Oprah says she prays and meditates every morning. Yet for Oprah as well as for most of her viewers a recent look into the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, was an eye-opener. This teaching order of sisters in Ann Arbor MI was founded in 1997 with four sisters by Sister Mary Samuel Handwerker and has grown to 98 sisters with an average age of 26. Sister Mary Samuel admitted she hadn’t seen the Oprah show before producers asked if they might visit the order. “We don’t watch television, unless it’s something special,” she said. “We accepted this invitation in the hope that the sisters would have an opportunity to educate the world on religious life.”

According to their website, “Our community was founded in the Dominican tradition, as a response to Pope John Paul II’s call for new religious foundations to embody the graces of the New Evangelization of the third millennium Church.”

Oprah’s film crew, headed by Lisa Ling, spent two days at the convent and Lisa was allowed to spend the night in one of their cells. They also flew Sister Mary Samuel and three other sisters to their Chicago studio to be interviewed by Oprah. When Lisa arrived at the monastery at 5:30 PM instead of finding the sisters at prayer she was surprised to find them playing cards and Scrabble! She soon learned, however, that their meals are eaten in silence and after 10 PM there is “absolutely no talking and everyone should be in her cell” according to Sister Joseph Andrew.

The entire Oprah program is available on YouTube in four segments:

Most of the many comments following this Oprah show were positive and this one is typical: “You allowed for the joy and simplicity of these remarkable women to shine through without any mockery or bias. Thank you sincerely for a beautiful piece on some amazing women.” I have to agree. In my opinion the faces of these women were the best possible advertisement for a life turned to God. It will be interesting to find out what the “oprah effect” has been on the convent after all this publicity
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These past couple of days I have re-read the Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux – The Story of a Soul. The contrast between then and now is striking but the purpose is the same.    St. Therese, the Little Flower, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and Christians everywhere, especially at Lent, turn away from the world in varying degrees in order to know God better and serve him more wholeheartedly.

Today is Ash Wednesday. As I do each year, I will turn off the television for six weeks. This is a very small sacrifice as I will miss nothing of importance with my computer still up and online. I will miss only the repeated showings and endless rehashings of every news bit, and, most of all, the constant noise. I actually look forward to it. If we quiet the incoming traffic, let the fields lie fallow for awhile, who knows what seed may be planted that will sprout, grow, and bear fruit in the sunshine of God.

If you saw the program, what was your impression?

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Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. — Isaiah 45:22