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Bishop celebrates Jubilee Mass in Lewiston for Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation

Sister Francesca Cloutier, OP, originally from Lewiston, and Sister Therese Demers, OP, originally from Skowhegan, have served as members of the order for 60 and 50 years, respectively.

Two members of the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation, who together have served as members of the order for 110 years, marked their jubilees with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Deeley at Holy Cross Church in Lewiston on Sunday, August 25.

Sister Francesca Cloutier, OP, who is originally from Lewiston, is celebrating her 60th jubilee, while Sister Therese Demers, OP, a native of Skowhegan, made her temporary commitment to the sisters 50 years ago.

“God has always been the one there in my life,” said Sister Francesca. “I knew him when I was very little, and I always talked to him. 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 and in good moments,” said 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’s School and St. Dominic High School, while Sister Therese, whose family moved from Skowhegan to Lewiston, first encountered them at St. Dom’s.

Sister Therese began her religious formation in Brookline, Massachusetts, but then went to Rome, Italy, to complete her religious training. After returning to the United States, she taught elementary education, first in Brookline and then in Staten Island, New York. She made her final commitment to the Order in 1975, and was then assigned to Davenport, Iowa, where she continued to teach, while studying for her master’s degree in counseling and theology. 

She would go on to serve as a pastoral associate at several parishes in Iowa 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 she was elected to serve as a general counselor for the congregation, a ministry that takes her around the world to meet with sisters.

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. She taught in schools in Sabattus and Lewiston, as well as in Brookline, Rome, and Staten Island.

“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. Standing beside them, in addition to the bishop, was Isabel Barroso, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of the Roman Congregation. Sister Isabel is based in Rome and traveled from a meeting in France to attend the Mass.

“To be able to celebrate important events in the lives of the sisters is important,” she said. “That is a way of pointing out that you belong to a bigger family. My presence isn’t me, but what I represent. I represent the larger family, so with my presence, all the other sisters are here to celebrate and be with them.”

Brother Irénée Richard, OP, shared the Gospel reading during the Mass, while Sister Christine Plouffe, OP, led the Prayers of the Faithful. Sister Monique Belanger, OP, was the pianist, with music offered by the Holy Cross Church choir.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the sisters were surrounded by well-wishers and many whose lives they have touched. 

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