By Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP
July 13, 2017, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – “I’m learning the art of listening: to the person I accompany, to God in the person, and to myself!”
“I was deeply moved as I engaged in spiritual companioning and experienced sacred ground.”
“It was such a liberating experience, full of joy and surprises!”
These are a few of comments by 12 cloistered nuns from six monasteries and traditions as they completed four weeks of Introduction to Spiritual Companioning. The course was sponsored by the nine-member spirituality team of the Conference of Religious of the Dominican Republic (CONDOR) and coordinated by Sister Carol Ann Gross, OP, and Dr. Angela Lopez, a lay psychologist.
Visitandines, Franciscan Capuchins, Clarissas, and Discalced Carmelites from across the country gathered in the Carmelite Monastery of St. Teresa of Jesus in Santo Domingo for the month-long course. They came to take instruction and to learn the tools and skills they needed to accompany others in their attentive and personal responses to God.
During the first week, they received an overview of Spiritual Companioning, listening skills, and personality types, and shared their own history of spirituality. The team demonstrated modes of accompaniment, after which the nuns practiced with each other. The week also included follow-up and supervision of the new companions by the coordinating team.
The second week dealt with the area of psychology and personal growth, and a retreat workshop on a review of personal history. Applications of the Exercises of St. Ignatius followed, with models of discernment and specific practices of accompaniment. Special cases such as group accompaniment and areas of affectivity, sexuality, and forgiveness were covered in the fourth week. Throughout the month the nuns delighted in presenting their own monastic traditions and in learning about the traditions of the others.
After the formal course, the team offered follow-up and supervision of the nuns in their settings, as well as group supervision. The group gathered again in May for a personal directed retreat and follow-up in the practice of accompaniment.
“Beginning the course with the contemplatives, we of the team were a little nervous,” Sister Carol said. “We know these women are dedicated to prayer and silence and to God in a very special vocation. But within two days we started to relax and give to them what we had learned from our experience and study while they received us with exemplary openness. We laughed and cried together and we all learned about the presence of God in our lives: contemplatives, laity, priests, and sisters in active congregations. The course has been a gift of grace and growth for all!”
The course, a unique ministry in the Dominican Republic, already has a long history. Sister Ana Feliz, OP, with the support of Sister Nancy Jurecki, OP, launched the program in 2002 as a course in Spiritual Companioning, sponsored by the CONDOR. Sister Carol and Sister Eneida Santiago, OP, were participants.
Others contributed in specific areas of input. Sister Arlene Kosmatka, OP, accompanied the groups with her expertise during the summer courses for several years. This Adrian Dominican-launched ministry in spirituality found fertile ground in the Dominican Republic – and the mission continues!
Top: Students prepare for class. Bottom: The 12 participants represent six monasteries and six traditions.
March 17, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP, and Sister Patty Harvat, OP, accompanied students from St. Mary’s Dominican High School, New Orleans, on their recent Alternative Spring Break to the Dominican Republic. Sister Maurine and the late Sister Renee Richie, OP, had founded a school, Centro Espíritu Santo, in the Dominican Republic and watched the school grow and thrive. Sister Maurine reflects on her experience of returning to the school.
By Maurine Barzantni, OP
When I was recently asked about my most important experience during my recent trip to Centro Espíritu Santo in the Dominican Republic, it took me more than a minute to think of which of the many remarkable learnings was most important. I finally said that it was hearing that more than a dozen of our former students are teachers or teacher’s aides in our school.
Our journey with the people has been such a joyous part of the Adrian Dominican story in the Dominican Republic. Parada San José, formerly known as Cruce de Arroyo Hondo, remains a very poor community, but it is rich in faith and hope. The families believe that anything is possible. Why wouldn’t they, when they have watched their community change from a desolate collection of houses without electricity, water, or school to a thriving place with an excellent school?
It took 25 years for the transformation, which was brought about by cooperation among the families, government, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and the Jesuit-sponsored network of schools called Fe y Alegría. The school is well-known as an Adrian Dominican School, and graduates from the Colegio Santo Domingo take pride in it. Six Adrian Dominican Associates from the community are involved in the school and take pride in their connection to the Sisters.
Three of our Sisters minister at Centro Espíritu Santo: Sister Basilia De la Cruz, OP, as the director; Sister Eneida Santiago, OP, as chair of the Counseling Department; and Sister Neri (Luchy) Sori, OP, as a high school teacher.
These three women are highly respected. As I walked around the community, I heard so many comments about how blessed the families feel to have the Sisters serve in the school. Together, the Sisters and the faculty have weathered storms of change within the educational system of the Dominican Republic.
Just over two years ago, the Dominican Republic decreed that all schools must offer a full day of school, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Because of high enrollment and lack of space in the school facilities, Centro Espíritu Santo had offered only half days of school. Some students attended in the morning and others in the afternoon.
To offer a full day of school for all of the students, Centro Espíritu Santo needed double the classrooms and employ twice as many faculty members to serve the 1,350 students. Somehow, the school community met this goal, resulting in a beautiful, clean, and large campus filled with students receiving a good education. According to the Provincial Office of Education, the number of our graduates who go on to the university is remarkably high.
I witnessed the strength of Adrian Dominican education – and I am so proud of it!
Sister Maurine Barzantni, OP — back row, fourth from right — with faculty members of Centro Espíritu Santo
Feature photo at top: Sister Maurine Barzantni, center, with Sisters Eneida Santiago, OP, and Basilia De la Cruz, OP.