Sisters in a Strange Land
The Nashville Dominicans arrived in remote Elgin, Scotland in August 2013. They are experienced Sisters; all are in their thirties, and have been in the Order for at least a decade. Three are Americans; one is Polish.
The country to which they arrived has not been ‘Catholic’ for almost 500 years. In fact, today many observers argue that Scotland is a decidedly ‘post-Christian’ country. Scottish churches, once Catholic, are routinely made over into discotheques and community centers.
The Faith is dead, it would seem. Nevertheless, undaunted, the Sisters soldier on — as Sister Anna Christi, a Texas native, explains in this exclusive Regina Magazine interview.
Q. What have been your general impressions of Scotland and her people?
Scotland itself is a breathtakingly beautiful country, affording many opportunities to praise the Lord in his work of creation. Her people are welcoming and friendly.
There is here, as in many countries in the West, a low percentage of people practicing their Faith which is a cause for concern. However, the Good Shepherd continues to call his people to himself, each one by name, and it is a privilege to be a part of his work here in this country.
Q. What other daughter establishments have the Nashville Dominicans set up?
Our Motherhouse, St. Cecilia Convent in Nashville, was established in 1860 and within a few years of our founding began to establish “mission” houses consisting usually of 4-8 sisters in various states in the US. The sisters live in a convent together and serve in one or two schools in the area.
We went to Sydney, Australia as our first foreign mission in 2007-2008, followed by a new mission in Vancouver, Canada in 2010. Elgin, Scotland is our first European mission.
Q. Why did the Bishop invite you?
Bishop Hugh Gilbert of the Diocese of Aberdeen wanted to re-establish religious life in the historic Greyfriars Convent and provide religious sisters to work in faith formation opportunities in the diocese, especially among young people.
Q. What has the response been from the Scots? Do you mostly have contact with Catholics? Or do you see Protestants as well?
The Scottish people are very friendly and welcoming and have been enthusiastic and supportive of the work we are doing. Most of our contact is with Catholics, but ministers from the other denominations in the area have also welcomed us, attending Bible studies and events we have run, inviting us to speak in their churches and to their youth, and even welcoming us into their homes.
Q. Are you teaching locally? How is that going?
The head teachers of the three local Catholic primary schools have welcomed our offer to provide catechetical opportunities for their students, which we do once a week. Each week we also welcome into the convent, where we have special rooms set up for catechesis, the students and their teachers at the Catholic school next door. All of this is on a volunteer basis.
We also speak to youth groups, young adult groups, university groups, and adult parish groups in various settings like retreats, days of recollection, and catechetical sessions, keeping our work quite varied!
We have enjoyed establishing friendships with the people we serve and watching them establish or deepen their friendship with Jesus and their commitment to the Church.
Q. How can interested people contact you?
A. We’re available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org