By Barb Arland-Fye
After serving in the Diocese of Davenport for nearly 40 years, the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation are reluctantly saying goodbye, but leaving with fond memories.
Sister Monique Belanger, OP, the U.S. provincial, visited Bishop Martin Amos on Monday, Jan. 25, to share with him the community’s decision. Two Sisters still in the diocese — both retired and living in Iowa City — will move to Maine where the majority of the U.S. Sisters live.
Members of the international religious community of more than 450 Dominican Apostolic women, present in 11 countries and on four continents, first arrived in the Davenport Diocese in the early 1970s. Initially, they served in religious education at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport and at its parish school, John F. Kennedy. Several of the Sisters, including Sr. Belanger, later moved to Iowa City to teach in the Regina Catholic School system. (Sister Jacqueline Provencher, one of the members who taught at Regina, is the congregation’s general prioress and lives at headquarters in Rome.)
But the number of Sisters in the U.S. province has declined.
“This is kind of a bittersweet visit,” Sr. Belanger told Bishop Amos. “I wanted to let you know that we had wonderful years in the diocese and we’re going to miss it. We leave with good memories, and with sadness.”
“It’s always bittersweet. A community with your charism certainly enriches the diocese,” Bishop Amos said. “And the community’s service over the years has helped form what the diocese is right now … you’ll continue your presence here through the lives you’ve touched.”
The Sisters left an indelible impression on many, including Celeste Vincent, principal of Regina Elementary School in Iowa City — who also was a student of the Sisters. “Here’s what I can tell you about those wonderful Sisters: all of those students they worked with, they changed their lives forever,” Vincent said.
“Sister Jackie, Sister Monique, Sister Therese — people who were fortunate to have them at Regina were very blessed. And not everyone has that opportunity to have that kind of spiritual role model. I will always remember them. They were such a friendly group; you could tell they really enjoyed being at Regina.”
John Allen, a retired Regina teacher who now serves as a substitute teacher, says it was a tremendous experience working with the Dominican Sisters.
“I think I was teaching seventh and eighth grade religion when they came. They were new to the school, but I have never worked with a more dedicated group of Sisters. They were certainly here for the students. They wanted to help in any way they could.
“Students felt free enough to ring the door bell at night if they wanted to talk to the Sisters about something. They were a very prayerful group,” Allen added. “I’m sad to see them go.”