Sister Dorothy offers an ‘inheritance of faith’ for a lifetime of students

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PROVIDENCE — Sister Dorothy Schwarz, a Sister of St. Dorothy currently serving at St. Augustine Church, Providence, will be recognized with a Lumen Gentium Award in the category of Lifetime Achievement in Catholic Education. In a recent interview with Rhode Island Catholic, she recalled the path that led to her many years of service to the children and families of Rhode Island.

Sister Dorothy was born in Staten Island to what she describes as a “very simple, very faith-based family.” She attended elementary school with the Sisters of St. Dorothy and went on to attend public high school. As a young teen, she decided she wanted to give herself to God but wasn’t sure how until a teacher suggested she had a gift for teaching, prompting her to consider a vocation with the sisters who had taught her as a young girl.

“The minute I walked into the convent, I knew I was home. I was 17. It was the best choice I ever made,” she said.

Following a novitiate period in Taunton, Mass., Sister Dorothy taught at St. Elizabeth School, Bristol, and Our Lady of Fatima High School, Warren, before serving as provincial of the Sisters of St. Dorothy in the U.S. During this time, she also served as director of religious education at Mary, Mother of Mankind Parish, North Providence, and, later, St. Augustine Church, a position she felt especially called to because it allowed her to work with children from all backgrounds of Catholic education.

“I always had in my heart a special love for the children who didn’t have the benefit of a Catholic education, I guess because I didn’t go to a Catholic high school,” she explained.

Father Robert Forcier serves as pastor of St. Augustine Church, where Sister Dorothy continues to serve as director of religious education and teach in the parish school. He noted her deep commitment to the families of the community and thirst for knowledge as she has pursued her own continued studies of the faith over the years.

“Sister Dorothy, who is affectionately known as Sister Dot by both her students and their parents, has ministered with a loving heart and a formative, vibrant spirit to all those she serves,” he said. “She has a powerful love of her faith and generously gives of herself in sharing that faith.”

In accepting the award, Sister Dorothy said she wished to honor and recognize the many men and women religious who have dedicated their lives in service in the Diocese of Providence. She attributed her own rootedness in the faith to daily Mass and community prayer life and emphasized the importance of passing on this dependence on God to a new generation in need of spiritual nourishment.

“Leave them the inheritance of faith and love and that will get them through anything,” she said.

Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the winners of the diocese’s 2018 Lumen Gentium Awards, which formally recognize those who ‘toil in the vineyard’ in service to the Lord, and minister to those in greatest need in their parish or community. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 16. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support Diocesan Hispanic Ministries — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.