August 8, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, family members, friends, and colleagues of Sister Janet Capone, OP, gathered August 5-6, 2018, for two days of formal and informal services to honor the former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The special days included an August 5 wake and Vigil Service, during which participants shared their personal memories of Sister Janet, and the Funeral Mass and Rite of Committal on August 6. Participants also had the opportunity to share their memories after the formal Vigil Service on August 5, during the lunch that followed the Committal, and at various other informal gatherings.
Highlights of Sister Janet’s term as Prioress, from 1998 to 2004, included the merger of the Adrian Dominican Sisters with the Edmonds Dominican Sisters. In addition, she and the General Council oversaw the renovation of Holy Rosary Chapel, the construction of St. Catherine Chapel to replace the smaller Maria Chapel at the Dominican Life Center, and the renovation of Weber Retreat and Conference Center.
During the Vigil Service on the evening of August 5, Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter, gave a eulogy, focusing on the life of Sister Janet. Read some of the details of her life here.
As a professed Adrian Dominican Sister, “Janet continued to grow as a woman of prayer, wisdom, and grace,” Sister Mary Ann said. Sister Janet’s mantra were the words she spoke to the Congregation at General Chapter 2004 toward the end of her term as Prioress of the Congregation. Drawing on the words of Lee Ann Womack in her song, “I Hope You Dance,” Sister Janet had told the Adrian Dominican Sisters, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
Sister Mary Ann used that theme throughout her eulogy in describing Sister Janet’s various ministries and the spirit with which she lived. In September 2017, Sister Janet began to experience health issues “but continued the dance of life as a valiant and courageous woman until her death,” Sister Mary Ann said. “So, Janet, you have graced us with your presence. You have blessed us in so many ways. Now you rejoice with your Beloved. Your spirit dances with the divine presence. You are clothed in majesty.”
Sister Maureen Comer, OP, who had served on the General Council when Sister Janet was Prioress, maintained a friendship with Sister Janet after their terms in office. Sister Maureen drew on Sister Janet’s favorite quote from Rumi: “Beyond the place of right judgment and wrong judgment, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
“One of the outstanding gifts of Janet was that she would invite people to meet in that field, where one is known and accepted, right or wrong, and here we are – blessed persons, each one of us, and especially blessed because Janet Ann Capone came into our lives,” Sister Maureen said.
She further described Sister Janet as “the consummate educator,” who successfully taught first-grade students to read. “She was a great teacher for those of us a lot older than first grade,” Sister Maureen said. “She helped many to know who we are, to accept who we are, to celebrate who we are.”
Carole Goguen, Sister Janet’s grand-niece, spoke for the family. “We call Boston home, and while Sister Janet was not always present physically, her presence was always with us – a faraway friend who always answered the phone when we needed her. She was always watching over us. She was observant. She was thoughtful. She was helpful. She was concise – and she was ours,” Carolyn said. “Today, as we honor our sister, our friend, our friend, our leader, we should take comfort in knowing that our everyday angel on Earth now has a better view, and we’ll continue to honor her memory.”
During the funeral on August 6, Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, offered a brief reflection on Sister Janet and the courage she showed throughout her life – particularly during their visit in January 2018, when Sister Janet had begun to realize that she would likely not recover from cancer. “She said to me, ‘Pat, I have placed myself within the heart of God. I know that it’s safe there.’ And that is one of Janet’s last gifts to us: her placing herself into God’s heart. It gives us permission to do the same.”
Sister Eunice Drazba, OP, who had ministered with Sister Janet at Emmaus Community in St. Louis, delivered a reflection, focusing in turn on each of the readings. The first reading, from Wisdom, described a valiant, faithful woman. “What gives this woman wisdom and makes her faithful?” Sister Eunice asked. “Being able to dance for joy and in sorrow, knowing her labors are worthwhile and pursuing them daily, and a step at a time.”
Psalm 111, the responsorial psalm, “leads us to giving thanks to God and celebrating the goodness present to us daily,” Sister Eunice said. “Janet lived these praises daily, starting each day putting two feet on the floor and showing up. This was one of her mottos: just show up. In showing up, we trust God to be with and lead us to our next move, decision, choice, plan.”
Describing the Beatitudes as “the blueprints of walking with Jesus,” Sister Eunice noted that Sister Janet “created and followed her blueprint that Jesus modeled.” She invited the assembly, in memory of Sister Janet, to reflect on their own lives as inspired by the readings and to “tweak or affirm our own blueprint for the life worth living.”
The formal farewell to Sister Janet concluded at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ cemetery, where Sister Janet was laid to rest in the circle of discipleship and friendship among other Adrian Dominican Sisters who have joined the Communion of Saints in Heaven.
Feature photo (top): Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, places into the hands of Sister Janet Capone, OP, vows she made as a Sister.
Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor, blesses Sister Janet during the Rite of Committal in the Congregation Cemetery.
April 23, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Hundreds of people – Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, family members, colleagues, and Co-workers – gathered at the Motherhouse April 22 and 23 for two days of formal and informal celebrations to honor the memory of former Prioress Rosemary Ferguson, OP.
During an informal gathering after Mass on April 22, Sisters, Co-workers, and friends had the opportunity to share stories about their experiences with Sister Rosemary. Speakers recalled special moments, ways that Sister Rosemary influenced them, and how she taught them about the dignity of one’s final days of life.
The formal rituals began on the evening of April 22 with a Vigil Service. Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, Sister Rosemary’s Chapter Prioress, presided over the service and presented the eulogy, recalling Sister Rosemary’s death and the many ways that she influenced others.
“It is amazing to me that that woman came from a tiny little town to become the exquisite leader that she was,” Sister Patricia said. That quote, she added, was from Sister Rosemary herself, describing the leadership of her foremother, Mother Camilla Madden. But, Sister Pat noted, that the quote could also apply to Sister Rosemary, a native of the small town of Spaulding, Nebraska.
Sister Carol Johannes, OP, Prioress of the Congregation from 1978 to 1986, noted the remarkable trust that Sister Rosemary had placed in her by naming her as her successor as novice mistress. “There’s no greater gift that one person can give to another than really trusting her, and that is my experience of Sister Rosemary,” she said. “As leader, mentor, supporter, and friend, she was second to none.”
Noting that Sister Rosemary had no manual or rule book to follow in leading the large and diverse Congregation – 2,400 members at the time – Sister Carol pointed out that Sister Rosemary could easily have become overburdened with her task. That never happened, she said. “Because she lived in such deep faith and trust in God, in all of us, and in an exciting and hopeful future, which she embraced enthusiastically, Rosemary’s heart was almost always light.”
Kathy Almaney, a former Adrian Dominican Sister who was a novice under Sister Rosemary in 1966, described her as her “teacher, conscience, role model, and friend, but always my North Star, the person who set the direction for my life.” She noted that as the Congregation changed and the novices changed in struggling to implement Vatican II and the Chapter of Renewal, Sister Rosemary also changed. “She had the vision to see a new way of religious life and she knew she had to change to achieve that,” Kathy recalled. “Her leadership had to be lighter. She didn’t have to be so outwardly strict. Her natural loving and joyful personality could emerge, and she could still be a good leader.”
The Vigil Service concluded with a reflection written by Sister Rosemary herself. “Beginning with all these days, to you my dearest family, my Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates and friends all, my love has seeded itself in my heart for always,” she wrote. “All we shared then, newly, has grown wider, deeper, even more caring and … onward to heaven’s time … No fear have I, only the deepest and most loving gratitude for these precious years.”
Both the Vigil Service and the Funeral Liturgy on April 23 reflected Sister Rosemary’s faith, love for all the people in her life, and appreciation for poetry and her Celtic heritage. The Vigil Service began with a prelude, Clair de Lune, performed by Sister Magdalena Ezoe, OP, at Sister Rosemary’s request. Sister Mary Alice Naour, gave a solo performance of The Deer’s Cry based on the Breastplate of St. Patrick. Bill Ebbitt accompanied the chapel choir and David Rains, organist and choir director, on the trumpet and bagpipes. Cantors were Sister Patricia Walter, OP, and Sister Mary Jones, OP.
Father James Hug, SJ, presider at the Funeral Liturgy, expressed Sister Rosemary’s gratitude to the assembly for their presence at the funeral, and her warm welcome to St. Catherine Chapel.
Using an opening reflective hymn, “Breathe on me, Breath of God” as the refrain of her reflection, Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, presented the various ways that Sister Rosemary breathed God’s breath and life into the people and the world around her. When she entered the Congregation, “that began Rosemary’s breathing the breath of God on us. Her breath and wisdom mingled with God’s as she taught, formed, cajoled, and loved us into the community of renewal requested by the Church.”
As she led the Congregation in a time of change, Sister Patricia added, Sister Rosemary drew strength from Sisters in leadership in other religious communities, including as Sisters Mary Luke Tobin, SL; Mary Daniel Turner, SNDdeN; Theresa Kane, RSM; Helen Garvey, BVM; and Margaret Brennan, IHM. She was “also deeply steeped in the history of our own Dominican community, and she developed a love and reverence for our foremothers, Camilla, Augustine, and Gerald. They were her mentors for pioneering new landscapes in the 1970s.”
While Sister Rosemary initially took on the honorific Mother Laurence Edward, Sister Patricia noted, she eventually reclaimed the traditional Dominican term of Prioress of the Congregation and the title Sister Rosemary “to adopt a more collegial, mutual, and sisterly way of relationship” with the Sisters in the Congregation.
Sister Patricia also noted Sister Rosemary’s final lesson to those she knew and loved: how to die “gracefully, unafraid, and with dignity.” She concluded: “Our hearts are filled with love, Rosemary, for you and because of you. We know you are already beckoning us to journey more deeply into the heart and breath of God and to do what is ours to do to further communion and harmony in the world. Be with us until we become like you, transformed into the utter breath of God.”
The formal celebration of Sister Rosemary’s life concluded as Sisters, family members and friends took her to her resting place in the Congregation cemetery, a “circle of friendship” for Adrian Dominican Sisters who join the Communion of Saints.
Read more about Sister Rosemary’s life and contributions here.