|Those attending the St. Sabina benefit included (from left) Olivier Kamanzi (school board president), Sr. Jean Matijosaitis, Sr. Betsy Pawlicki, Tiffany Brown (principal), Sr. Diane Boutet, Sr. Judy Mather, and Helen Dumas (principal emerita/president).|
A Lasting and
Evolving Living Legacy
by Betsy Pawlicki, OP
Serving in congregation leadership possesses many perks! A special one has been the honor of representing the Congregation at events celebrating the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa and its members. I recently attended such an event at St. Sabina Academy (Chicago)—an active, vibrant, progressive, and inspiring school that has served the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood for over 100 years. St. Sabina Parish was founded in 1916 and served a predominantly Irish Catholic community for its first 50 years. Due to the Great Migration from the Jim Crow South, the racial makeup of neighborhood began to change in the 1940s. Neighborhood change continued through the 1960s due to real-estate redlining and white flight. However, unlike many churches in the area at the time, St. Sabina opened the doors of its church and its school to new African American residents. And we were there!
The Sinsinawa Dominicans established our relationship with St. Sabina in 1917 when the Archdiocese of Chicago called Mother Samuel Coughlin, OP (1868–1959), and asked the Congregation to staff St. Sabina Academy. The school opened later that same year with 190 students and five teachers. For the next 95 years, including the most volatile days of racial and social turmoil, our Sisters were with the people of St. Sabina. In the classroom, certainly, but also in the streets! When Judy Mather, OP, retired in 2012, our active ministry there ended. Our felt presence, however, remains.
Judy Mather; Diane Boutet, OP; Jean Matijosaitis, OP; and I represented the Congregation at St. Sabina’s November 2022 Brighter Futures Scholarship Benefit. This fundraiser included a musical performance by one of the school’s amazing choirs and formal recognition of those who have made significant contributions to the school and community.
St. Sabina Academy honored our Congregation for its history of teaching excellence, service, witness, and community empowerment. In telling their story, with obvious pride and affection, the St. Sabina community named our Congregation as its school’s founder. The plaque to be displayed in the school’s Alumni Legacy Lounge reads—St. Sabina Academy honors the service of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. The Dominican Sisters opened our school on Sept. 10, 1917. 308 Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters served St. Sabina from 1917 through 2012. We honor their 95 years of service to the students and families of St. Sabina Academy and so many other Catholic schools. Their service has made a difference in education and in the lives of those they have served!
As the benefit progressed, it became evident that the Congregation’s legacy was not limited to its past contributions. With every memory, story, testimony, and thanks shared, I saw the many and varied ways that our contributions continue—adopted, adapted, and newly expressed in the lives of those who now serve.
St. Sabina honored another individual that night. Here is his story: Mr. Rickey Harris has devoted his life’s work to teaching and building capacity in teaching. For almost 20 years—as teacher, dean, assistant principal, and principal—he has demonstrated a passion for education and a commitment to impact one child at a time. The Chicago Public Schools recently named him principal of its premier magnet school—Whitney Young High School. The school is known for academic excellence and welcoming a diverse student body. When Mr. Harris was a student teacher, his supervising teacher was Judy Mather. The following year, after graduating and obtaining his teaching certificate, Mr. Harris began his career at St. Sabina. Judy was still there, and the two continued to support and encourage one another. Mr. Harris enthused that his relationship with Judy and our Congregation has informed his personal learning and approach to the ministry of education.
As we conclude our 175th anniversary year, we rejoice that our efforts as teachers and preachers continue to bear fruit in our former pupils, schools, and ministries. Truly, a lasting and evolving living legacy.