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Dominican High Schools Students Discover Call to Preach with their Lives

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:

  • teen dating violence by Dominican Volunteer Kayla Grodzicki; 
  • the work of the United Nations by Dominican Volunteer Katt Maloney; 
  • racism by Sister Marcelline Koch, OP (Springfield), North American Co-Promoter for Peace and Justice; 
  • We Have Family in Iraq by Sister Habiba Binham, OP (Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine, Mosul, Iraq); and 
  • art therapy and social justice by Dominican Volunteer Emili Dubar. 

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:

  • Moving in the Spirit with Sister Nancy Murray, OP (Adrian); 
  • Tai Chi with Sister Carlotta LaCour, OP (Houston); 
  • liturgical preaching with Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP (Adrian);
  • making rosaries with Sister Jean Patrick Ehrhardt, OP (Springfield); 
  • creating mandalas with Sister Barb Schwarz, OP (Amityville)
  • weaving plastic bag mats with Associates Chris and Marge Coneset (Adrian); 
  • building Morovian stars with Sister Maria Goretti Browne, OP (Adrian); 
  • liturgical movement with Sister Luchy Sori, OP (Adrian); and 
  • folding origami peace cranes with Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP (Adrian).

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. 

Sister Mary Soher, OP, (Adrian), Director of the conference, offers a reflection during the Closing Liturgy.

“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.

 

Sister Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, (Adrian) greets students from Collegio San Antonio, Isabella, Puerto Rico, during the prayer partners social.
Students and adult mentors from St. Mary’s in Adelaide, Australia, show Sister Jean Tobin, OP, (Adrian) a map of their country during the social.

 

Representatives of Sacred Heart Griffin High School, Springfield, Illinois, present their action plan. The school is sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.

 

Participants in the 2017 Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference gather for a group photo.

Students from Dominican High Schools Gather in Adrian for Preaching Conference

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. 

Sister Patricia “Patty” Harvat, OP, until recently an administrator at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans, addresses the high school preachers during the opening session of the conference.

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!”

Liturgical dancers encircle the altar as Father Dennis Woerter, OP, of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois, presides over the closing liturgy.

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.


 

 

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