August 31, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – When students begin the academic year at Dominican high schools, some will have much to say about the Dominican heritage. More than 100 students representing 19 schools left the 20th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference in Adrian with a greater understanding of the Order of Preachers – and with specific action plans for expanding their classmates’ awareness of the Dominican family and spirituality.
The 2018 conference was in late June at Siena Heights University in Adrian included many events and activities that made tangible the spirit of the Dominican order.
“The conference is a wonderful place to learn how you can involve yourselves and your schools more in the Dominican faith,” said Lucia Wileman, a student at Rosary High School in Aurora, Illinois.
Her classmate, Abby Homer, added, “I can’t wait to bring this knowledge back to my school.” Rosary High School is sponsored by the Springfield Dominican Sisters.
Sister Mary Soher, OP, an Adrian Dominican Sister and Director of the Conference called the event a wonderful success, thanks to the quality of the presenters, welcoming hospitality at the Siena Heights University and Adrian Dominican Motherhouse campuses.
Along with Adrian Dominican Sisters, sponsoring Dominican congregations and provinces were Dominican Sisters of Amityville, New York; Caldwell, New Jersey; Houston, Texas; Mission San Jose, California; Peace in Columbus, Ohio; Racine, Wisconsin; Sinsinawa, Wisconsin; Sparkill, New York; Springfield, Illinois; and the Friars from the Province of St. Albert the Great.
The young preachers first learned about some of the better-known Dominican saints from Patrick Spedale, campus minister at St. Pius X High School in Houston, Texas, who portrayed St. Dominic; Sister Nancy Murray, OP, Adrian, as St. Catherine of Siena, a 13th Century mystic, reformer, and Doctor of the Church; and Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Adrian, as St. Antonio Montesinos, noted for speaking out on behalf of the indigenous people of Hispaniola who were exploited by the Spanish conquistadors. Brother Joseph Kilikevice, OP, of the St. Albert the Great Province, spoke on the interfaith mission of the Order.
Throughout the conference, students learned various ways to preach the Word of God, in addition to the more traditional preaching at the pulpit. “Dominican life isn’t just about words,” noted Madison Schomer, a student of Rosary High School. “Your actions are really the game changers.”
During the session on Preaching the Signs of the Times, the students learned about various social justice issues, including immigration, interconnectedness of life on Earth, women’s pay equity, and justice issues.
Representatives of various branches of the Dominican family were on hand to introduce the students to the diversity of Dominicans – Associates, Dominican Laity, Friars, Sisters, and Nuns.
Students also had the opportunity to spend time with Adrian Dominican Sisters and meet their Sister prayer partners during a social.
A part of one day of the conference was spent in preaching through action as participants served local charities.
Finally, Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP, Amityville, former President of the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA), gave a keynote address on Preaching through the Arts. Participants experienced preaching through specific arts during breakout sessions that included liturgical dance, preaching, and visual arts.
During the closing banquet, Sister Mary recalled the history of the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. Sister Gina Fleming, OP, Amityville, who started the National College Preaching in Action Conference in 2002 for Dominican colleges and universities, received the Sister Pat Brady Award for her involvement in spreading the Dominican charism to young people.
During the closing Commissioning Mass, Dominican high school students took their place as young Dominicans, preparing to deepen the Dominican heritage in their classmates back home through specific action plans.
“You opened your hearts and minds to the presentations and to each other,” Sister Mary told the young Dominican preachers. “You took seriously the invitation to contemplate and then act. You generously shared your gift of yourself to every person around you. … Each of you opened yourself to the grace of God. And that’s all that God asks.”
The fruits of the conference and of the young preachers’ learning will be seen in the coming school year, as the students enact their plans to deepen the Dominican heritage at their high schools.
Feature photo (top): Students from a Dominican high school present an action plan for bringing the Dominican spirit to the school this year.
Clockwise from left: Students practice their preaching skills during a Liturgical Preaching workshop presented by Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP. High school preachers participate in a rosary procession through Holy Rosary Chapel. Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, demonstrates the art of folding paper cranes.
July 5, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Some 92 students from 24 Dominican high schools spent June 23-28 exploring their Dominican heritage and learning that the call of the Order of Preachers is to preach through their lives.
A collaboration of congregations of Dominican Sisters as well as the Dominican Friars, the 19th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference was hosted at Siena Heights University and the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian. Students and their adult mentors came from California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Puerto Rico, and, for the first time, Australia to gather with their peers and form a community of young Dominican preachers.
From the welcoming addresses and opening ritual through the closing Liturgy, the students were kept engaged with opportunities to learn, share, and bond with one another. Each day of the preaching conference focused on a different aspect of preaching.
The focus for June 24 was on Preaching in the Dominican Tradition. Students were introduced to the Dominican history and to the Order’s saints through dramatic presentations. Patrick Spedale, Director of the Office for Campus Ministry at St. Pius High School in Houston, Texas, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Houston, portrayed St. Dominic. Other portrayals of Dominican saints were by Brother Herman Johnson, OP (St. Martin de Porres Province), and St. Martin de Porres and St. Rose of Lima by Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP (Adrian).
Michael Petro, of Cadinal Stritch High School and St. Kateri Academy in Eugene, Oregon, spoke to the students about the four pillars of Dominican Life: prayer, study, community, and preaching. Brother Joe Kilikevice, OP (St. Albert the Great Province), gave a presentation on the interfaith mission of the Dominican family. Sister Linda Mary DeLonias, OP (Springfield), helped the students and mentors prepare for a major component of the preaching conference: planning prayer services and liturgy throughout the week.
The students also spent their first full day being introduced to the various components of the Dominican family. Brother Herman Johnson, OP (St. Martin de Porres Province), Brother Jo Kilikevice, OP, and Father Dennis Woerter, OP (St. Albert the Great Province), introduced the students to the Friars. Speaking about the nuns were four Dominican Sisters of Adrian: Sisters Xiomara; Luchy Sori, OP; Marilín Llanes, OP; and Sister Katherine Frazier, a novice. Katie Love and Marge Coneset, Associates of Adrian, spoke about Dominican Associates.
Also represented were the Dominican Laity, Kathy Niemiec and Gwendolin Weinberger; Dominican Young Adults USA, Keegan Pabst and Kiersten Diachun of the Siena Heights University chapter; colleges and universities, Lucas Hidalgo of Siena Heights University; and Dominican Volunteers USA, current volunteers Emili Dubar, Kayla Grodzicki, Katt Maloney, and Holly Sammons. While none of the Dominican nuns were available to speak about their branch of the family, students were referred to their page on the Dominican website.
On June 25, the students learned about various social justice issues present in the world today. The presentations included:
They took action the next day, spending hours serving the local community ranging from senior citizens and women and children suffering from domestic violence and sexual assault to adults with disabilities. In addition, students helped work on homes for Habitat for Humanity and worked on the Permaculture site of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, learning to work with rather than against nature in agriculture.
That evening, the students had the opportunity to share their experiences of the past days with their prayer partners, Dominican Sisters of Adrian who had been paired with the students to pray for them. The students and their prayer partners sat together to share conversation, camaraderie, and ice cream.
Students learned the option of preaching through the arts during special sessions on June 27. They had the opportunity to experience:
The conference closed with a vibrant liturgy that included music, liturgical dance, and encouragement for the students to bring what they had learned to their home schools, families, and local communities.
“What a journey it has been for all of us,” said Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, at the beginning of the closing Mass June 28. She thanked the students and their mentors “a million times over” for their presence at the Motherhouse in Adrian and for the blessings they brought to the Sisters.
“Every year, I am amazed and humbled by all who come to the conference and all who support the conference,” Sister Mary Soher, OP (Adrian), said in her reflection. Sister Mary has directed the conference for the past nine years.
Sister Mary noted the special community that the students formed at this year’s conference. “You reached out to each other and you transformed yourselves into a very special community of young preachers,” she said. “There is a kindness among you for each other that has allowed you to trust each other with God’s call in your hearts.”
The students gave concrete examples of how they plan to share their sense of Dominican call as they came forward, school by school, to present their action plan for the coming year. School action plans ranged from forming a network of Dominican preachers in the Chicago area to teaching fellow students about the Dominican pillars and saints, improving sustainability in their schools, and helping the school to become more involved in service activities.
Feature photo (top): Students process with the Book of the Gospels during the Closing Liturgy on June 28.