August 15, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Nancy Murray, OP (Adrian) – a theatrical performer who has portrayed St. Catherine of Siena in a one-woman performance throughout the world – received the Fra Angelico Award July 27 from the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA). The Fra Angelico Award – named after the great 15th-century Dominican artist – is the highest honor that the DIA bestows on its members.
The Fra Angelico Award presentation was one of the highlights of the 2018 DIA Gathering, which brought Dominican artists – visual artists, musicians, poets, photographers, film-makers, and others – to Weber Center in Adrian July 25-29.
In bestowing the award following the closing Liturgy on July 27, Pat Daly, a Dominican Associate and President of the DIA, described Sister Nancy as the “epitome of itinerant preaching,” traveling “from coast to coast and to foreign lands” to preach the message of St. Catherine of Siena. Like St. Catherine of Siena, Pat said, Sister Nancy is a “colorful, strong, passionate, and enthusiastic woman.”
The DIA also presented the DIA’s Spirit Recognition Award – in absentia – to Sister Lorraine Ferguson, OP, a Dominican Sister of Hope, for her service on the DIA Board, her institution and facilitation of an artists’ retreat, involvement in past gatherings, and the recent publication of a book featuring her watercolor paintings and reflections.
The theme for the 2018 Gathering was “The Arts: Yearning for Unity.” Fran Belmonte, a theologian who had presented the keynote address at the 2014 DIA Gathering, wove that theme into her keynote address in 2018.
“Artists contribute to the unitive nature of the arts,” she said. “Every time a person in this room creates another work and goes through the process of struggle for that work, they make art more unitive than it was before. … The arts evoke the unitive and integration into the receiver.”
Fran gave the example of her love for Fra Angelico’s work, The Annunciation. “Fra Angelico put me in touch with the thousands of others who have seen his painting,” she said. “We may not have seen it in exactly the same way, but our souls were evoked and we are connected to each other by this evocation.”
Fran also spoke of the artist’s role in transforming our fractured society into a fractal society. Fractals, she explained, are a set of mathematical algorithms designed to measure things that are difficult to measure, such as coastlines. What is important for artists to note, she added, is that fractals form a repeated pattern. “Fractals show that the world can have a pattern,” just as artists see patterns in their work, she said.
The yearning of the arts for unity is a “mystery to believed,” Fran said. “When arts are in unity, they do their part to make the world whole. When the arts preach, they enable the audience to see holistically.”
On Thursday afternoon, participants had the opportunity to attend two sessions of workshops, dealing with such topics as Playing the Ukulele, Lament and the Art of Rebellion, the Art of Gourds, and a Japanese Tea Ceremony. On Friday morning, Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Isabel Rafferty, OP, gave a presentation on the St. John’s Bible, the first Bible since the invention of the printing press to be hand-written and illuminated. Friday afternoon gave the artists the opportunity to share their art with one another.
The 2018 Gathering culminated Friday night in a Gala, an evening of poetry, music, and dancing, followed by a social.
The DIA is a “grassroots collaboration of sisters, friars, laity, and associates of the Order of Preachers,” dedicated to preaching through a variety of arts. Adrian Dominican Sisters who served on the planning committee were Sisters Joella Miller, OP; Janet Wright, OP; Sue Schreiber, OP; Barbara Cervenka, OP; and Nancyann Turner, OP.
Feature photo (top): Sister Nancy Murray, OP, with the Fra Angelico Award, the highest award that the Dominican Institute for the Arts bestows on its members.
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.