St. Mary’s teacher returns to class as perpetual, dual Dominican

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Sr. Mercedes Torres, OP, signs solemn vows at the altar as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist July 24 while Mother Assumpta Long, OP, looks on. (courtesy photo)

She is Dominican by birth. Now, she is officially Dominican by virtue, too.

Sr. Mercedes Torres, OP, professed solemn vows as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist July 24 at the motherhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, alongside six others. She is now one of seven from the community with teaching roles in the Diocese of Phoenix — two of them in temporary vows.

Sr. Mercedes has taught at St. Mary’s High School since its current seniors were freshmen. She teaches Spanish and Humanities.

“It has been a great gift for me to be able to bring my consecration to my students at St. Mary’s,” Sr. Mercedes said. “Every day I have been able to experience the true graces of my vocation. I am here to bring Christ to these students in a very special way as His bride.”

That path to her wedding day as a vowed religious was rooted in family life. The simple biology of that involves her parents and one older brother. Both siblings were born and raised in Brooklyn to Dominican immigrant parents. To the outsider though, any of Sr. Mercedes’ numerous cousins, many in the same neighborhood, could have just as easily been siblings. In fact, it was one of her cousins who helped foster an encounter with Christ on a retreat post-college on Divine Mercy Sunday one year.

That led to joining the cousin in ministry, which included working with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Sisters of Life. Further discernment led her to an encounter with the Dominican Sisters of Mary at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. She attended a discernment retreat with them three weeks later, where her vocation was solidified.

Sr. Mercedes didn’t overlook the role of the adults in her life growing up. That close-knit extended family ensured they grew together in Christ. They attended Sunday Mass together and gathered for lunch afterwards. It was extra special when her grandparents visited from the Dominican Republic. They were the ones who taught her to pray the Rosary — in Spanish, of course, she added.

“My aunts and uncles would generally lead; at times, passing a rosary off to a fumbling grandchild for a decade. Sometimes I was the fumbling grandchild,” Sr. Mercedes admitted. “No matter what, no matter how big or how small the family crowd, once we hit evening, we all gathered in a miraculous silence to pray the Rosary. That was the lens through which we saw the faith — through the simple, steadfast faith of our grandparents.”

Many of them attended her final vows, this time hailing from the Dominican Republic and three states. They joyfully watched as Sr. Mercedes and the other six professed vows with their right hand on the Bible which rested in the hand of Mother Assumpta Long, prioress general and one of the founding members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

“Following each profession, the sister walks with Mother Assumpta to the altar. We sign our vows on the altar as a symbol of the holocaust of our lives to the Lord. That is what we are doing, giving our lives to Christ. That is our consecration,” Sr. Mercedes explained.

A hearty Phoenix contingent was there to witness it all. Two St. Mary’s alumni who are current diocesan seminarians served at the Mass, and Fr. Robert Bolding, president-rector at St. Mary’s, concelebrated. Dcn. James Carabajal, whose daughter was in Sr. Mercedes’ first class, proclaimed the Gospel. Several other St. Mary’s staff and Phoenix families also attended.

“One of the things I most appreciate about Sr. Mercedes is how tangibly joyful she is. It radiates from her and makes her a wonderful witness both to the Gospel and the Consecrated Life. That joy is so attractive to young people and I have seen so many students at St. Mary’s drawn to her and wanting to know more about her life because of it,” Fr. Bolding said. He added that her love for the students and generosity of spirit fosters an authentic spiritual motherhood in Sr. Mercedes.