Sister Dorothy (Marie Christopher) Souligny
“Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations. …” (Matthew 28:19)
“In January of 1977, Sister Loretta Schafer (RIP), then general superior, wrote: ‘Because we have come to a deep sense of the global Church, we wish to participate, through our work and prayer in Taiwan, in this total mission of spreading the Kingdom everywhere. The support of this mission in Taiwan is definitely within the apostolic thrust of the Congregation and forms a vital part of our ministry. … Our commitment is to spreading the Gospel through works of charity,’” said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Dorothy Souligny, who died Dec. 12.
“Today we celebrate the life of a woman who was definitely dedicated to the mission of spreading the Gospel through works of charity. Sister Dorothy spent 21 years in various positions in Taiwan and served in other ministries in this country,” continued Sister Margaret.
Born Feb. 23, 1934, in Hammond, Ind., to Ambrose and May (Marsolais) Souligny, Dorothy May was one of three children. She attended All Saints Grade School and Hammond High School, both in Hammond.
“Sister Dorothy entered the novitiate at Maryknoll in 1952, but she was not permitted to stay in that community because they were fearful that she would not be able to live as a missionary. She then studied at Mundelein College and entered the Sisters of Providence July 22, 1956,” said Sister Margaret.
Sister Dorothy, who received the religious name Sister Marie Christopher, professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1959, and Aug. 15, 1964, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in secondary education from Indiana University.
Sister Dorothy commenced teaching in 1959 at Sacred Heart, Terre Haute, Ind. In Indiana, she also ministered at St. Rose High School, Vincennes, and Ladywood, Indianapolis. She spent one year at Providence High School, New Lenox, Ill.
Sister Jenny Howard, who had Sister Dorothy as a teacher at Ladywood, “remembers her as the kindest of teachers and also recalls how excited Sister Dorothy was to be able to begin studying Chinese at Indiana University in 1970,” said Sister Margaret. After this study, she began her mission to Taiwan.
“In 1971, Mother Mary Pius Regnier (RIP), then general superior, announced that Taiwan would constitute a Region in the Congregation and named Sister Dorothy as regional superior of Taiwan and any future mission established in East Asia or Southeast Asia. But as Sister Ann Colette Wolf (RIP) wrote in “Against All Odds,” her book about the Providence mission to the Chinese, the years when Sister Dorothy served as regional superior were very difficult for the sisters in Taiwan, as well as for the entire Congregation,” continued Sister Margaret.
“In 1973, the Congregation’s General Council decided that Providence College should be given over to the Diocese of Taichung. It was also decided that no more Chinese applicants would be accepted for religious training in Taiwan. A similar decision had been made at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, but it was particularly upsetting to the sisters in Taiwan, who felt there would be no more Asian sisters in the Congregation. Also, the newly built novitiate in Taishan was leased as a hostel for young men who worked during the day,” said Sister Margaret.
“On the world scene, President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 was disturbing to the people in Taiwan, as well as the fall of Saigon in 1975 to North Vietnam communists. No wonder Sister Dorothy’s report to the 1976 General Chapter described the situation in Taiwan as ‘grim.’ However, in 1977, Sister Loretta Schafer made a special visitation to Taiwan to announce the Congregation’s decision to continue the ministry there and to rescind the decision not to accept postulants,” said Sister Margaret.
“And so, Sister Dorothy continued to serve as regional superior and as administrator and teacher at Providence College. In 1989, after a sabbatical year at the Maryknoll Sisters’ school for the handicapped, she began ministry at St. Theresa Opportunity Center, Taiwan, working with handicapped children,” said Sister Margaret.
In 1995, Sister Dorothy returned to the United States and spent a few months teaching at Our Lady of the Roses School for Special Children, Chicago. She ministered at Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove, Ill., before spending five years as a adult education teacher at Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, New Albany, Ind. Returning to the Woods in 2001, she spent three years volunteering in Archives.
“Sister Dorothy was able to really master the Chinese language. In fact, recently, when sometimes she grew frustrated because she could not think of the English words she wanted to express herself with, she could respond to our sisters from Taiwan in their language. She loved Taiwan, got along with the people and imbibed the culture. It was fitting that she died Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a multicultural feast,” shared Sister Margaret.
“Several sisters I have spoken with have compared Sister Dorothy to Mother Theodore, who despite her poor health, gave herself to the foreign missions,” said Sister Margaret.
“In 1994, when Sister Dorothy left Taiwan, she wrote, ‘Living here has given me the chance to live poverty in a way not known before. I have viewed poverty in the lives of our students and seen how it is possible to be content and full of peace with little,’” shared Sister Margaret.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Dorothy was celebrated Dec. 15, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one brother, Donald, of Meridian, Miss.
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As my French teacher at Ladywood School in Indianapolis, I remember Sister Marie Christopher as an absolute joy who loved to speak French. She enjoyed and commented on my Quebec French accent, which always made me laugh, not thinking I had any accent at all.