Sisters of St. Mary of Namur celebrate combined service of 240 years with four jubilees

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

September 25, 2013

The Mass of The Blessed Virgin Mary Cause of Our Joy, held Aug. 31 at St. Andrew, recognized the dedication and service of (pictured left to right) Sister Cecile Faget (70 years), Sister Dorothy Ann Flori (70 years),  Sister Gabriela Martinez (50 years) and Sister Donna Marie Crochet (50 years).

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Leonard Flori still remembers how the family felt when his sister, Dorothy Ann, left home to join the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur in 1943.

“We were tearful,” admits the Garland resident who grew up in Waco as part of a large, loving family. “She would sing beautiful duets with my other sisters all the time. I missed that.”

Dorothy Ann’s parents were emotional but supportive as they watched one of their three daughters walk through the convent door. Her father had considered a religious vocation and studied for the priesthood before deciding to serve God in other ways.

“The Church really did better with him married. From our family, there were two religious vocations,” Sister Dorothy Ann Flori explained. “We have a brother who’s a priest too!”

Her brother, Father David Flori, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Church in Richardson, joined Monsignor Joseph Scantlin, pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish of Arlington, and Franciscan Fathers Tom Stabile and John Shanahan of St. Andrew Parish in Fort Worth, in celebrating a Jubilee Mass that honored Sr. Dorothy Ann and three other longtime members of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. The Mass of The Blessed Virgin Mary Cause of Our Joy, held Aug. 31 at St. Andrew, recognized the dedication and service of Sister Cecile Faget (70 years), Sister Dorothy Ann Flori (70 years), Sister Donna Marie Crochet (50 years), and Sister Gabriela Martinez (50 years).

“During their combined 240 years, they have served their own community and hundreds of people in different ministries,” said Msgr. Scantlin in his homily. “They have been ministers of faith, teachers in school, and promoters of the Second Vatican Council. We have joy in our hearts as we celebrate with them today.”

Answering the call to religious life isn’t always easy, he pointed out. After the Vatican II, the number of new vocations dwindled, and the work of the Church became more difficult.

“But joy comes in fulfilling God’s will and God’s way in our life,” said Msgr. Scantlin who serves as auxiliary chaplain for the local congregation. “That somehow sustains us.”

The four honorees followed similar paths in carrying out God’s will. All went to schools operated by the Belgium-based order known for its teaching ministry.

Sr. Cecile Faget was born in New Orleans but moved with her family to Dallas where she first encountered the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur as a 10-year-old at St. Edward’s Academy.

“I’ve been with them ever since,” enthused the jubilarian who served on the English faculty at the University of Dallas for 10 years.

In 1995, she traveled to Africa to help the order’s missionary sisters in Rwanda. Today, she continues to tutor students in English and Spanish.

Sr. Cecile, who was drawn to the religious life as a young child, wishes more women would answer the call to serve God as a sister.

“It’s a happy life and a special way of consecrating yourself totally to the Lord,” she said.

Influenced by the sisters who taught her at Resurrection Catholic School in Houston, Sr. Donna Crochet decided to join their community after high school. Her principal ministry is teaching pre-school and kindergarten youngsters. Tending to the demanding needs of little ones doesn’t tire the veteran educator.

“It requires a lot of energy but it keeps me young,” insisted Sr. Donna who plans to retire at the end of the academic year. “I’ve enjoyed every minute, but after 30 years, it’s time.”

During summer vacations, she volunteered for 15 years at Casa de Esperanza in Houston, a home for infants with HIV/AIDS.

Sister Gabriela Martinez, another Houston native, taught catechism classes with the Sisters of St. Mary before joining the order in 1963. For 18 years, she worked for the Diocese of Fort Worth and helped organize and develop the first bilingual ministry training program in the diocese in 1977. “I was very involved in training lay ministers for parishes,” Sr. Gabriela recalled. “(School Sisters of Notre Dame) Pat Miller and Kay Kolb gave English instruction, and I provided the Spanish portion of the course with Sister Dorothy Powers.”

That original structured formation of lay ministers at the diocesan level later evolved into the Blessed John Paul II Institute: School of Lay Ministry/Why Catholic? Today Sr. Gabriela is director of Hispanic Ministry and Faith formation at St. Joseph Church in Arlington.

Sr. Dorothy Ann Flori attended St. Mary Academy of the Sacred Heart in Waco from first grade through high school. One of her classmates, the late Sister St. John Begnaud, gave the valedictorian address at graduation. Sr. Dorothy Ann was the class salutatorian.

The diminutive nun served as a principal in Sisters of St. Mary schools throughout Texas. For 20 years, she worked in Arlington — first at St. Maria Goretti and then Holy Rosary (now St. Joseph Catholic School). Sr. Dorothy Ann now tutors children at Our Lady of Victory School.

Ann Yearca traveled from Dallas to attend the 70th anniversary jubilee of her aunt, Sr. Cecile.

“I’m amazed and proud of all the good work she’s done over the years,” Yearca said, expressing a sentiment felt by so many gathered for the celebration. “The sisters are wonderful role models. It’s nice to see good people in the world lighting the way for the rest of us.”

The Mass of The Blessed Virgin Mary Cause of Our Joy, held Aug. 31 at St. Andrew, recognized the dedication and service of Sister Cecile Faget (70 years), Sister Dorothy Ann Flori (70 years), Sister Donna Marie Crochet (50 years), and Sister Gabriela Martinez (50 years).

Published (until 12/31/2031)
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