August 2, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Janet Capone, OP, who served as Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 1998 to 2004, died July 29, 2018, at the age of 80.
Sister Janet, whose religious name was Sister Mary Leonard, led the Congregation through a merger process with the Dominican Sisters of Edmonds, Washington, that culminated in their becoming part of the Adrian Dominican Sisters 15 years ago. The two congregations trace a common history to four Dominican nuns who came to the United States in 1853 from a monastery in Regensburg, Germany, to teach immigrant children. Both became independent religious congregations in 1923.
On June 14, 2003, Sister Janet and her counterpart, the late Sister Michele Kopp, OP, then Prioress of the Edmonds Dominican Sisters, co-led a ritual at a Eucharistic liturgy that united 55 Edmonds Dominicans with 980 Adrian Dominicans in a Congregation that numbered 1,035 members.
“Sister Janet’s great gifts of sensitivity, loving care, creativity, and good humor were brought to bear in the coming together of our Dominican communities,” said Adrian Dominican Prioress Sister Patricia Siemen, OP. “Her love of beauty and gentleness complemented an inner strength and determination to make difficult decisions throughout her life.”
Sister Joanne McCauley, OP, a member of the former Edmonds Dominican community who served on the Merger Committee, said of the merger, “It was a time of real deep searching, and Janet was with us all the way through it. Janet and her Council were so welcoming and attentive to our every need. … At one point she said she considered the merger one of her greatest accomplishments. That meant a great deal to us.”
Sister Joanne noted that Sister Janet’s concern for the members of the former Edmonds community continued after the merger. “She made sure we were welcomed as much as possible. We admired Janet’s vision and her acceptance of us – every single one of us.”
In 2002, prior to the merger, Sister Janet and the General Council hosted a Congregation-wide gathering of more than 1,000 Sisters, Associates, and guests – including members of the Edmonds Dominicans community. The weeklong gathering, held at the Adrian Motherhouse campus, included time for renewal and celebration, as well as workshops on issues of justice and peace.
During Sister Janet’s term in office, the General Council initiated several major renovations at the Motherhouse campus. In 2000, Holy Rosary Chapel, then nearly 100 years old, was closed for restoration and re-dedicated in 2003. That same year, St. Catherine Chapel was built to replace a smaller chapel that had served Sisters living in the Maria health care facility. The third major building project involved renovating the Weber Retreat and Conference Center.
Sister Janet’s six-year term encompassed the millennial celebrations; the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center; and the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. During this time, the Congregation continued its engagement in social justice issues, including, among other initiatives, joining in the “Jubilee” call to cancel the debts of developing countries and in efforts to halt the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Sister Maureen Comer, OP, who served on the General Council with Sister Janet, described her as “wise, insightful of persons, accepting of others, and holy,” and a person with a great sense of humor and a broad range of interests. “She called others to know and live their best selves” and helped them to nurture their life with God, Sister Maureen recalled.
Sister Janet began her ministry with the Adrian Dominican Sisters as a teacher in elementary and high schools in Florida and Marymount College in New York. She ministered as counselor for Adult Protective Services in Orlando, Florida, from 1981 to 1983.
Sister Janet then spent 13 years, 1983 to 1996, as director of Emmaus Community in St. Louis, Missouri, a residential program of personal growth and development for women religious. Prior to her election as Prioress, 1996 to 1998, she served as Administrator of the Dominican Life Center, a continuum of care residence for elder Adrian Dominican Sisters, whom she described as “models of people aging gracefully.”
Following her service to the Congregation as Prioress, Sister Janet became Vice President of Sponsorship for Dignity Health Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California, from 2005 to 2011. In this role, she educated hospital employees on the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters and helped them integrate those values in their health care work. Sister Janet subsequently served as Chair of the Dominican Hospital Community Board, from 2012 until last year.
“Sister Janet was an amazing, kind, brilliant, wise woman who changed Dominican Hospital in so many ways,” said Nanette Mickiewicz, MD, President and CEO of Dignity Health Dominican Hospital. “Her artistic and impeccable taste was instrumental in the remodel of our lobby and selection of the colors for the entire hospital. Her wisdom and guidance to the Administrative team was deeply missed when she transitioned off the Board. My heart is heavy as I process the loss of this incredible woman.”
Born in New York, N.Y., to Veronica (Hall) and Leonard Capone, Sister Janet graduated in 1955 from the Adrian Dominican-sponsored Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida, and entered the Congregation on September 2 that year. She professed her first vows on August 5, 1957, and final vows on August 5, 1962. Sister Janet earned a bachelor’s degree in French in 1963 from Barry College (University), Miami, Florida, and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Siena Heights College (University), Adrian. Both universities are sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She completed graduate studies at St. Louis University from 1972 to 1973.
During the 1998 Transfer of Leadership ceremony, the new General Council takes office: from left, Sisters Barbara Rund, Kathleen McGrail, Maureen Comer, Molly Giller, and Janet Capone.
Sister Carol Johannes, OP, former Prioress of the Congregation, had known Sister Janet for years, but first noticed her intense spirituality when Sister Janet was Administrator of the Dominican Life Center. “She was so successful in working with the Sisters who were ill: the quality of her presence and her communication to them that they mattered to the Congregation and that their health was important,” Sister Carol recalled. “She was so strong in her convictions, and they were all loving convictions.”
Sister Carol described Sister Janet as “prayerful and contemplative,” noting that someone once driving past her house at 5:30 a.m. saw her lights on. “We knew that Janet was praying,” Sister Carol said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that she got through the challenges of being Prioress because of her relationship with God and deep faith.”
Sister Janet is survived by a sister, Carole (Terrance) Frechette of Weston, Massachusetts, and six nephews and nieces.
A Vigil Service will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 5, 2018 in St. Catherine Chapel on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive, Adrian. The Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, August 6, 2018 in St. Catherine Chapel. The Rite of Committal (burial) will be in the Congregation Cemetery.
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Rod Davis, CEO of St. Rose Dominican Hospitals, with, from left, Sisters Rosemary Ferguson, Janet Capone, and Patricia Walter, during the dedication of the Siena Campus, June 23, 2000.
Former Prioresses in 2016 at the conclusion of General Chapter, from left: Sisters Rosemary Ferguson, Carol Johannes, Nadine Foley, Patricia Walter, Janet Capone, Donna Markham, and Attracta Kelly.