LEWISTON — Two members of the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation, who have served a total of 110 years, marked their jubilees with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Deeley at Holy Cross Church in Lewiston Sunday, Aug.25
Sister Francesca Cloutier, OP, who is originally from Lewiston, is celebrating her 60 jubilee, while Sister Therese Demers, OP, a Skowhegan native, made her temporary commitment to the sisters 50 years ago.
“God has been always the One there in my life. I knew him when I was very little, and I always talked to him,” said Sister Francesca. “When I entered the convent, it was just going to meet my loved one.”
“He’s the anchor that has sustained me all my life — in difficult moments, in good moments,” added Sister Therese. “For me, God is always there.”
Both sisters credit the presence of the Dominican Sisters in Lewiston Catholic schools for helping them recognize their call to religious life. Sister Francesca had the sisters as teachers both at St. Peter School and St. Dominic High School, while Sister Therese, whose family moved from Skowhegan to Lewiston, first encountered them at St. Dom’s.
“One day, one of the sisters asked if I had ever thought of religious life. Of course, I dismissed the idea, but it was the sowing of the seed,” Sister Therese recalled. “I really love their focus on the word of God, the Order of Preachers, so your whole life is focused on God’s word and Scripture. I love the Scriptures. I had a Scripture class in high school, and that opened a new door for me.”
Sister Therese began her religious formation in Brookline, Mass., but then went to Rome to complete her religious training. After returning to the United States, she taught elementary education. She made her final commitment to the Order in 1975, continued to teach, and then went on to serve as a pastoral associate at several parishes before returning to Maine in 1997, where she became coordinator of the Dominican Retreat House in Litchfield. She then took clinical pastoral education courses, which led to her becoming chaplain at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. She served there for 13 years until retiring in 2016.
Sister Therese has also held leadership positions within her community and province, and in 2017 was elected to serve as a general counselor for the congregation, a ministry that takes her around the world to meet with sisters. After teaching for 25 years, she took courses in clinical pastoral education and was certified as a hospital chaplain, becoming a grief and bereavement counselor and director of pastoral care at a Staten Island Hospital. She retired in 2001 due to a spinal cord injury.
Sister Francesca also began her religious formation in Brookline, but her postulancy took her to Mortefontaine, France. When she returned to Maine, she studied to become an educator and taught in schools in Sabattus and Lewiston, as well as other locations over the years.
“I enjoyed teaching because I think it was a part of me,” she said. “I love the children very much. They were precious to me, and to me, for all the years that I taught, all my students, they were the best that you could get. I loved them so much.”
After teaching for 25 years, she, too, took courses in clinical pastoral education and was certified as a hospital chaplain, becoming a grief and bereavement counselor and director of pastoral care at a Staten Island Hospital. She retired in 2001 due to a spinal cord injury.
During the Mass, Sister Francesca and Sister Therese renewed the vows they had made 60 and 50 years ago. At the conclusion of the Mass, the sisters were surrounded by well-wishers and many whose lives they have touched.
PHOTO: Sisters Francesca Cloutier, center left, and Sister Therese Demers, renewed their vows recently at Holy Cross Church in Lewiston. (Submitted photo)