October 30, 2019, New York, New York – Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, is building on her years of experience in justice and peace advocacy, collaboration with the Dominican family, and global travel as she embarks on a new ministry: United Nations Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Dominican Representative. She succeeds Sister Margaret Mayce, OP, a Dominican Sister of Amityville, who was recently elected International Coordinator of Dominican Sisters International (DSI).
Sister Durstyne is accountable to the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC), an organization of U.S. Dominican Sisters, and is a member of the DSC Executive Committee.
“I’m excited. I hope I represent the Dominicans at the UN well,” Sister Durstyne said from New York, where she began her three-year term in late October. Already, she is keeping up a hectic pace: attending a meeting in Rome earlier in October with the Dominican International Justice Promoters; settling into her new home in New Jersey, not far from the Caldwell Dominican Sisters Motherhouse; attending a UN side event on the environment; and attending an all-morning orientation on ministry at the UN offered by Religious at the United Nations (RUN).
Sister Durstyne’s principle job will involve attending sessions of UN working groups, particularly the working groups on homelessness and women and girls. “Homelessness is not necessarily a UN effort at this point, but what they’re trying to do is shift from homelessness as the fault of homeless people to the idea that having a home is a human right,” she explained. “They’re trying to change the language around homelessness and advocate more,” both at the UN in New York and in Geneva, where human rights issues are discussed.
Much of Sister Durstyne’s ministry involves connecting the Dominican family to the United Nations. “I’d like to communicate with the Dominican Sisters in the United States about what’s happening in the United Nations and how they might be able to assist me at their level,” she said. She would also like to know which issues the Dominican Sisters are working on with their justice promoters and how she can help them.
In addition, Sister Durstyne would like to work directly with special groups of Dominicans. She sees the Women and Girls Working Group as a connector to the Commission on the Status of Women and hopes that continental coordinators at the DSI can identify the names of two women from their continent who can attend the 64th session of the Commission, which will meet at the UN March 9-20, 2020.
In response to the UN’s concern about reaching out to youth, Sister Durstyne also hopes to get Dominican youth more involved, particularly members of the Dominican Young Adults and the International Dominican Youth Movement. She also encourages Dominican colleges and universities in the United States to establish UN Clubs so that students can learn more about the United Nations.
Sister Durstyne was encouraged to respond in the Spring of 2019 to an announcement that Sister Margaret Mayce’s position as Dominican Representative to the United Nations was opening. “People sent me the application,” she recalled. “Some of our Sisters and Sisters from other congregations encouraged me to reply.” After her third interview, she learned that she had been chosen for the position. “I felt very honored and blessed that they chose me,” she said.
Sister Durstyne said that her experiences prepared her for her new ministry. “I’ve had so many opportunities as a religious,” she said. For the past three years, she has served as Justice Coordinator for the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, both based in Milwaukee. Before that, she was Director of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, coordinating the justice and peace efforts of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates. She also served as North American Justice Promoter with DSI and has been part of delegations to Iraq to visit the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, based in Iraq.
“The various opportunities that I’ve had as a Dominican have really prepared me for this ministry, and that’s the feedback I get from so many people,” Sister Durstyne said. “My working with Dominican Sisters International has given me a more global perspective. My hope is to become more familiar with the UN and its structure and to connect the Dominican family even more to the UN.”
July 15, 2019, San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines – Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, based in the Pampanga region of the Philippines, expressed great joy at the July 13, 2019, election of Father Gerard Francisco Timoner, OP, as the next Master of the Dominican Order. He was elected during the Dominican Friars’ July 7-August 4, 2019, General Chapter, held in Biên Hoà, Vietnam.
“It’s a wonderful surprise that the Brothers elected an Asian and a Filipino at the same time,” said Sister Liberty “Libay” Mendoza, OP. “I think his election brings along the challenges of how Asian, Filipino Dominicans can share further, more substantially in the work of evangelization. … I guess it is the same call for the rest of us Filipino Dominicans, to be gifts to the world by making use of the gifts of who we are and what we can do for Jesus’ mission.”
Chapters are the meetings in which Catholic religious congregations set the agenda for the coming years and elect leadership to carry out that agenda.
Father Gerard, 51, will serve a nine-year term as Master of the Dominican Order, leading about 6,000 Dominican Friars in 80 countries. In addition, he will serve as head of the entire worldwide Dominican family, which encompasses cloistered nuns; active, apostolic Sisters; Dominican Laity associated formally with the Friars; lay Associates of the Congregations of Dominican Sisters; and Dominican movements such as Dominican Young Adults. He succeeds Father Bruno Cadoré, OP, of France.
“He has always been like a big brother to us,” Sister Libay said. She recalled the annual retreat that Father Gerard directed for the Sisters years ago as “one of the most relaxing retreats we ever had. He is quite down to Earth. He has a very good sense of humor, and during sessions he just loved telling stories.”
Sister Libay also recalled Father Gerard’s generosity in treating the Sisters to ice cream and his humility during the retreat he led. “One time he tried joining the Sisters doing the dishes,” she said. “One would not feel intimidated when he was around.”
Father Gerard – known affectionately by the Sisters of the Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter as “Father Gert” – was in religious formation with Sister May Cano, OP. The two were novices together, engaging in common studies of Dominican life and spirituality, and they served together in the formation of other Dominicans. “He was very simple, kind, brilliant, with deep reflections – a down to earth, intelligent, joyful Friar like St. Dominic,” Sister May recalled. In addition, he is “well versed in the Bible and full of wisdom.”
Born on January 26, 1968, in Daet, of the Camarines Norte province of the Philippines, Father Gerard studied philosophy at the Philippine Dominican Center of Institutional Studies in Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City, in 1991 and earned his theology degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1994. Father Gerard later served the University as Vice Rector for Religious Affairs and as Rector of the central seminary.
Ordained in 1995, he earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2004.
Through the years, Father Gerard has served both the Dominican family and the Catholic Church: as Provincial in the Philippines; as Father Bruno’s assistant for Asia and the Pacific; and as a member of the Church’s International Theological Commission, appointed by Pope Francis in 2014.
After his election, Father Gerard issued a challenge to the Dominican family, quoted in an article in Good News Pilipanas.com: “We Dominicans must serve the Church with what we are: a communion of brothers,” he said. “We must not look continually at ourselves, but at the Church, which we must help to save and build.”
Father Gerard with the Sisters of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter after their annual retreat in 2012. Father Gerard led the retreat.