Catholic Vancouver June 26, 2018

Solemn vows by Tanzanian nun a first in Squamish

By Agnieszka Ruck

Religious sisters wear traditional African wraps into the chapel at Queen of Peace Monastery in honour of their newest member, Sister Florentina Marie Tarimo, OP. (Photos courtesy of Sister Claire Rolf)

GARIBALDI HIGHLANDS—African drumming and songs in Swahili filled the small chapel at Queen of Peace Monastery near Squamish – an unusual occurrence for a Canadian convent.

But it was fitting as Sister Florentina Marie Tarimo, originally from Tanzania, pledged her life to God as a Dominican nun in a joyous ceremony there June 10.

“Your great challenge, Sister Florentina, is to persevere along with your sisters in the monastery in seeking God with the eyes of faith in a world which ignores his presence, and to continue to tell us by the joy of your life that Jesus’ life of chastity, poverty, and obedience is a prophetic sign of the kingdom to come,” Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, said during the Mass.

Sister Florentina is the first sister to make solemn vows in that Squamish community.

“By your profession, Sister Florentina, you are publicly accepting that until death your life will be totally given over to Jesus as your first and exclusive love. He is your bridegroom. In mysterious ways known only to you in the depths of your heart, he has captivated you, enthralled you by his love,” Archbishop Miller continued.

“From now on, we rely on you to shine as a witness to God’s unconditional and faithful love for each one of us.”

Sister Florentina Marie of the Heart of Jesus.

Sister Florentina, who chose the name Florentina Marie of the Heart of Jesus, was originally a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. She first heard of the Squamish community through her sister, Marie Tersidis Tarimo, who became a Dominican contemplative over 20 years ago and moved to B.C. to help build Queen of Peace monastery in 2012.

Sister Florentina belonged to the Kilimanjaro congregation (whose works include teaching, social work, and pastoral care) for more than three decades. But, she told fellow Dominican Sister Jean Marie Dwyer, she has always been attracted to the contemplative life.

“She loves her life in community, a life of prayer and silence,” said Sister Dwyer. “Her heart is full of the joy that is characteristic of our Dominican vocation.”

Sister Florentina arrived in Canada in 2012. She currently acts as the community’s sacristan and candle maker. Her candles sell at the monastery’s gift shop, among pottery, dried spices, religious art, books, and crucifixes handmade by other sisters.

“She is very creative,” said Sister Dwyer.

Sister Florentina Marie Tarimo (left) and her biological sister, Sister Marie Tersidis Tarimo.

Meanwhile her biological sister, Marie Tersidis, has become the community’s prioress. That put Sister Florentina in the unique position of promising obedience to her younger sister.

After Sister Florentina made her vows, she was led to lunch with family and friends, accompanied by drums, singing, and women in traditional African wraps.

The Dominican community, which started out in Surrey in 1999 and moved to Squamish in 2012, is steadily growing. It currently has 12 sisters, two postulants, one novice, and one sister under temporary vows. Another two aspirants are on the way.

Sister Marie Tersidis, prioress.
Sister Florentina Marie.