November 22, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – U.S. Dominican Friars, Sisters, Nuns, and Associates gathered at Weber Retreat and Conference Center in Adrian in October for a regional Dominican Preaching Colloquium. The gathering gave members of the Dominican family the opportunity to discuss their call to preach and ways to pass on the preaching mission to the next generation of Dominicans.
The Colloquium included a keynote address by Father Anthony Gittins, CSSp, Professor Emeritus at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a noted speaker and author. He spoke of “Evangelization in the Mission of Jesus and in our Mission as Church.”
Father Anthony noted that evangelization is not only proclamation of the Gospel but “it’s everything that Jesus does.” As disciples, he said, we are to be “co-missioned into the mission of Jesus, brought down to Earth 2,000 years ago, but needing to be embodied by us here in the 21st Century.” He noted that Jesus did not just proclaim the coming Kingdom of God through his words but primarily through his actions in four ways: encountering people one-on-one; table fellowship, eating with all people, even “tax-collectors and sinners;” foot-washing, offering humble service to all people; and boundary-crossing, cutting through barriers of exclusion and privilege which demean people.
Participants reflected on how they live out Jesus’ four ways of preaching the Good News of God’s love. Father Anthony reminded participants that all of the baptized have the “vocation of discipleship,” yet many parishioners do not have that understanding of their own call.
Finally, he noted that God – not the Church – is the subject of mission. “The mission has the Church,” and God managed well before the Church was established, he said. “The mission has the Dominicans – and before the Dominicans God was happy with the mission. The mission has you and the mission has me. I don’t have the mission – so I can die in peace because God is in charge.”
Ann M. Garrido, DMin, former Professor of Homiletics at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, presented the results of 20 interviews she had conducted with 10 older Dominicans and 10 newer Dominicans. “Dominicans are all across the board in how they see preaching,” she said, noting that some see their ministry as the preaching while others confine preaching to proclamations from the pulpit.
She saw differences among Dominicans in many areas, and focused much of her time on equipping participants to hold “difficult conversations” with one another on issues in which they disagree. She urged them to still their own “inner voice” during conversations so that they could truly listen and find common ground.
During the Colloquium, participants had the opportunity to get to know one another through meals and social time, to pray together, and to attend Mass together.
Adrian Dominican Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP, one of the organizers, said that global colloquiums have been organized by the Dominican preaching institutes at Aquinas Institute in St. Louis, Missouri; in Cologne, Germany; and in Manila, the Philippines. The first global preaching colloquium for Dominicans was in 2016 in St. Louis. The next was in Manila in 2017, and last year’s colloquium took place in Cologne. Dominicans who attended the global gatherings set in motion the regional gatherings this year in all three areas.
“We’re trying to collaborate as a Dominican family on our preaching mission and talk about the challenges,” Sister Sara said. Participants in each region focused on the particular issues that they face, she explained. “In the United States, there’s a lot of polarization in the Catholic Church and within the Dominican community. How do we think about the future of our preaching mission together as an Order without taking a look at the things that divide us, as well as what unites us? If we don’t have relationships with one another, it’s really hard to collaborate.”
Sister Sara said that Ann’s presentation on “difficult conversations” gave participants some effective tools, ways to “understand where the other party’s coming from and why they hold the position that they do, and to just be more able to talk to each other.”
Collaboration and group sharing was also at the heart of evening communal reflections organized by Sister Sara, in which participants gathered at tables, listened to the Word of God, contemplated in silence, and shared their reflections with one another. “For me, as a planner, I wanted us to experience this idea of communal preaching, where we actually come together as a community and sit in small circles and reflect on the Word together,” she said. “That’s very powerful. Not only are we enriched around the Gospel, around the Word, but we are also enriched by each other and what we’re sharing.”
Sister Sara noted the establishment of Preaching Promoters for each Mission Chapter of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and their communal service to the Congregation as members of a Preaching Commission.
“I think our Congregation in the past 30 years has more and more identified [ourselves] as preachers – and you preach with your life,” she said. “We have certainly claimed that identity. I think we could do more. We could do a little bit more in terms of relating our justice work with the mission of Jesus.”
The next Global Preaching Colloquium will be in Manila, the Philippines, in 2020.
July 3, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The campuses of Siena Heights University and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse were a beehive of energy, joy, and community June 25-30, 2019, as 76 students and their mentors from 18 Dominican High Schools participated in the 21st Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference.
“I’ve been very fortunate to meet a lot of other people and I’ve become very welcomed into this Dominican community,” said Grace Rado, a student from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. “I’ve found that there are a lot of other young people who are on the same path, and we’re all learning to walk in God’s light and to preach.”
That is the intention of the preaching conference, which forms students from Dominican high schools in the Dominican spirituality of preaching – not just from the pulpit, but through their lives. The conference is structured to teach students the various ways Dominicans preach – and to encourage them to take what they learn at the conference back to their schools. Participants also plan and participate in prayer services, get to know one another at meals and other social events, and discuss the day’s events each night with specially organized groups.
The students first learned to preach in the Dominican tradition through portrayals of St. Dominic by Patrick Spedale, a mentor and teacher at St. Pius X High School, Houston; St. Martin de Porres by Brother Herman Johnson, OP, of the St. Martin de Porres (Southern) Province, and St. Catherine of Siena, by Adrian Dominican Sister Nancy Murray, OP.
In later sessions, students studied the signs of the times through sessions on the social justice issues of immigration, racism, exclusion of persons with disabilities, and human trafficking. Reinforced by their review of social justice issues, participants then spent a full day learning to preach in action through service at agencies in the Adrian area.
On the last full day of the conference, students attended workshops by Dominican artists to learn how to preach through the arts. Among the presenters were Adrian Dominican Sisters Tarianne DeYonker, OP, on the labyrinth as a tool of contemplation; Sara Fairbanks, on liturgical preaching; and Luchy Sori, OP, on liturgical movement.
The closing Liturgy – celebrated with the Sisters in St. Catherine Chapel – was an exuberant experience as the students were sent off to their homes and their schools to continue their preaching.
“We have taken the time to listen to each other, to fan the fire inside each person to let God’s love shine forth like the stars in the night sky,” Sister Mary Soher, OP, an Adrian Dominican Sister and Director of the Preaching Conference, told the students. “From such a wondrous week, how do we leave each other?” She encouraged them to consider their going back to their homes and schools as another call from God. “You gave your all to come here, and I know you will do no less for those whom God loves back home.”
Each school group then came forward to announce their commitment for the coming year: from organizing creative prayer services and teaching their classmates about different types of prayer to emphasizing the four Dominican pillars of prayer, study, community, and ministry or preaching, and educating them about social justice issues.
“It has been very humbling,” said Sean Repinski, of Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. He said he appreciated the opportunity “to come together as a group with other Dominicans and see how they do things differently, and what we can take back to our school to enhance our preaching experience.”
Feature photo (top): Patrick Spedale portrays St. Dominic in a dramatic account of the saint’s life and his founding of the Order of Preachers.
Top, from left: Sister Mary Soher, OP, Director of the Preaching Conference, addresses the assembly. Students prepare the altar during the exuberant offertory hymn, “We Come to your Feast.”
Bottom, from left: Students from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, present their commitment to enhance the Dominican spirit at their school. Students from St. Agnes Academy in Houston share a laugh with Sister Joan Baustian, OP, during the ice cream social, which brought together the young preachers and their prayer partners.