SOLT sisters arrive in southwest Detroit hoping to make an impact

Sr. Mary Solanus Casey, Sr. Kateri Marie and Sr. Mary Agnus Dei, members of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, began serving at Detroit’s Most Holy Redeemer Parish in August, joining a team of SOLT brothers, priests and seminarians serving in the community.
Photo courtesy of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity

Detroit — There’s a new group of religious sisters in town, and they couldn’t be happier to be here.

Three sisters with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) arrived at Detroit’s Most Holy Redeemer Parish in August to serve on the SOLT team of priests, brothers, seminarians and laity. The sisters work in the school and with parishioners.

SOLT was founded in 1958 by Fr. James Flanagan. Six years ago, priests with the order were installed at Most Holy Redeemer Parish, residing in the parish house with SOLT seminarians attending Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

The SOLT order is unique in that its members work in “ecclesial family teams.” These teams of priests, brothers, sisters and laity collaborate to accomplish SOLT’s goal of forming disciples of Jesus through Mary in areas of deepest apostolic need. The Detroit team is made up of three SOLT priests, three sisters and five brothers.

Sr. Mary Agnus Dei, 33, didn’t imagine herself as a religious sister when she was in her teens. Instead, she thought she might be a missionary. While she was working at a mission with members of SOLT, she was drawn to SOLT’s family atmosphere and commitment to prayer. She entered the community five years ago and took her vows with the SOLT community in July.

“We come together as a team in unique and different ways, each having our own charisms and all with our gaze in the same direction,” Sr. Mary Agnus Dei said. “The priests are the spiritual fathers for the mission, bringing Marian spirituality as they minister to the people. We sisters bring the femininity — that motherly role — using Our Lady as our model.”

Sr. Kateri Marie, who teaches at Holy Redeemer’s middle school, is excited to be part of the SOLT team in Detroit.

“This is God’s timing, given that we have Sr. (Mary) Solanus Casey!” said Sr. Kateri Marie, referencing another sister. “The parishioners here have given us such an amazing outpouring of welcome and gratitude. They’ve done so much to help us get our convent in shape, giving us whatever we need.”

The sisters took up residence in a converted doctor’s office across the street from the parish. Renovations are still under way to make it a suitable convent for the sisters.

Sr. Mary Solanus Casey felt a strong call to religious life when she was 16 years old. She, too, found SOLT appealing because of the strong sense of family.

Sr. Mary Agnus Dei, a sister with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, helps a student on the playground at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Detroit.

“We serve through relationship,” Sr. Mary Solanus Casey said. “We don’t just take care of a physical need, we form a relationship with people. We bring people back into the relationship of the Trinity.”

At recess at the school, one of the sisters can usually be seen on the playground having fun with the children. The sisters serve as teachers and in various roles around the school. The students have welcomed the sisters as part of the Holy Redeemer community.

“You can see the inquisitiveness and the desire to learn more, especially when they see the joy in us,” Sr. Mary Solanus Casey said. “As religious, we’re signs of heaven. People see us and they’re reminded of what they’re made for, and the children really respond to that.”

All three sisters have found Detroit to be a warm and welcoming place.

“You hear stereotypes about Detroit,” Sr. Mary Solanus Casey said. “People talk about how rough it is here, but I’ve found it’s truly a diamond in the rough, like the Gospel story about the treasure buried in the field. Holy Redeemer is a treasure; the people are a treasure. It’s been so beautiful to see them be so generous as we start from scratch here, and they do it so longingly and so humbly.”

Over the years, people have asked Sr. Mary Agnus Dei if she’ll miss having children. But she points to the many boys and girls to whom she ministers every day at the school and within the parish.

“I never imagined I’d have this many children, and I feel so blessed to be given this gift of motherhood,” Sr. Mary Agnus Dei said. “We just love these children, and we are here to bring them Jesus.”