Longtime seminary professor Sister Mary Prudence Allen was bid farewell by friends and colleagues after 15 years of dedication to St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and Endow in Denver.
Before the Religious Sister of Mercy left Denver today, Nov. 13, for Lancaster, England, where she begins a new mission, Sister Allen was honored for being the crux of the seminary’s philosophy program and a co-founder of the international women’s ministry Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women.
Father Andreas Hoeck, academic dean of the seminary, noted that Sister Allen was like a mother to the seminary, nurturing its growth through the years.
“Through your life as a Religious Sister of Mercy, as well as a professor of philosophy, you instantiated the call to live in harmony between faith and reason, between charity and truth,” Father Hoeck, told a crowd gathered at the seminary in October. “Yes, you have given an exemplary witness to this truth. And thanks to you, to your vision and tireless work, our philosophy program is second to none in the country.”
She received a bouquet of 15 lilies, a laptop and a plaque of appreciation from seminarians and colleagues.
Sister Allen said the separation from friends is only temporary.
“The Christian friendships I’ve been blessed with here are forever,” she told the Denver Catholic Register. “They’re in Christ and they’re forever. Even though there’s a temporary separation in faith, we believe we will see one another again.”
Sister Allen said it’s been a privilege to be part of an adventure in Denver.
She first arrived in the late ’90s after then-seminary rector Archbishop Samuel Aquila’s request that the religious sisters help launch the new seminary. Sister Allen and three other sister’s academic expertise were needed to open the seminary and gain accreditation.
“He had asked our mother general if she would send sisters to bring the new evangelization,” she said.
Once here, Sister Allen formed a curriculum and selected faculty to fulfill the need for a truly Catholic philosophy program, she said, that combined the tradition of St. Thomas and an understanding of modern philosophy and contemporary Catholic philosophy.
“I wanted faculty who had a Thomistic foundation but who had an area of expertise in contemporary Catholic philosophy,” she said.
The aim was for future priests to develop a love of philosophy.
Since 1999, 94 men graduated from the seminary (which also provides the academic formation for the archdioceses’s Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary) and were ordained to the priesthood. Sister Allen was also the first recipient of the Archbishop Charles J. Chaput chair of philosophy.
Gratitude for Sister Allen’s contributions was also expressed over a dinner hosted by Endow.
Family and friends, including executive director Terry Polakovic, expressed how Sister Allen entered their hearts and how the classes changed their faith.
“She touched me in every way. She was the person who helped me fall in love with my faith,” Polakovic said. “She was a spiritual mother. We wouldn’t have Endow without her. She’s spoken for us and written for us. She’s done, really, everything for us.”
What started as an idea and small group meeting blossomed into an international ministry to help women discover their God-given dignity.
“Denver is good soil for the seed. For me, it’s such a joy to see the fruit of it,” Sister Allen said about Endow. “To see it take root and be so much bigger than any one of us individually—it’s a great gift to me.”
Since in Denver, Sister Allen has published two of three volumes—the last volume’s published date is expected in December 2014—titled “The Concept of Woman.” Her writings address gender complementarity and the human body as a composite unity. She will finish the volume in England.
Sister Allen said she is looking forward to her new mission to bring the new evangelization to the Lancaster University Chaplaincy with priests and another Religious Sister of Mercy.
“If I don’t feel sad,” she said. “It’s not because I don’t love the people here, it’s because of the mission. We can’t be surprised when we’re being sent somewhere else. You can’t hold on to what makes us feel comfortable and happy. We have to be willing to go where the Lord wants us to go with joy.”