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 | By Sister Irenaeus Schluttenhofer, OP

A Unique Kind of Motherhood

After 24 years of serving as prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Mother Assumpta Long, OP is well-acquainted with the sacrifices required of motherhood.

As she was growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, Mother Assumpta’s parents modeled this sacrificial love. “They really sacrificed for our education to send each of us to Catholic school,” she said. “They never mentioned or pushed religious life. They just wanted all of their children to do God’s will and to love the faith.” 

As she continued at the boarding school run by the sisters, Mother Assumpta said that she loved spending time with them. “If a sister asked me to stay after school to clean the chalkboard, I would just die with happiness,” she said. 

Those same sisters pointed her towards her own religious vocation. A sister told her to pray three Hail Marys each day to know God’s will. “I think we can really trust the Holy Spirit. God is with us,” she said. 

Mother Assumpta entered the Dominican Order at the age of 17. After many years of serving as a teacher and superior within her community, the Holy Spirit prompted her and three others — Sister Mary Samuel Handwerker, Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz and Sister John Dominic Rasmussen — to found a new community, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. The community’s motherhouse is located in Ann Arbor.

“It is a pretty serious thing to leave one’s community, when it is such a good one and has given us so much,” she said. “It meant venturing off into the unknown, but simply put, we felt called to do this. God could have stopped it at any moment.”

God did not stop it, however. Twenty-six years after the founding of the community in 1997, there are now approximately 150 sisters, who teach in multiple states and are present in Rome.

“He has surprised us constantly,” Mother said. “With each blessing, we admitted that we could not have done any of this
by ourselves.”

At the time of the founding, under the direction and care of Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, the foundresses selected then-Sister Assumpta as prioress general of the new community. From that point on, she was called “Mother,” a title she says bears heavy responsibility.

“It means that you love and care for each sister,” she said, noting that the prioress general is responsible for making sure the sisters’ spiritual, physical and educational needs are fulfilled within the community. “You challenge them when needed, you carry them when they may be weak, you support them in their needs. Of course, you always pray for them,” she said. 

The role of a spiritual mother is something that Mother Assumpta takes seriously, counting on help from the most loving of all mothers — the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“When Juan Diego met her, she said to him, ‘Am I not here, who am your mother?’ He went to her for all the little things,” Mother said. “We can look to her for anything. She cares for each one of us and will do anything for us that would lead us to her Son.”

Mother and the sisters have Mary’s maternal care as their model within the classroom, within community and with each soul they meet. “I could do no better as a spiritual mother than to love, care for and do everything I can to bring everyone I meet in contact with her Son,” Mother said. 

Mother Assumpta’s role as a mother has changed in recent years. In the Dominican Order, the prioress general is an elected role served in six-year terms. Mother Assumpta handed over the reins to Mother Amata Veritas Ellenbecker in 2021.

“It’s a wonderful thing, really, to be free of the responsibility, and now I can just love the sisters freely,” she said.

Mother says it’s in the nature of a mother to never stop being concerned about their children; however, she sees her current role as more of a grandmother. “I can hopefully give them an example of what it means to grow old gracefully.”

Mother said grandparents play an essential role in families today. “A grandparent’s duty is not to correct them, but really to sit back and love them.”

According to Mother Assumpta, motherhood — spiritual or physical — is more than a 24/7 job. “It’s their identity in countless ways.”

She also acknowledged that doing God’s will in the 21st century requires setting aside numerous distractions. “Even in our life, with our vow of obedience, we make so many choices throughout the day — whether to pray or play, to study or work. It’s important to be balanced and to really know what’s important.”

Mother said that being a spiritual or a physical mother is a big responsibility. “Mothers really are the heroines of our world today,” she said. “And really, if children know that their mothers love them, that’s probably the greatest gift they could ever have in their life.”

Whether as a spiritual or physical mother, Mother Assumpta says women have to rely on God day by day.

“You start the day with the Morning Offering, you try your best and do what you have to do. At night, you make an act of contrition.”

Learning to do God’s will is a lifelong journey, according to Mother Assumpta.

“It’s the work of becoming a saint, and that’s not easy,” she said. “We’re all going to make mistakes. If we fail this day, we get up tomorrow and try to do it better. God really does give the grace.”