Catching the infectious joyfulness of the Dominican Sisters of Mary turned out to be a life-changing experience for Sister Dominica Hooper, OP.
Seven years prior to her first vows on Aug. 3, she was Andrea Hooper, a pilgrim traveling amongst thousands in Germany for World Youth Day. Amongst those thousands, though, were the Dominican Sisters of Mary. Sister Dominica said their overflowing happiness and zeal for the faith inspired her.
“Encountering the Dominican Sisters of Mary and the joy of their life and their presence, their love for the Church really influenced me because I wanted to become one of them,” said Sister Dominica, a graduate of Southtowns Catholic School in Lake View and Immaculata Academy in Hamburg.
“They were joyful, on fire for the faith, and joy is attractive.”
Sister Dominica said that sometimes young people have the wrong notion of religious life. Seeing the Dominican Sisters refutes the notion.
“Sometimes when a young person thinks about trying to live the faith out, they’re thinking of all the things they have to do or things they can’t do, and they think it’s a pretty sad picture of a person,” she said. “But to see it lived out in such a concrete way, to see the joy that radiates and that fruitfulness, it makes you also want to live such a full life.”
A few years after meeting the sisters in Germany, she felt a definite draw toward engaging in the fruitful, joyous lifestyle she had witnessed.
“It was probably a year out of college and realizing that I had already accomplished everything that the world had told me to do. I had a great college education. I had a wonderful job. I had traveled a lot of the world. I had my own apartment. I was planning to buy a car, and I was very independent, but I wasn't satisfied with it,” she said. “It came to, ‘What¹s the more that I’m still seeking? There’s something more out there. What is it that I need?’ And the world doesn’t have those answers.”
The more she was seeking, and the answers she desired, revealed themselves in her sisterhood.
“It’s Christ,” she said. “To be a religious sister is to have Christ as our only thing. Christ is our all. He is our spouse. He is our love.”
Linda Hooper, Sister Dominica’s mother, said she wasn’t too surprised when her daughter decided to become a religious sister. Hooper said her daughter attended some of the retreats held by the Dominican Sisters before deciding to become one.
“We could just kind of see her going down that road,” said Hooper, whose husband is Deacon Mark Hooper. “We were open to it and very supportive of it. It’s definitely something countercultural, but she seemed very happy and at peace with the decision so we were happy for her. As parents we most of all want our children to be happy.”
As the Dominicans are a teaching order, Sister Dominica is currently working toward her teaching certificate for math and physics. Beyond that, though, she said her ministry is to be determined by a higher power.
“It’s not really a question of what I want to achieve,” she said. “It’s how God wants to work through me and what He wants to accomplish, because with our vows of obedience, we don’t choose what we do in our apostolate. That’s given to us as God’s will for us at that time. So overall, it’s bringing the faith in Christ, the love of Christ to everyone we meet in whatever situation we are called to serve.”