Sister Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth received a second honor in as many weeks on Sunday as the newly constructed St. Dominic’s Chapel was dedicated in her honor in Fondren. After remarks by several, Chapel Campaign Chair Con Maloney asked Sondgeroth to leave the platform and join him by two covered plaques. “We’ve come to the interesting part,” he said. “There’s absolutely nothing Sister doesn’t know about at this hospital – but this.” Maloney went on to explain. “A very nice group of your angels got together and decided how we could do something to commemorate this chapel for you. You have been the heart of St. Dominic’s for so many years. This is the heart of St. Dominic’s.” Maloney unveiled a plaque that read “The Chapel at St. Dominic’s is dedicated to Sister Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth, O.P. and the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois for their many years of devoted service.” A genuinely surprised Sondgeroth was visibly overcome with joy as she received a standing ovation. When she returned to the platform, Sondgeroth expressed the amazing nature of the honor. “Thanks to each of you,” she said. “I am just overwhelmed.” Sondgeroth said this is what happens when people work together. “You are special, I love you and I ask God to bless you in only ways he can.”

Others who spoke on the day said that community interest had been piqued in recent weeks. St. Dominic Health Services President Claude Harbarger said they have been excited. “And if your calls are any indication, you are, too.” Harbarger recognized the architectural firm of Barlow, Jenkins & Eddy and Fountain Construction for taking the plans of the Sisters and bringing to life the sisters’ vision. Sister Rose Marie Riley, O.P., Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, remarked that the pioneer Sisters of 65 years ago would marvel at how the hospital has grown. She called the chapel “a place for prayer, comfort, celebration and ritual.” “We, the Dominican Sisters, are grateful to all for making this chapel a reality.” Bishop Jospeh N. Latino of  the Catholic Diocese of Jackson offered a blessing. Board Chairman of the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation Eddie Maloney called the day “a momentous occasion.” Fundraising chair Richard Hickson was recognized for his efforts in the campaign themed “gifted hands, generous hearts.” Maloney unveiled a plaque listing all of the Sisters who have served at St. Dominic’s, and said it would be hanging in the vestibule of the chapel. Sondgeroth spoke of this listing of names. “This is very moving and elicits our special thanks to God for all who appear on this plaque.”

Sondgeroth went on to thank board members, volunteers, auxillians, employees and community leaders for a hospital system second to none. Speaking of the chapel, she called it an icon in the most prominent location of the hospital campus, highly visible and easily accessible. “(This) is a symbol of the faith that underlies everything we try to accomplish on a daily basis.” Pointing out some of the unique features of the building, Sondgeroth reiterated the vision for the space. “With specially designed stained glass to dampen the outside world,” she said “you can transition from daily troubles to a sacred place.”  Sondgeroth, having been at St. Dominic’s since 1963, said  she’s seen a lot of change over the years. “What I have not seen change are the daily acts of compassion and care that exemplify who we are as an organization and ministry.” Words of appreciation were expressed to the Dominican Sisters who Sondgeroth called “most supportive throughout our 66 years.” “On behalf of the Sisters currently ministering here, I am privileged to accept this honor with deep and sincere thanks for your time, talent and treasure that have helped us and brought us to this day celebrating the heart and soul of our Christian ministry.”

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