Religious Communities Meet Current Needs of the Community

In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, we continue our three-part series highlighting some of the religious communities in the Diocese of Orlando and the impact they are making in the lives of Christ’s faithful. Pictured: Rev. Anthony Aaron, T.O.R.


In celebration of the Year of Consecrated Life, we continue our three-part series highlighting some of the religious communities in the Diocese of Orlando and the impact they are making in the lives of Christ’s faithful. Pictured: Rev. Anthony Aaron, T.O.R.

This installment highlights some religious communities who serve our diocese in the areas of social justice, education, parish life and care of the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park.

Dominican Sisters of Adrian

The Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan are often known for their involvement in education, either in schools or in adult formation, but also serve in healthcare and social justice fields. Within the diocese, five sisters are ministering in education, serving the children and adults at St. Margaret Mary, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Andrew, and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic churches, as well as Barry Law School. Many of these teachers say that the Dominican Sisters who taught them as young girls are the reason that they decided to live their lives as religious sisters.

“Adrian Dominican Sisters have modeled Gospel-oriented living by educating the whole person to seek truth and compassion in all aspects of life through pursuit of justice, building community, and developing a life-long relationship with God,” said Dominican Sister Pat Sieman, director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, and adjunct professor of Law, Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, Barry School of Law. 

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

In the early 1970s, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Cathy Gorman, Gail Grimes, and Ann Kendrick came to Apopka to work with the farmworkers and the working poor. Their mission, which continues still today, was to work side-by-side with the people and to strengthen them through education, advocacy and spiritual growth though Hope CommUnity Center, formerly the Office of Farmworker Ministry. Throughout the years, others have come to Orlando to serve in the diocese. Today, in addition to Hope CommUnity Center, the sisters minister at the GROWS Literacy Council and the diocesan Tribunal Office.

“Sister Julie Billiart, our foundress, invited the sisters to ‘let your hearts be as wide as the world,’ and to always believe in and show to others the goodness of God,” said Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Ann Kendrick, Community Relations coordinator at Hope CommUnity Center. “That is what we are about, ‘loving with open hearts whose embrace includes everyone, showing the goodness of God through our work of empowerment, community and social justice.’”

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia:

On Aug. 24, 1963 the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia assumed the leadership and administration of St. John Vianney Catholic School in Orlando. The sisters have been an integral part of the lives of hundreds of students whom they have empowered and inspired to reach their full spiritual and academic potential.

As educators, they provide a Christian environment where the faith of students is deepened.  They form Catholic leaders who are prepared to be contributing citizens in a global society.  All of their work is done in the spirit of St. Francis whose charism is to go as “brother and sister to all.”

In the parish community, they bring joy, hospitality and compassion to all they meet each day, contributing to the life of St. John Vianney Parish in all aspects of ministry.

“Each day we work to allow ‘the Christ in us to touch the Christ in all we meet,’” said Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia Elizabeth Murphy, director of Development at St. John Vianney Catholic School.

Third Order Regular of St. Francis:

San Pedro Spiritual Development Center was the vision of Bishop Thomas Grady. His idea included a religious community that would both minister at the Center and live on its campus to bear witness to their vocational call. The Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular responded to Bishop Grady’s invitation to serve and have been a faithful presence since the Center’s beginnings in 1979. The priests have observed and participated in various ways to meet the changing needs of the Diocese of Orlando.

“The T.O.R. Franciscans collaborate with the Diocese of Orlando – its bishop, pastors, lay ministers, principals and teachers – and faithfully adhere to our mission of providing a peaceful environment, resources and leadership for spiritual development, learning and healing for people of all ages,” said Third Order Regular Franciscan Father Giles Schinelli, pastoral administrator at San Pedro.

Order of Friars Minor, Holy Name Province:

From an early age, Brother Paul Santoro has felt akin to the down-to-earth Franciscan lifestyle. However, it was not until the mid-1970s when he met the friars of the Holy Name Province that he discovered the ministry in which God had been calling him to serve since his youth.

Since professing his simple vows in 1982, Brother Santoro has served as a religion teacher, director of religious education and high school campus minister in Catholic schools in four states. After a brief time serving as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselor, he returned to the classroom, and for the past six years, has ministered to the students of Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland, giving witness to living a life for Christ.

“When I met the brothers, I thought this was an option for me. They were just so down to earth with the people, said Brother Santoro.