Caldwell, N.J. – April 10, 2019 – They gathered to remember their mentor, their friend, their colleague and their teacher. Caldwell University alumni, colleagues, faculty, staff and family celebrated the “Life and Legacy of Sister Vivien Jennings, O.P.” at a Mass and program Sunday, April 7.
In the packed Motherhouse Chapel, celebrant Father Bob Stagg, former chaplain of the college when Sister Vivien was president, remembered his colleague as a woman of great intellect and vision. He reflected on how, just as the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent told of God “making a new way,” Sister Vivien always focused on the making of a new way that would benefit others and encouraged her colleagues to join her in those endeavors. As opposed to breaking things apart, he said, Sister Vivien built, healed, affirmed and reinvented herself and every institution where she worked.
Following Mass, a program focused on “The Life and Words of Sister Vivien Jennings, O.P.” Communications and Media Studies Chair Bob Mann hosted a panel with History Professor Dr. Marie Mullaney, university president, Dr. Nancy Blattner, and former president of the university and Prioress of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, Sister Patrice Werner, O.P. Mann said Sister Vivien “gave me a break” to create a Communications department and major and he has always been appreciative for her vision and support.
The panelists reflected on Sister Vivien’s lasting legacies to Caldwell including the “monumentous decision,” said Mullaney, to go forward with making the college co-educational. Sister Patrice said Sister Vivien fostered the Dominican charism and mission throughout the campus including starting the Fanjeaux experience in France where students, staff and faculty can learn about Saint Dominic and the Order, the Dominican Colleges Colloquium and the Veritas Award recognizing alumni professional excellence. Dr. Blattner said that in addition to the special decisions Sister Vivien made for the campus, her lasting legacy is her publications. “Her written word is one of her great legacies,” said Dr. Blattner. Sister Patrice said Sister Vivien, “led by example” believing that one should be willing to do what he or she is asking others to do. Mullaney, who worked with Sister Vivien during the transition to the institution becoming co-educational, has always remembered how Sister would say, “In higher education to stand still is to fall back.” Dr. Blattner said it is incumbent upon all in the campus community today to keep Sister Vivien’s vision alive and to pass forward the mission and her words.
Friends, Sisters of Saint Dominic, students and grandnieces of Sister Vivien read selections from her three books, “The Valiant Woman: At the Heart of Reconciliation,” “November Noon: Reflections for Life’s Journey” and “The Essential Journey: From Worry to Mercy to Hope, the unfinished words,” which is not yet published and was not completed at the time of her death on May 5, 2018.
The guests then moved into the Jennings Library for the unveiling of a framed image and history panel. “As we stand here in the place named after Sister Vivien in 1994, we are surrounded by the things and people that she loved – literature and learning, family, friends, students and colleagues,” said Dr. Blattner. She unveiled a huge “breathtaking photo” of Sister Vivien that was taken by alumnus Pushparaj “Raj” Aitwal, who was “a true friend of Sister Vivien” and the wall display chronicling Sister Vivien’s life and accomplishments.