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Lenten exercises: Dominican brothers, sisters race to support aging friars

new 05 Nun run PAGEDominican nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery run on the monastery grounds in Menlo Park in support of Dominican friars. (Courtesy photo)

March 23, 2017
Christina Gray

Five Dominican brothers in formation at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland who share a running pastime turned a half-marathon on March 18 into a run-a-thon to support the care of elderly friars of the Western Province.

The “Fast Friars,” as they were known in their online fundraising effort, raised over $10,000 in pledge money by race day. It’s an impressive achievement, but one they share with their cloistered counterparts, the Dominican nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery.

While Dominican brothers Thomas Aquinas Pickett, Andy Opsahl, Matthew Heynen, Scott Norgaard and Damien Dominic Nguyen ran the 13.1-mile footrace at Quarry Lakes Regional Park in Fremont, the sisters were in prayerful lockstep with them, body and spirit.

“We can’t leave the cloister for the half-marathon but we are blessed to have a nice, long rosary path around our cloister grounds,” a post on the community’s Facebook page read. Each of five of the monastery’s nuns were paired with one of the five Dominican brothers, offering prayers for their “running partners” and any of benefactors who donated to them.

The good-humored, social-media savvy nuns mapped out their course, crowed about rosary lap times and promoted their brother-runners on Facebook. Each sister will cover at least nine miles.

The partnership with the nuns is very special, according to Brother Andy Opsahl, but not new. Each Dominican novice is assigned one of the nuns as his prayer partner for his entire life as a Dominican. It is a reciprocal relationship, which means the brother and sister pray for each other.

The average cost of one day of care for an elderly Dominican is about $180, or about $66,000 a year.

“Care for our elderly and infirm friars is very expensive just like it is for any family,” said Brother Andy, who will take his solemn vows on April 29. “After a lifetime of faithful service we want the older friars to get the best care and be around us as long as possible. They’re an immense blessing to our community and really help in our formation.”

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