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June 9, 2020, West Palm Beach, Florida – Sister Donna Baker, OP, long-time teacher and administrator at Rosarian Academy, received the prestigious Rose and Torch Award from the school during its virtual graduation ceremony.
The Rose and Torch Award is presented to an individual who has contributed exemplary service to Rosarian Academy. Through faith and commitment to the common good, the recipient rises above daily challenges and perseveres for the good of others.
In presenting the award, Linda Trethewey, Head of School, described Sister Donna as one who “dedicated her life to the Dominican tradition of preaching through prayer, study, common life, and ministry” and who strove to live out the Adrian Dominican Vision: “Seek truth; make peace; reverence life.”
Sister Donna ministered for 16 years at Rosarian Academy: first as English and religion teacher in grades 6 to 8; as coordinator of the school’s chapter of the National Junior Honor Society; committee chair for the school’s accreditation process; and facilitator for religious education and mission development. She then served in administration, as assistant principal, director of the middle school, and as principal of the middle school. It was a surprise diagnosis of bone cancer that abruptly ended her career at Rosarian Academy.
Sister Donna said she learned about receiving the award only a few minutes before it was presented, as she and Sister Mary Ann Caulfield, OP, Chapter Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter, sat with her for the Zoom presentation. “She kept telling me I might want to look nice,” Sister Donna recalled, and finally told her about the award.
“I think my first reaction was shock,” Sister Donna said. “I never thought about it. I was speechless. It still hasn’t settled with me.” She added that the Rose and Torch Award is the most prestigious award granted by Rosarian Academy.
“I looked forward to every day” at Rosarian, Sister Donna said. “I looked forward to meeting the students in the morning, their activities, the camaraderie.” As an administrator, she said, she worked as part of a team with the other administrators.
Sister Donna said she especially loved watching the students’ participation in liturgies, plays, and other activities. She particularly enjoyed Field Day, when the students were divided into teams. “I enjoyed the competition and loved cheering for my team.”
But Sister Donna said she also faced challenges. “As a teacher, you want to do the best for each of the students, to meet each child where they were, and it was difficult,” she said. “I often felt there was more I could do.”
Along with classwork, Sister Donna focused on the kinds of people her students would become. “I often told them, ‘You are our future. Do your best and accomplish what you can,’” she said. “I also often told them to keep God in their lives – don’t ever stray too far away from God.”
Sister Donna was inspired to become an Adrian Dominican Sister and a teacher by Sister Rose Patrick Conroy, OP, her first-grade teacher at St. Agatha in Redford, Michigan. “She was a great influence on my life – in my vocation and my career,” Sister Donna said. “All I ever wanted to do was teach and become an Adrian Dominican Sister because of the influence of Sister Rose Patrick.”
Sister Donna has had a positive influence on her students, who were constantly reminded of Rosarian Academy’s mission statement to live the Gospel values.
Watch this video of Rosarian Academy’s virtual graduation. The Rose and Torch Award presentation can be found at about 15 minutes into the video.
The Rosarian Academy Class of 2020 stands six feet apart on the Oakley Gage Debbs Memorial Field in honor of their late classmate. Photo by David Scarola Photography
May 28, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Mary Margaret “Sis” Beh, OP – formerly known as Sister Ann Pauline – celebrated her 100th birthday today as she desired: simply, in the company of her Sister friends who live in her community at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, and with the opportunity to speak with distant family members.
Yet, the spirit of celebration extended within and beyond the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus as she received more than 100 birthday cards from near and far. In the same way, the impact of more than 70 years of Sis’s religious life has been felt by people East and West: from her years of teaching art in the Eastern part of the United States to her years as a hospital chaplain at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California.
“I have enjoyed my religious life very much,” Sis said in an interview. “It’s been a very special calling that I’ve been grateful for. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Had I chosen another way of living I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunities that I had in my life.”
Born in Birmingham, Michigan, on May 27, 1920, she was baptized Mary Margaret Beh after her mother, Margaret Mary. Her two older brothers, Joseph and Robert, found that name too cumbersome and simply called her Sister. In time her name was shortened to “Sis.” She was followed years later by her sister Pauline, for whom she chose her religious name, Sister Ann Pauline.
Sis was educated by Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM Sisters) in elementary school and by Adrian Dominican Sisters at St. Mary High School in Royal Oak, Michigan. After beginning her studies at Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation in January 1939. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a Master’s in Fine Arts, both from Siena Heights.
After teaching at the elementary level for seven years, Sis was sent to teach art at Dominican High School in Detroit for 10 years; Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois, for a couple of years; Hoban Dominican High School in Cleveland, Ohio, for nine years; and back at Dominican High School for four years. All three schools were sponsored and staffed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Sis found great joy in her ministry as an art teacher. “It’s very exciting to watch young people become creative and find a creative spirit of their own,” she said. “I enjoyed my teaching, watching people become creative and excited about what they were capable of doing.”
After years of teaching, Sis Beh and Sister Jeanne Burns, OP, decided to become hospital chaplains and undertook the year-long Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program to train for this ministry. After earning her CPE certification in Houston, Texas, Sis worked at County Hospital in Houston for a year and began 20 years of ministry as a chaplain at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz: 10 years in a paid position and 10 years as a volunteer.
Sis recalled a conversation with a patient, in which they spoke of God’s love for him. “I realized at that moment that I was loved by God and I never felt like that before or after,” she said. She said serving as chaplain gave her the opportunity to minister one-on-one and to form relationships.
She retired in 2000 at the age of 80, but continued to live in Santa Cruz and to minister as a volunteer. She returned to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse in 2010 and remained as active as possible ever since.
She has words of advice to anybody who feels he or she might be called to religious life. “Follow your dream,” she said. “If it leads to a religious vocation, honor it, because it is a beautiful life.”
Learn more about Sis’s life in a December 2015 A Sister’s Story interview and in the 2018 video, Ripples of Faith: A Sister's Story.
Sister friends gather in a solarium on their floor in the Dominican Life Center to celebrate the 100th birthday of Sister Mary Margaret “Sis” Beh, OP. Photo by Angie Lieto