In Memory of Sister Nadine Foley, OP, PhD.

In Memory of Sister Nadine Foley, OP, PhD.

Dear Barry Community:

I ask your prayers for my Congregation as we mourn the loss of our beloved Sister Nadine Foley, OP, PhD.

I met Sister Nadine, at the time known as Sister Thomas Aquin, at the beginning of my sophomore year at Barry. I believe she was God’s instrument in helping me realize in my senior year that I was being called to religious life. She was my religious sponsor, and from teacher and student, we became dearest friends.

I was privileged to serve on the Congregation’s General Council for the six years that she was our prioress (1986-1992). Sister Nadine also served Barry for 25 years as a member of the Board of Trustees. For exemplary service and insightful and wise contributions to deliberations, the board bestowed upon Sister Nadine the honor of Trustee Emerita. She also holds an honorary degree from Barry.

While I am very sad, I am also profoundly grateful that I had the privilege and blessing of knowing and loving Nadine. Her courage, integrity, wisdom, and faithfulness to mission will always encourage, inspire, and sustain me. I have no doubt that she is resting in God’s love. I will join Sister Nadine’s family and my Dominican sisters for her wake and funeral. In reading her obituary below, I believe you will also thank God for the life of this amazing, faithful woman religious.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD
Sister Linda

May 13, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Nadine Foley, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters from 1986 to 1992, died on Saturday, May 13, at age 93.

For much of her religious life, Sister Nadine figured prominently in religious circles as a leader both for the Adrian Dominican Congregation and for women religious throughout the nation. She served for two terms as a general councilor for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, in 1974-1978 and 1978-1982, before being elected as the Congregation’s prioress in 1986.

“Nadine was an outstanding ecclesial woman of the Gospel, Dominican to her very core,” said Adrian Dominican Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP. “Nadine’s pursuit of truth through her scholarship and writing was a signature hallmark. Her acerbic wit was legendary, her friendships loyal and undeterred, her love of music and beautiful contralto voice vibrant to the end. We will miss Nadine immensely. She left her mark on the U.S. Church, religious life, and each of us. We now turn to her for guidance as one of our wisdom women in the eternal realm.”

During her tenure as Prioress of the Congregation, Sister Nadine was elected to the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an association of the leaders of congregations of U.S. Catholic women religious, representing nearly 80 percent of the Sisters in the United States. She also was elected to serve as U.S. delegate to the International Union of Superiors General.

“Sister Nadine led the [LCWR] at a particularly difficult time in its history as it discerned its own identity and the identity of religious life in the contemporary world,” said Sister Joan Marie Steadman, CSC, executive director of LCWR. “With keen intelligence and strength of character, she led the challenging discussions on these identity questions with Church leaders throughout the country, always assuring that the values and integrity of the religious institutions she represented would be protected.”

A prolific author of articles on religious life, Sister Nadine also was editor of three books: Preaching and the Unordained, Claiming Our Truth, and Journey in Faith and Fidelity. She also wrote two volumes of Adrian Dominican history – Seeds Scattered and Grown and To Fields Near and Far – and a biography of the Congregation’s longest-serving prioress, Mother Mary Gerald Barry, OP: Ecclesial Woman of Vision and Daring. She earned several advanced degrees, including a PhD and MA in philosophy as well as an MS in biology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and an STM in Scripture from Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.

A native Michigander, Sister Nadine grew up in Newberry in the state’s Upper Peninsula. She entered the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 1945, the same year she earned a bachelor’s in biology from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian.

In addition to her many years in congregational leadership, Sister Nadine taught high school for eight years and ministered for nearly two decades as a professor at several colleges and universities, including two of the Congregation’s institutions – Siena Heights and Barry College (University) in Miami – as well as Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She also served as Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Relations at Harvard University in 1979. Until 2016, Sister Nadine served as the Congregation’s historian.

Under Sister Nadine’s leadership as prioress, the Adrian Dominican Sisters focused on personal transformation for the sake of the mission as well as on social justice issues. The General Council endorsed the sanctuary movement that provided safety for people from Central America fleeing to the United States, promoted the development of the role of women in the Church, and opposed apartheid and racism in South Africa.

Sisters who served in leadership with Sister Nadine – whether during her two terms as a general councilor or her term as prioress – described her as effective, highly intelligent and creative, influential in the Congregation and the Church, and generous in her service to others.

“She represented the Congregation so expertly in promoting the women’s movement and the many dialogues with the Church authorities of the time,” said Sister Rosemary Ferguson, OP, Prioress of the Congregation during the post-Vatican II Renewal years (1968-1978). “The Congregation was blessed in her service to all our Sisters and to the Sisters of the world.”

“She was certainly the right person at the right time in terms of carrying the Congregation forward,” said past Prioress Carol Johannes, OP (1978-1982). Sister Carol noted Sister Nadine’s influence as chair of the committee to rewrite the Congregation’s constitution, which had been approved by the Congregation in 1982. Sister Nadine traveled to Rome several times until the document was finally approved by the Vatican seven years later.

“I learned how to be a good leader from working with her,” said Sister Donna Markham, OP, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA.

When Sister Nadine was prioress, Sister Donna was a member of the General Council and later served as prioress. “She was steady, thoughtful, and wise. She was always sensitive and listened to our insights and perspectives on any given topic.”

Sister Attracta Kelly, immediate past Prioress of the Congregation who also served as a general councilor during Sister Nadine’s term as prioress, remembered her as a brilliant woman who brought out the best in people and who trusted each one to carry out her responsibilities.

“She was always a learner,” Sister Attracta recalled. “She was well-read, so she was up to date on anything that was going on – and she encouraged that in all of us.”

Even after her formal leadership role in the Congregation, Sister Nadine continued to be influential through her writing and frequent speaking engagements on topics such as justice issues, spirituality, religious life, and the role of women in the Church. In addition, she was generous in sharing many of her other gifts, including her gift as a vocalist and lyricist.

Sister Catherine DeClercq, who served as a general councilor with Sister Nadine, said, “Her theological grounding and her wisdom came through. I think other congregations have recognized that she has been an outspoken symbol of renewal in religious life and that women are capable of leadership in the Church because she herself demonstrated that.”

“Nadine [is] one of the treasures of the Congregation … one of the great, truly great, women we’ve had the blessing to have in our midst,” said Sister Barbara Cervenka, OP, who also served in leadership with Sister Nadine. “She has been such a remarkable gift to us and to the Church and to women religious.”

A vigil service will be held at 7:00 pm on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in St. Catherine Chapel on the campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters at 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive, Adrian. The Funeral Mass will be held on Friday, May 19, 2017, at 10:30 am in St. Catherine Chapel, followed by the Rite of Committal (burial) in the Congregation cemetery.


ADRIAN, MICHIGAN – May 15, 2017 – Sister Mary Nadine Foley, formerly known as Sister Thomas Aquin Foley, died on Saturday, May 13, 2017, at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian. She was 93 and in the 71st year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister Nadine was born in Newberry to Thomas and Ursula (Thompson) Foley. She graduated from Newberry High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Siena Heights College (University) in Adrian. She went on to earn a Master of Science in biology, a Master of Arts in philosophy and a Doctor of Philosophy, all from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She added a Master of Sacred Theology in the Old Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York, New York.

Sister Nadine ministered in education for 22 years in Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, and Miami Shores, Florida; Detroit and Adrian; Des Moines, Iowa; Poughkeepsie, New York, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a faculty member for two years and administrator for two years at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. Sister Nadine was also a Visiting Lecturer at Harvard University in Cambridge for six months. She worked in campus ministry: for four years at the University of New Mexico, one year at the University of Houston, and three years at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Sister Nadine served the Congregation as a member of the General Council from 1974-1978, as the vicaress from 1978-1982, and as Prioress of the Congregation from 1986-1992. She was a Scholar in Residence and Interim President of Siena Heights University in 1994. She was president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious from 1988-1989 and a U.S. delegate to the International Union of Superiors General from 1989-1992.  

In 1994, she became the Congregation historian, a position she held until 2016. Sister Nadine published numerous papers and articles, including two volumes of the history of the Adrian Dominican Congregation: Seeds Scattered and Grown (2006) and To Fields Near and Far (2015).  Sister became a resident of the Dominican Life Center in 2016.

Sister Nadine is survived by two sisters, Yvonne Lelli of Shelby Township and Patricia Foley of Midland, and five brothers, Robert Foley of Newberry, Thomas Foley of Applegate, James Foley of Newberry, Timothy Foley of Cheboygan, and Michael Foley of Howell.

Welcome of Sister Nadine will be on Thursday, May 18, 2017, at 6:00 pm in the Dominican Life Center Lobby; the wake will follow from 6:15 to 7:00 pm in the Rose Room of the Dominican Life Center. The Reception of the Body and Vigil Prayer will be at 7:00 pm in St. Catherine Chapel. The Funeral Mass will be offered in St. Catherine Chapel on Friday, May 19, 2017, at 10:30 am. The Rite of Committal will be in the Congregation cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 E. Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, MI, 49221.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.