In July, Sister Dominica Hooper, OP, professed perpetual vows, the final step in becoming a Dominican Sister of Mary. Last month, Sister Dominica and her parents spoke about her experience and the importance of religious vocations today.
The former Andrea Hooper, who entered the Dominican Sisters of Mary in August 2009, has lived in Texas for the last four years and serves as a physics teacher at St. Dominic Savio High School in Austin. She formerly worked as a civil engineer in Michigan after graduating from Immaculata Academy in Hamburg in 2003, and the University of Detroit Mercy in 2007.
"In this day and age, it's totally countercultural, but I knew that going in," said Sister Dominica, 32, who became interested in being a woman religious after attending World Youth Day in Germany in 2005, where she initially met some Dominican Sisters. She also attended WYD in Sydney, Australia in 2008, the year before deciding to enter.
"It really made me fall in love with the Church and realize the spirituality of the Church, and a call to something greater than the everyday," she said.
The sisters' motherhouse is located in Ann Arbor, Mich., near where she went to college. She went there for retreats while she was attending school and during employment in Detroit, which confirmed her desire to join the order. The formal formation process is eight years. Five sisters live in the convent in Texas, Sister Dominica said, with a total of about 135 sisters in the country.
Sister Dominica, the daughter of Deacon Mark and Linda Hooper, always had a strong connection to her Catholic faith. Her father is a permanent deacon at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish in Orchard Park, while her mother works at St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View. Priests were common guests at family gatherings growing up.
Sister Dominica, who was a "quiet discerner" for a while, said of her parents, "They were supportive. I think they were surprised, but not surprised, at the same time."
"I think they were more surprised that I was going and joining a teaching order since I was an engineer, or that I was going - not necessarily - far away," she added, noting how she recalled her father going through his own formation process to become a deacon.
"She grew up with me going through formation. Her mom was very involved," Deacon Hooper said. "I think the idea of committing yourself to the spiritual, the religious, was something that was not foreign to her."
When asked about her daughter's vocation, Linda Hooper also said it was Sister Dominica's second World Youth Day, especially meeting Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP, the order's vocations director, which sparked her interest.
"I know she prayed about it quite a bit. She talked to my husband and me about it, and we weren't surprised because we knew she was going on these retreats. But when she went to World Youth Day in Australia, hearing the pope talk, she just felt confirmation that this is what she should be doing," Linda Hooper added.
Both of Sister Dominica's parents expressed pride that she was "willing to answer God's call" and be open to a life of a religious vocation.
As a father, Deacon Hooper said he wished for his children to be happy and follow God's will. "What more can I ask for than for her to search out and follow God's will in her life?" he said. "At first the idea was a little shocking, but when you interact with the sisters, they are people of such great joy and we can see the happiness they have. It was not a difficult thing to support as a parent."
"It was really never on her radar. I think she thought she was going to get married and have a family when she was younger. We are just very proud of her for doing that," Linda said. "When my children were young, I would always pray for their future spouse, so when this happened, I thought, 'Well, that's not exactly the spouse I was thinking, but who am I to argue with God?' She's the bride of Christ."
"We're trying to create a culture of vocations. It is quite natural to do it when we have our own schools, so living a religious or priestly vocation is seen as a possibility for our students," Sister Dominica concluded. "A culture of vocations is where the universal call to holiness and doing God's will is the norm, whether it's lived in the married life, single life, or priesthood or religious vocation."