By Sister Mary Soher, OP
July 21, 2016, Adrian, Michigan – “The Dominican story is only kept alive by live Dominicans.” These words by Dominican scholar Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, could be heard echoing from Adrian, Michigan, the gathering site of the 18th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. Students from 23 high schools – including two from Australia – gathered at Siena Heights University June 24-29, 2016, to discover and deepen the preacher within.
Using the 800th Jubilee Celebration of the Order as a theme, conference attendees met Saints Dominic, Catherine of Siena (Sister Nancy Murray, OP), Martin de Porres, and Rose de Lima (Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP); learned about the interfaith mission of the Order; and connected with Dominican family members, including Associates, Laity, Volunteers, and Young Adults, in addition to the Sisters and the friars.
As proof of the intercultural nature of the gathering, a rosary procession was prayed in five languages – German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish, and Arabic – with a rosary shared by the nuns of Mary the Queen Monastery in Fatima.
Students learned about the signs of the times by studying such social justice issues as human trafficking, domestic violence, and becoming aware of the need for respect for elders and hearing an update on the United Nations’ Agenda 2030. The students also lived out what they heard through a special service day that led to encounters with children, seniors, people suffering from economic poverty, and those regaining their homes. They also had the opportunity to improve the local land through permaculture techniques.
During the conference, Dominican Sisters of Adrian prayed for specific students and met with them during a special ice cream social before the students hit the dance floor. Adrian Dominican Sisters also helped the students in their final day of the conference. Among the presenters teaching the students to pray through the arts were Sister Nancy Murray, OP, Moving in the Spirit; Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, liturgical reaching; Sister Sue Schreiber, OP, water colors; Sister Maria Browne, OP, Morovian stars; Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, origami peace cranes; and Sister Luchy Sori, OP, liturgical movements.
And what is Jubilee without a cake? The final night of the conference concluded with a banquet, complete with a cake fit for an 800-year celebration. “The Dominican tradition is something that should be celebrated,” one student commented. “To survive 800 years in a society where most things can’t even last 10 days is worth appreciating!”
The following morning, at the commissioning ceremony that took place during liturgy with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, the high school groups shared how they plan to continue to live the Dominican charism within their school communities in the coming academic year.
“Before this conference, I knew I was a preacher, but I didn’t know how to be a preacher,” said Emma Bonnet of Mount St. Dominic Academy, Caldwell, New Jersey.
“This conference was not only faith-furthering but also life-changing,” proclaimed Kate Gartrell, of St. Agnes Academy, Houston, Texas. “I now know in my heart what it means to be Dominican.”
Songiemar Garcia Curbelo, from Colegio San Antonio, Isabela, Puerto Rico, stated, “It’s a spiritual awakening, when you least expect it!”
The Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference is a program of the newly formed Dominican Youth Movement USA, the umbrella organization that connects today’s youth and young adults to the Dominican tradition of preaching and the participant’s own call to preach.
A big thank you to all the communities of Sisters and Friars who collaborated for another incredible week of sharing our charism with these young adults.
Congratulations on another successful Preaching Conference. The future of our order is carried on by gatherings like this. Blessings on these young Dominican Preachers and to everyone who was involved in planning and/or assisting these days.