? You are always saying things and asking questions that baffle us!”

Good teachers are like that, you know, they keep their disciples and students on their toes by asking disquieting and obvious questions which we miss.

Of course, in this version of the story, written by the Johannine church some 90 years after the actual event, we are told that Jesus knew what he was going to do. So just what was that? What was Jesus going to do next?

What would you do? Panic? All these people coming at you – wanting teaching – wanting healing and HUNGRY for so many things. And we all know that when people are on the move, and they are hungry and wanting, pushing and shoving, the mood could shift in a moment’s notice. What to do? Is it time for a miracle?

Miracle – sure turning a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish into enough for 10,000 people. An almighty and omnipotent God could easily do that. But what would that teach us? How would that prepare us to be . . . to act . . . like Jesus? If Jesus was simply one who produced miracles on demand, mere mortals could look to him, lean back and say, “What’s next?” But if Jesus’s life was his teaching – if his words and actions of healing, compassion, and forgiveness were the essences of what he called his disciples to, then it is appropriate that he ask Philip and us, “Where do we find bread? What comes next?”

Could it be that Jesus wanted to teach everyone that day, in the words of the Dominican St. Catherine of Siena, “to be dependent on one another?” She wrote in the 14th century: “For I could well have supplied each of you with all your needs, both spiritual and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another so that each of you would be my minister, dispensing the graces and gifts you have received from me. So whether you will it or not, you cannot escape the exercise of charity!”

Let’s go back to the edge of that cliff where we left Philip. A crowd of road-weary and hungry people is nothing to trifle with. You can’t just tell everyone that they’re on their own for supper.

There are no fast-food outlets. Besides, if we read further into the story, we hear Philip groaning that even if there was a place to buy food, they would need 6 months’ worth of wages to serve a crowd that size. Then Andrew speaks up, and I can imagine his eye roll when he mentions that there is a boy with five barley loaves and two fish.

Perhaps this young boy overheard the conversation and the consternation. I can easily imagine his bright unclouded eyes meeting Jesus’s eyes as he offers all he has. Open-hearted, clear-eyed generosity, unencumbered by ideas of what-won’t-work. What is your response when you experience that kind of lavish generosity, with no strings attached? Don’t you, too, offer all you have? Talk about miracles!

Besides, you know it was the guys who couldn’t figure out how to feed all the people. But as you know, they hadn’t counted the women. You can’t tell me that most of the women hadn’t packed a lunch for their hungry children and husbands. There was more than enough. All that was needed was the young boy’s gesture to open generous hearts and satchels. And then we experience, in the words of the song we will sing at communion, “People gathered, strangers no more. We the compassion of Christ.”

Today we celebrate the lives of our Dominican sisters who have done their best to live generous lives for 70, 60, and 25 years. I think that it is the way we share our lives together in community that encourages us to generosity. I presently live in a convent with 14 other sisters, and when I witness and experience the kindness each shows for the other, I know I am witnessing a miracle equal to any multiplication of loaves and fishes. When I see our sisters, who are 80 and 90+ years of age assemble sandwiches for the hungry, it stimulates me to generous action. When my sisters, after all these years, are still getting to chapel for prayers at 7:30 in the morning, and return at 5:20 in the evening, how would I ever miss prayers? And when I see my 90+-year-old sister on her 3–4-mile walk (part of which is very uphill) with her walker, I push myself to get out for my walk, too. One might think that after 70 or 60 years of religious life, a sister might just relax into her retirement years. That’s not what I see here. That’s not what I have seen among Dominican Sisters I’ve known anywhere in the country. And, I’ve often said, when I grow up, I want to be like her and her and her. I want to be like that when I grow up.

I found the poem “Logos” from Why I Wake Early: New Poems by Mary Oliver that fits with our readings today. She writes:

Why worry about the loaves and fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

I think if we can do that, we, like Jesus, will know what to do. We will naturally do what comes next.


Let Us Pray to the Lord . . . .Sr. Abby Newton offered special intercessions, which are remembered here.

I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.

For our Jubilarians—with deep gratitude to our faithful God for their devotion to God’s service and to our life together, for their faithfulness to our mission of bringing the Gospel to bear with depth and compassion on the critical issues of our time, let us pray to the Lord.

A man came bringing food from the first fruits to Elisha:  twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack.

For our earth, our common home.  In gratitude for the fruits of the land and the gifts of Mother Nature.  May we be vigilant in its care, knowing that every small act becomes part of the larger circle of life–and needs our protection and nurturing.  Let us pray to the Lord.

How can I set this before a hundred people?

For all who work for a more just world and minister to those in need. May they and we be undeterred by nagging doubts and barriers that face us and remain steadfast in our commitment, let us pray to the Lord

A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  For all present in any way at this time, that each in our own ways will work towards healing–from illness, from systemic injustice, from uncivil discourse, from all the ways we wound each other, let us pray to the Lord.


A special offertory of a basket containing an important symbol in the form of a Mobius strip was brought forward by Sr. Pat Simpson and described by Sr. Margaret Diener. A blessing followed. Here is what was read by Sr. Margaret:

In the logo of Vision 2027, our congregational shield rests on the Mobius strip, also called a twisted cylinder.  A Mobius strip is an infinite loop without a beginning or ending.  The inside and outside of the strip work together to form one continuous loop.  These ribbon Mobius strips symbolize the inner work of conversion and the outer work called forth by our mission.


With Grateful Hearts

Thank you to all who Zoomed in, shared messages, and prayed with and for us for making our Jubilee celebration even more special. We are blessed with the presence—virtual and physical—of so many who enrich our lives.






Preachers of  Truth • Love • Justice