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.