Blessed Imelda Convent opens with Mass, blessing
FORT WORTH — The Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate, who work in the diocese educating elementary age children, high school students, and candidates for the permanent diaconate, have a new place to call home.
Located on the grounds of Nolan Catholic High School, the Blessed Imelda Convent will house nine sisters in a setting conducive to the order’s conventual lifestyle.
In the presence of visiting sisters, benefactors, and people involved in the construction project, Bishop Michael Olson offered a Mass of Blessing Oct. 1 inside the building’s intimate oratory.
“We have not simply built a domicile in which teachers might be housed safely and comfortably, but a convent in which vowed religious sisters, Dominican sisters, might live out the most essential aspect of their consecrated life that extends beyond the beautiful ministry of the education and formation of children,” the bishop said in his homily.
Designed by architect Scott Martsolf with substantial input from the religious order, the oratory’s interior reflects the Dominican contemplative and communal tradition. The natural light-filled oratory is at the center of the 8,000-square-foot building with the community’s 14 bedrooms and shared living spaces surrounding it.
“The centrality of this oratory manifests Christ who is the capstone,” the bishop pointed out. “Yet, also in Dominican life, the library is essential to understand Christ better and to preach eloquently, through your lives in community, the Word.”
In seeking God’s blessing and protection for the convent, the bishop asked not only for intercessory prayer from St. Dominic, St. Catherine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Blessed Imelda, but also St. Therese of the Child Jesus whose feast day is Oct. 1.
“The greatest saint of modern times exemplifies the confidence and singlehearted love for Jesus and Mary needed by the Church in religious life today,” he said.
Sister Anna Imelda, OP, teaches first- and third-year theology at Nolan and tries to help students establish a relationship with Christ.
“Hopefully, that desire to love will [inspire] them to know more about Christ,” she explained.
Starting her eighth year at Nolan, the veteran educator said her ministry in the diocese is a blessing and the new convent offers a comfortable place for prayer and rest after a busy day.
“It’s very conventual for our living,” Sr. Imelda continued. “At the center is the oratory and across from it is the library, which reminds us of our balance between faith and reason.”
Rising at 5 a.m. for morning prayer, meditation, and daily Mass, the convent’s residents then depart for their various ministries. Five teach in elementary schools — St. Rita, St. Joseph, St. John the Apostle, St. Peter the Apostle, and Holy Family — one is assigned to Nolan, one is the director of elementary faith formation at St. Jude Parish, and one works for the diocese in the deacon formation program. Sister Ann Bosco Nguyen, OP, is the convent superior.
Celebrating her silver jubilee as a Dominican this month, Sister Anne Frances Ai Le, OP, teaches theological virtues and introduction to philosophy to men studying for the diaconate.
“I’m actually from this diocese,” said the assistant director of intellectual formation, who grew up in St. George Parish. Her mother, Thiem Dao, is a Christ the King parishioner.
Philosophy is a challenging subject, but Sr. Anne tries to make it interesting.
“I remind them every time we cover a philosophical concept that it’s not just a class, but philosophy for the purpose of their theological studies,” she said.
Founded in 1958, the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate traces its roots to Vietnam. The order is based in Houston and counts 103 sisters, seven novices, and three postulants in its membership. They arrived in the Diocese of Fort Worth in 2011 at the invitation of then Bishop Kevin Vann and lived in a south Arlington home donated by the Doskocil family before moving into a building near Nolan.
Having the religious order in close proximity to the high school, “brings us so much joy,” said Kristy Webb, Nolan’s president.
Noticeable in their floor-length white habits, the sisters are often part of the crowd at football and volleyball games.
“We see them walking on campus. They are praying for us and praying for Nolan,” Webb said. “The students love it. They watched the building’s progress and some actually helped with the move-in process.”
Sister Maria Theresa, OP, the religious order’s provincial, traveled from Houston to attend the special liturgy and open house along with 30 other sisters.
“We are so richly blessed by Bishop Olson for allowing us to serve here in the diocese and gifting us with this beautiful convent,” she said. “It is so conducive to our way of life as a religious and Dominican spirituality as well.”
The new space provides room for additional sisters.
“This convent can hold up to 12 sisters and there are nine here, so we hope to grow,” the provincial added.
After Bishop Olson blessed the interior and exterior of the white brick building with holy water, the convent’s superior presented him with a metal statue of St. Michael the Archangel.
“So many graces abound this day,” Sr. Ann Bosco said, addressing the bishop and other benefactors. “On behalf of our sisters, I offer our deepest heartfelt gratitude. We are eternally indebted to you for your boundless love and gracious support of religious women at large and particularly to our Dominican sisters.”
The convent is named for Blessed Imelda Lambertini, the patroness of first communicants, who lived with a Dominican order until her death at age 11 in the 14th century.