Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
Yesterday, a couple of sources (Whispers in the Loggia and InsideCatholic) broke the news that Washington, D.C.‘s John Paul II Cultural Center may be sold to Ann Arbor’s Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Today, an email from the order confirms that news.
According to the email, the Dominican Sisters of Mary are in the “inspection phase of a purchase and sale agreement… It is our hope to use this builidng as a House of Studies for the continuing education and formation of our Sisters.”
The John Paul II Cultural Center has been suffering financially almost from its very beginnings. Built at a cost of $75 million, largely through funding from the Archdiocese of Detroit, the museum was never able to achieve the visitors it hoped to achieve. I recall a visit I made to the center some years ago. Aside from a few school children in the lower level exhibit, the place was quite empty.
Most recently, EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, had been making use of the facility to record his The World Over program.
The purchase, should it go through, would be a fantastic marriage between a rapidly growing religious order and a floundering Catholic property. In August, the Dominican Sisters welcomed 22 aspirants to their community. The Sisters see the property as a means to handling their growth and the education of candidates for their order - an order devoted to the apostolate of teaching.
Founded with four sisters in 1997, the order has grown to more than 100 sisters in just 13 years. The average age of the sisters is 26, and the average age of the women who enter is 21.
Given the reasons cited for the order’s growth, the John Paul II Cultural Center seems the perfect place for those aspiring to join.
“The John Paul II generation is alive and well,” said Sister Joseph Andrew, vocation director for the community. “We attract about 400 young women each year to our Vocation Discernment Retreats. The world is starving for spiritual mothers…it needs that Marian maternal love. These women are coming to us because they want the sacrifice.”
“We went through those years of so much confusion where young people didn’t hear about religious life,” recalled Sister Joseph Andrew. “John Paul II turned the young onto God’s will and here they come.”
Sister Joseph estimated that of the 400 who attend the vocation retreats each year, approximately 40 may have a religious vocation. That doesn’t mean that all are drawn to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The community sends many to different communities, with charisms more aligned with the spirit of the aspirant. They’ve sent young women on to the Franciscans, the Missionaries of Charity, the Carmelites, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and others.
To learn more about the endeavor, or to help support it, visit their House of Studies web page.