Representing the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Sister Maria appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” multiple times. On the program, Sister joyfully shared about the Sisters and her profession of perpetual vows with Oprah. Unable to understand the joy that comes from living the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, Oprah still loved the Sisters. Their presence offered a beacon amidst the chaos of the modern world, hoping to guide all who would follow to Christ.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: Mother Assumpta and I were traveling. When we got back there was a note on Mother’s desk that said, “Harpo called. Please return the call at this number.” Mother called me and asked,
“Do you know anybody named Harpo?”
I said, “Not a clue. Never heard that one before. Is there a last name? Is that the first name? ”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t either.”
One night after dinner, she asked the entire community present, “Does anyone know who Harpo is? Someone took a message and put it on my desk in my absence that Harpo called. H-A-R-P-O.” One Sister raised her hand quietly and said,
“I took the message.”
Mother asked, “Who in the world is this?”
Another Sister quietly said, “I don’t know if I’m right, but Harpo is Oprah spelled backward.”
“It can’t be.”
We thought, “You’ve got to be kidding.” She called back the next day and said,
“With whom am I speaking?”
“You have reached the headquarters in Chicago of The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
She goes, “I think I received a phone call from here. Can you tell me why? Was that true? Was it a mistake? Why would Oprah be calling us?” The explanation was given.
“Oprah is looking for something she hasn’t done before her 25 years of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ ends, and it came up in one of her discussions that she hadn’t done Religious, that wear the habit, and love community life, and have a great deal of prayer, and she was wondering if your community would be willing to come on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show?’ ”
Mother said, “I don’t know. Let me get back with you.” She went and asked her Council. We were taking it to prayer, and I remember my personal response was,
“If Jesus is willing to walk on water for the likes of us, we can go on Oprah for Him.” What also helped was one of the foundresses also knows Amy Grant very well, having grown up with her in Nashville. She said,
“I know she’s been on her program, so let me call her and ask what it’s like.” Amy went on and on about how respectful Oprah is of everybody’s opinion and interest, and that it was a beautiful experience for her to be on the program.
We decided we would do it, which I think, probably surprised Oprah, too, because she didn’t know our community. We were told that the next afternoon by 5:00 p.m. Vespers that a crew from Oprah would be visiting us. They got on a plane and came from Chicago and filmed many scenes at the Motherhouse to get the feel of our community. They came to prayers and recreation. They were present for a lot of our community life, whereby, they would try to understand it because it was foreign to them, to put it mildly.
We had five Sisters flown [to Chicago] for the first segment, which took place in February 2010. This is where Sister Maria, in particular, comes in.
It was incredible for the world to say, “What’s going on, and why are you doing this?” Oprah began to change, and at the end of that particular segment, the Sisters gave Oprah a home-made rosary, and a “how to pray the rosary” card.
Sister Maria, take it from here. At this point in time, you had contacted her.
Sr. Maria: I asked Mother if we could send her an invitation to the profession Mass saying, “Without cameras, without the people, just you, come and witness this wedding ceremony that’s like no other you’ve ever experienced before.”
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: Sister, did she ever respond to your invitation?
Sr. Maria: She did, but they said they [wanted the] whole crew, and I thought, “That defeats the purpose,” but you realize Saint Dominic and our Lord had His hand in all of it because the world saw a wedding that they have never seen before, the espousal of a human being with the eternal God.
During one of the commercial breaks, I told her “I want you to know that you’re one of the people that helped me to strive for what I have now. You’re one of the reasons why I wanted to make sure that I got a good education because I saw that you started with very little, and you were able to make it to the top. I wanted the same for me and my family.” She just looked at me and said, “That’s incredible.” That was it. I said thank you to her.
She loved Sister Mary Samuel, grabbed her by the hand like a little girl, and walked out like a celebrity to go backstage and talk. It was unreal because Sister Mary Samuel has that motherly personality where you just want to hug her and hold her hand. Oprah fell in love with her.
If you are allowing God to make you who He wants you to be, and allow Him to use you without fear and with your own honesty and the gifts that He has given you, you never know what person is standing somewhere in the vicinity that you will see again in Heaven.
The Truth will set you free.
Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: We know what that means. It truly does, because He does. Your witness of Truth on that incredible platform was a great gift to all of us. Sister Maria, thank you again. God bless you all and mutual prayers that we always are those ambassadors for Christ as icons for Mary that we are called to be in the world today. God bless you.