Trinidadian Sister Siobhan Burroughs OP made her first profession of vows with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa at the Dominican motherhouse, Sinsinawa on August 7. The following article was submitted to Catholic News by Eileen Dushek-Manthe, Communication Office, Office of Philanthropy, Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa.
Sister Siobhan Burroughs OP has been practising obedience to God through prayer and action since she was a child. “In my family, you didn’t have a choice. You had to go to church,” she recalled.
She now understands those early practices her parents set have helped shape and form her personal relationship with God. “When I’m reflecting how God had been leading me as a child, each part of my journey has been purposeful, even though I didn’t recognise it. Every experience has prepared me to say, ‘yes’ to God in a more full and authentic way.”
A string of incidents in her life have led her to this conviction: obedience brings blessings. As a young adult, she struggled with her relationship with the Church and God.
Siobhan had felt God’s presence strongly as a child, but that feeling lessened over time. Her search and prayer life led her to a parish where she was invited into the choir and prayer groups, which led her to a deeper understanding. Sr Siobhan said, “I learned that even though I couldn’t tangibly feel God, that God was still there. I had to trust.”
While managing a successful career as a clinical psychologist, she became active in her parish, expanding her ministries to choir; dance (“everything has rhythm in Trinidad”); children, youth, and young adult ministries; and outreach ministry where they go from home to home sharing the Gospel and praying.
One day while in prayer, Sr Siobhan asked God about where she was to be directing her life, admittedly desiring the vocation of marriage. She said, “I always prayed, not my will but your will.” She was led to participate in a religious life discernment retreat and, as she states it, “I told God, ‘At the end of the retreat, you will tell me what my vocation is.’ God told me my vocation is not important right now. ‘All that matters is your relationship with me.’”
After absorbing the message, she recognised that being in full relationship with God was going to lead her to be who she was truly called to be. “Thanks be to God for that guidance.”
In 2016 during adoration, Siobhan heard God say, “Go to World Youth Day.” Although there were significant challenges to get there, she made the trip to Poland.
She saw Catholic sisters from all over the world and was mesmerised by them. “In a moment of euphoria, I told God ‘Yes in my heart,” Sr Siobhan shared. She committed to discern all the different congregations of sisters. “I think God had been calling for a while. I wasn’t in a place to accept.” God later told her to “preach and teach”, but she didn’t know what that meant.
With the encouragement of her aunt in Trinidad, Siobhan attended a vocation discernment retreat and found herself lodging in a room that had “Dominican” on the door. She asked what that was and found it to be one of the many Orders of sisters who were present at the retreat.
Searching them out, Siobhan learned that the mission of the Dominican Order is to “preach and teach”. It was there that she first met Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa and began to seriously discern her vocation to religious life with this congregation.
In 2017, God spoke to Sr Siobhan during her personal prayer. “I was in a position to hear and honour the request. I couldn’t live another second making the choice that was different from what God wanted,” she proclaimed. “God helped me, gave me the grace.”
Sister Siobhan can now say that she made her vow of profession because it is something she desired and not just something God desired. “It was a long process of wrestling, but it has gotten me where I am.”
Sr Siobhan credits her family, parents Anthony and Gemma (Adams) Burroughs of La Horquetta, Arima; sister Roxanne; brother Shane; and grandmother Christiana Patrick for her strong faith foundation.
She continues to visit her two childhood parishes, Church of the Resurrection in La Horquetta and Santa Rosa in Arima, when she is in Trinidad. “They have been incredibly supportive of my vocation,” Sr Siobhan reflected.
Since entering the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, she has ministered with a women’s drop-in centre in Milwaukee and, while in Trinidad, at the Franciscan Institute for Personal and Family Development, with a Covid-care hotline, and with a gardening programme.
Sr Siobhan spent a year at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in Chicago before preparing to make her first profession. She returns to Trinidad in September and make plans for her next ministry. She shared, “I want to continue to honour God with my life. I pray that I can be a blessing to everyone whom I encounter.”
To view the Mass and profession, go to www.sinsinawa.org/live and tap on “on demand” and then scroll down to the August 7 Mass. To make a donation in honour of Sr Siobhan, go to www.sinsinawa.org/donate.