By Madeleine LiMandri, BA '21
This month’s segments of Sisters Serving UD will feature two Dominican alumnae who said “yes” to God’s call to religious life. Last month featured UD’s two current Nashville Dominican professors, Affiliate Assistant Professor of Theology Sister Mary Angelica Neenan, O.P., and Affiliate Assistant Professor of Philosophy Sister Elinor Gardner, O.P., neither of whom are UD alumnae.
During the month of March we will share the discernment stories of UD alumnae Sister Mary Edith Humphries, BA ’95, and Sister Anne Catherine Burleigh, BA ’94, both of whom are also part of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia order. Of the 50-plus alumnae who have answered God’s call to religious life, 13 of them are Nashville Dominicans. Thank you to all of the Dominican sisters who have bountifully blessed our UD community!
Sister Mary Edith Humphries graduated from UD with a B.A. in English in 1995. She recalled choosing Gerard Manley Hopkins for Junior Poet and Walker Percy for her Senior Novel project, two feats that UD English majors still face today.
Sister Mary Edith shared an Old Mill apartment with three friends during her senior year at UD. It was during this time that one of her roommates announced that she was entering the Nashville Dominicans. “We learned a lot about the Dominicans from her,” recalled Sister Mary Edith.
Learning about the Nashville Dominicans from her roommate inspired Sister Mary Edith to discern and, ultimately, discover her own vocation as a Dominican. Sister Mary Edith said many sisters share similar experiences: “A friend who was discerning actually leads another who had no idea this was her call to the place she belonged.”
Today, her life as a sister includes a “balance between teaching and prayer.” The Nashville Dominicans wake up at 5 a.m. and participate in morning meditation, lauds and breakfast, then head out the door to serve as teachers in schools, mostly elementary, but also high schools and some colleges. After school, they return for adoration, vespers and “a main meal enjoyed in silence with a spiritual book read to us as we eat.” Their day finishes with recreation, compline and some time to pray or prepare for the next day.
Sister Mary Edith resides at the motherhouse in Nashville, Tennessee, where there are about 300 women in the community. She teaches at Aquinas College, which is owned and operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation.
“UD transformed me,” said Sister Mary Edith. She explained that “it was not only the classes, like Philosophy and the Ethical Life or Lit Trad II, but also the incredible friends I made.”
Additionally, Sister Mary Edith learned to pray the Divine Office during her semester in Rome, and it was there that she grew a deeper devotion to Mary, “learned through the art experienced in Europe.”
The year that Sister Mary Edith Humphries entered the Nashville Dominicans, the UD roommate and friend who first inspired her to join discerned that religious life was not her vocation, and she is now happily married to Associate Professor and Chair of the Politics Department and Director of Legal Studies David Upham, MA ’00 PhD ’02. Libby (Korah), BA ’95, and David Upham now have “a beautiful family growing up in Irving, Texas.”
To the women discerning their own religious vocations, Sister Mary Edith says, “Do not be afraid! Come and see!”
Read the series introduction in either the Sisters Serving UD pilot segment on Sister Mary Angelica Neenan or the second installment on Sister Elinor Gardner. Read Sister Anne Catherine Burleigh's story here. Stay tuned for next month’s discernment stories of non-Dominican alumnae sisters.