May 21, 2019, St. Louis, Missouri – For about a year, Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP, has been engaged in a ministry that has far-reaching consequences for Dominican Sisters based in the United States. She serves as Co-Director of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN), along with Dominican Sister of Peace Cathy Arnold, OP, in helping the formation of Dominican novices.
Since August, Sisters Lorraine and Cathy have lived in the novitiate in St. Louis with two novices: Sister Rolande Kahindo Pendeza, of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, and Sister Phuong Vu, of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
When women first enter the Adrian Dominican Congregation, they are considered candidates or postulants and introduced to the life of the community. When they are approved to become novices, they enter into a two-year preparation for full participation in the life of the community.
“I feel called to be part of this [discernment process],” Sister Lorraine said. “I feel that God is saying, ‘There’s something at work here that is leading to the future that we might not yet fully see.’”
As directors, Sisters Lorraine and Cathy conduct a structured program to help the novices in their discernment process through their canonical novitiate year, centered on personal and spiritual growth in preparation for vowed commitment. The novices and directors live together in the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate building.
The schedule includes a half day of ministry, courses on preaching and the vowed life at Aquinas Institute of Theology; classes at the novitiate on the Dominican life, community living, and communication skills; the weekly intercommunity novitiate, in which novices from nine congregations in the St. Louis area gather weekly for presentations on spirituality, psychology, and a number of issues and the opportunity to get to know one another; and a day of reflection every Friday.
In addition, the novices participate in community meetings, including monthly facilitated meetings, and participate in monthly panel discussions on one of the four pillars of Dominican life – prayer, study, community, and ministry – or one of the vows.
During the spring semester, the novices also participate in a Dominican life Seminar on Tuesdays and Thursdays, receiving various inputs on religious life and Dominican life in particular, Sister Lorraine said.
The novices also experience community living with each other and the two directors. “All four of us take turns leading prayer, preaching on Sunday evening, and cooking,” Sister Lorraine said. “We divide up the cleaning of the house – all of that is shared in community.”
In addition, Sisters Lorraine and Cathy each serve as director for one of the two novices, walking with their respective novice and helping her in her discernment of the vowed Dominican life. The two directors also work together to prepare the input sessions for the novices.
The directors also participate in peer supervision. “Cathy and I have different groups with five other novice directors, and we share our experiences.”
The two directors have been formation directors for their respective congregations, and both attended the CDN as novices. “The biggest difference is I was in a group of 12 novices,” Sister Lorraine said. “Now there are two. Because we’re smaller, the presence of the directors is really more critical to form vibrant community. We end up doing more socializing and fun activities together.”
The diversity of cultures and backgrounds has also made community life a rich experience this year, Sister Lorraine said. Sister Rolande is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sister Phuong from Vietnam. “I continue to learn the richness of different ways of doing things and perceiving things, especially related to culture, but also personality,” Sister Lorraine said.
Sister Lorraine has also been enriched by her ministry with the novices. “When you walk with people, it always helps you to deepen your own vocation,” she said. “I’ve grown deeper in my appreciation of the vows and community life.”
Through her work with the CDN Board, Sister Lorraine said, she has come to feel “more a part of the larger Dominican family. This is an effort of the Dominican family, so I feel that perspective is even more present in my mind as I look to the future of our life.”
Sister Lorraine noted that fewer novices have been attending the CDN in later years, but that her role is still important. “In prayer I always get the message, ‘This is what I’m asking of you and it’s important.’ It’s about something bigger than the novitiate year. I get a sense that it’s about our future – it’s about our Dominican future.”
Sister Lorraine had some advice for others who might consider a ministry such as hers. “Ask yourself if you find joy in walking with people as they discern, because that’s the primary purpose – walking with women who are discerning this call. And make sure you feel a passion for our life, for our charism and for our vowed life, so you can transmit that passion.”