June 7, 2018, Caldwell, New Jersey – About 40 students from 13 Dominican colleges and universities “caught the fire” of the Dominican charism May 22-27, 2018, as they attended the annual Dominican Colleges Preaching Conference at Caldwell University, sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell.
“The theme of Dominican Young Adults (DYA) USA is ‘catch the fire,’” noted Sister Mary Soher, OP, Director of Campus Ministry for Dominican University of California. Sister Mary, an Adrian Dominican Sister, brought two students from Dominican University to the conference, and led the opening presentation, “Dominican Spirit in Song.”
Also attending the event were Adrian Dominican Sisters Mary Jones, OP, Director of Mission Education and Heritage Development at Siena Heights University, Adrian, who brought two students with her; Nancy Murray, OP, who portrays St. Catherine of Siena in a one-woman show; and Sara Fairbanks, OP, Director of Vocations for the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
The conference introduced students to Dominican saints as well as to the Dominican family throughout the world: Friars; cloistered nuns; Sisters who serve in active ministries; Associates, lay women and men who are committed to a particular Congregation of Dominican Sisters; the Dominican Laity, who are connected to the Friars; Dominican Volunteers; and Dominican Young Adults, which has chapters at several Dominican colleges and universities throughout the United States, as well as among young adults who are past college.
In addition, the students learned about and experienced the different ways that Dominicans preach – not only from the pulpit, but also through service in response to the signs of the times and through the arts. The conference concluded with Mass, during which the various college groups proclaimed their action plans for when they return to their school in the Fall, as well as their personal action plans.
Sisters Sara Fairbanks, Mary Jones and Mary Soher took time to reflect on the 2018 conference and its impact on the students from Dominican colleges and universities – each looks toward her involvement in late June in the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference at Siena Heights University in Adrian.
“I really enjoy working with other Dominicans in the Dominican family to hand on our preaching charism to our college students,” Sister Sara said. “I take delight in teaching college students the art of liturgical preaching. It does my heart good to hear our young people sharing their spirited and insightful reflections on the Word from their own particular experience of the world.”
Sister Mary Jones said the group was the most diverse that she’s encountered at the conference. “Not only women and men but different cultures,” she said, but first-time participation by some of the universities. She was also impressed by the students’ excitement at meeting various members of the Dominican family – including a cloistered Dominican nun who had graduated from Caldwell University. “The students were asking great questions: What’s a normal day for you as a Sister? How is it that you don’t wear a habit?”
“One of the highlights always is the sending-forth Mass, when you hear everybody’s commitment, including our own, and know that these students are very much on fire with our charism and are looking forward to implementing their plans,” Sister Mary Jones said. “”Their energy is always so amazing.”
Sister Mary Soher agreed. “The students really got into it. They were inspired to learn more about other schools and how they live out the Dominican ideals or pillars…. They came back with ideas of ways to better deepen their relationship with God.” Students also inspired one another to greater involvement in the Dominican family, she added. “Some students are already part of Dominican Young Adults USA and three or four schools are now interested in starting their own DYA chapter.”
Feature photo: Attending the 2018 Dominican Colleges Preaching Conference were: front, from left, Siena Heights students Rochelle Chezick and Alex Wilkinson and back row, from left, Adrian Dominican Sisters Nancy Murray, OP, Mary Jones, OP, Mary Soher, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP.
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.