Mom, Grandma, Sister
In 2009, Ann Pratt, OP, professed her final vows as a Racine Dominican Sister. “I didn’t think I’d feel much different,” reflected S. Ann, who took initial vows in 2003. “It really is different, though. It changes my role in the universal Church to make this permanent commitment to live my life within a community.”
When she began thinking about religious life a decade ago, friends encouraged her to explore a variety of communities. So when the opportunity arose for her to talk with representatives from many different religious orders at one event, she seized it. There she met Racine Dominican Sister Kathy Slesar, who invited her to visit Siena Center, the headquarters (called motherhouse) for her community.
“I immediately knew I was in the right place,” S. Ann recalled about that first visit in 1999. “I was drawn to the justice focus of this community. I found a group of women committed to making something happen in the world.”
At the time Ann, who had grown up in Iowa, lived and worked in Green Bay, WI. A widow, whose husband David had died after just 10 years of marriage, she worked as a training manager for the Northeast Wisconsin Partnership at UW-Green Bay. With an MS degree in social work, she had been a social worker herself and was now training others in the field.
After much prayer, thought, and conversation with daughter Shelley, Ann moved to Siena Center in 2000 to begin her formation and education with the Dominican community. In 2003, at age 53, she became Sister Ann when she professed her first vows as a Racine Dominican.
Since then, she has completed an MA degree in moral theology and served in various ministries before becoming the executive director of the HOPES Center, whose name represents Healing, Opportunity, Peace, Ecology and Spirituality. The center, located in downtown Racine, was a dream of S. Ann and other sisters to reach out to people in need. It became a reality when its doors opened last October. The center’s purpose is to build awareness of the causes and consequences of poverty, while employing collaborative, multi-dimensional approaches toward their alleviation.
Racine Dominican S. Maryann McMahon has worked closely with S. Ann throughout her formation and reception into the community. “Walking with Ann on her journey to this moment has reaffirmed my own choice to be a woman religious,” she noted. “Together, as part of a larger community, we continue to draw the best gifts from other women in service of the Gospel.”
Becoming a Grandma
A month after professing her final vows, S. Ann became a grandmother when Shelley gave birth to a son. “When I look at Ann as a mom and grandmother, her final profession within our community gives me great hope,” McMahon said. “Here is a successful woman in her own right, formally and publically committing to live the rest of her life in radical simplicity, celibacy and obedience. She has made a commitment to a life of complete mutuality with God and others in the context of community.” McMahon explained, “It is the mutuality of ‘I am here for you’ and ‘you are here for me” where the 'you' is community.”
And how did Shelley feel about her mom’s decision to become a Sister? “She has supported me from the very start of my exploration,” S. Ann said. “She has felt welcomed and embraced by a larger family — the community — as step by step, I continued to choose this life.”