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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.
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.
Click here to read Sister Janet's obituary.
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.