Skip to content

Trinidadian religious sister professing first vows in Wis. Sunday

One of the few Black religious sisters in formation stateside will make her first profession on Sunday with a Dominican order founded in 1847.

Siobhan Burroughs, who will profess first vows with the Sinsinawa Dominicans on Sunday. (Collaborative Dominican Novitiate)

Sr Siobhan Burroughs, a Trinidadian religious sister in formation with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, will make her first profession with the order in a livestreamed Mass on Sunday, August 7 at 11am CT—the eve of the feast of St Dominic.

The Wisconsin-based order, officially known as the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary of the Order of Preachers, announced the news earlier this month.

Burroughs began her canonical novitiate year last summer, following a yearlong apostolic novitiate with the 175-year-old order founded by Dominican friar Venerable Samuel Mazzuchelli to serve in the missions of the Upper Midwest.

Hailing from Arima, a city in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, Burroughs previously worked as a psychologist and entered the sisters in 2019. She began her formation jointly in her home country and Milwaukee, serving in the states with Sisters Program South—a ministry assisting vulnerable women involved in sex work—as well as the Franciscan Institute and the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission.

“[My] call to religious life was awakened during World Youth Day in Poland in July 2016. I was captivated by the variety of religious orders, representing regions from all over the world,” Burroughs said in an interview with the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago, where she has resided since August 2021.

“In a grace-filled moment, I told God ‘Yes’.”

Burroughs represents the Sinsinawa Sisters’ growing efforts to attract candidates in a challenging era for religious life, and women religious in particular, with the number of sisters in the United States shrinking steadily over the past 50 years.

A survey released in 2015 showed that less than 1% of American religious sisters are younger than 40, and the Sinsinawa Sisters—whose average age is 84—recently made headlines for their efforts to downsize from their massive properties in rural Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.

Burroughs, who is in her early 40s, is also one of few Black women in formation in the United States, where people of African descent have never been represented strongly in religious life—following centuries of racial discrimination in Catholic communities nationwide.

The Sinsinawa Sisters, who committed themselves to an anti-racist platform in the year 2000, admitted their first Black candidate in 1904, Rollena Thompson, OP—whom the congregation only later learned was not White. They did not admit further Black women into their order until after World War II. (A recent African-American candidate, Minneapolis’ Megan Graves, left formation in 2016.)

According to a profile listed on the Sisters’ website, Burroughs herself was ultimately attracted to the congregation by their commitment to justice and evangelization.

“The mission confirmed God’s call in my life to preach and teach the Gospel to all nations,” she said.

“God directed me to the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa so that I could continue to live out this charism of preaching and teaching fully, in service of God’s people.”

Those interested in watching Sunday’s livestream, from the Queen of the Rosary Chapel at Sinsinawa Mound, can tune in at the following link 15 minutes before the start of the Mass.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

Want to support our work? You have options.

a.) click to give on Donorbox

b.) click to give on Facebook