Creating “Something New” – Celebrating a Covenant Relationship

June 29, 2019, was a significant moment for the Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma. We gathered at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Burien, Wash., for the formal installation of Sister Jo Ann Showalter, SP, as our pontifical commissary. (Commissary is not a word we associate with a leader,
but in Italian, commissario means leader, or one who is sent. Using more familiar language, we will refer to her as our congregation leader.)

The nine-year journey completes the structural parts of our covenant with the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province (MJP). Our sisters needing assisted or skilled care have resided at St. Joseph Residence in Seattle for more than 25 years, our financial management is taken care of at the Providence Provincial Administration office in Renton, and our governance model is now in place. Although these structures are in place, we know that the covenant relationship between our religious communities will continue to evolve, adapting as needs change.

Three religious sisters sign a document on a small table
Sister of Providence Jo Ann Showalter signs and accepts her appointment as congregation leader for the Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma as part of the covenant relationship between the two congregations.

The fourth part of a covenant relationship is legacy, which the Dominican Sisters have been addressing over the years. Critical to a covenant relationship is that neither community loses its identity. We will remain Sisters of St. Dominic of Tacoma until the last sister dies. At that time there is a process in place for finalizing our affairs.

We knew we did not want to merge with another community but wanted to create our own preferred future. After several years of study, conversation and exploration, we discerned that the Sisters of Providence, MJP, were an ideal fit — our long-term relationship, our geographic proximity and our shared values aided our discernment. Although we express them differently, our charisms unite rather than divide us. We are united as women religious, called to live the Gospels and Evangelical Counsels.

We accept this covenant, this sacred trust, in the spirit of our foundresses, Mothers Thomasina Buehlmeier, deChantal Brown and Sister Aloysia Burns as they traveled west in 1888 to establish “something new.” We, too, joyfully accept that we are creating “something new” even as we move toward the fulfillment of our mission. We choose to walk in friendship and love with the Sisters of Providence.

group of religious women
The Sisters of Providence Provincial Council along with the Tacoma Dominican Leadership Team and advisors celebrate the installation of the new congregation leader on June 29 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Burien, Wash.

Our image during this time of planning and transition has been a threshold. John O’Donohue says, “To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging.”

In the spirit of our centennial song we say, “For all that has been we say thank you; to all that will be we say yes.”