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July 3, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The campuses of Siena Heights University and the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse were a beehive of energy, joy, and community June 25-30, 2019, as 76 students and their mentors from 18 Dominican High Schools participated in the 21st Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference.
“I’ve been very fortunate to meet a lot of other people and I’ve become very welcomed into this Dominican community,” said Grace Rado, a student from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois. “I’ve found that there are a lot of other young people who are on the same path, and we’re all learning to walk in God’s light and to preach.”
That is the intention of the preaching conference, which forms students from Dominican high schools in the Dominican spirituality of preaching – not just from the pulpit, but through their lives. The conference is structured to teach students the various ways Dominicans preach – and to encourage them to take what they learn at the conference back to their schools. Participants also plan and participate in prayer services, get to know one another at meals and other social events, and discuss the day’s events each night with specially organized groups.
The students first learned to preach in the Dominican tradition through portrayals of St. Dominic by Patrick Spedale, a mentor and teacher at St. Pius X High School, Houston; St. Martin de Porres by Brother Herman Johnson, OP, of the St. Martin de Porres (Southern) Province, and St. Catherine of Siena, by Adrian Dominican Sister Nancy Murray, OP.
In later sessions, students studied the signs of the times through sessions on the social justice issues of immigration, racism, exclusion of persons with disabilities, and human trafficking. Reinforced by their review of social justice issues, participants then spent a full day learning to preach in action through service at agencies in the Adrian area.
On the last full day of the conference, students attended workshops by Dominican artists to learn how to preach through the arts. Among the presenters were Adrian Dominican Sisters Tarianne DeYonker, OP, on the labyrinth as a tool of contemplation; Sara Fairbanks, on liturgical preaching; and Luchy Sori, OP, on liturgical movement.
The closing Liturgy – celebrated with the Sisters in St. Catherine Chapel – was an exuberant experience as the students were sent off to their homes and their schools to continue their preaching.
“We have taken the time to listen to each other, to fan the fire inside each person to let God’s love shine forth like the stars in the night sky,” Sister Mary Soher, OP, an Adrian Dominican Sister and Director of the Preaching Conference, told the students. “From such a wondrous week, how do we leave each other?” She encouraged them to consider their going back to their homes and schools as another call from God. “You gave your all to come here, and I know you will do no less for those whom God loves back home.”
Each school group then came forward to announce their commitment for the coming year: from organizing creative prayer services and teaching their classmates about different types of prayer to emphasizing the four Dominican pillars of prayer, study, community, and ministry or preaching, and educating them about social justice issues.
“It has been very humbling,” said Sean Repinski, of Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. He said he appreciated the opportunity “to come together as a group with other Dominicans and see how they do things differently, and what we can take back to our school to enhance our preaching experience.”
Feature photo (top): Patrick Spedale portrays St. Dominic in a dramatic account of the saint’s life and his founding of the Order of Preachers.
Top, from left: Sister Mary Soher, OP, Director of the Preaching Conference, addresses the assembly. Students prepare the altar during the exuberant offertory hymn, “We Come to your Feast.”
Bottom, from left: Students from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, present their commitment to enhance the Dominican spirit at their school. Students from St. Agnes Academy in Houston share a laugh with Sister Joan Baustian, OP, during the ice cream social, which brought together the young preachers and their prayer partners.
June 28, 2019, Detroit – Members of Dominican High School’s Class of 1979 learned well a value that their Adrian Dominican teachers sought to instill in them: generosity to people who are in need.
They showed that generosity recently during an informal gathering with Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, when they paid tribute to her and other Adrian Dominican teachers. They presented a check for about $12,000 for Gianna House, a residence for pregnant teens and for teen mothers and their newborns – and a supportive center for all pregnant women. Sister Theresa is co-director.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters founded Dominican High School, an all-girls school in Detroit, in 1940. The school was closed in 2005.
“In our junior year, the Adrian Dominicans taught us the importance of serving those in need by encouraging us to create a mission project to raise money for an organization that improved the lives of others,” Lisa Gigliotti, Vice President of the Class of 1979, explained in an email. Lisa organized the efforts of her class to forgo a formal 40-year reunion and instead to “signify this milestone by giving back to the beautiful women who served us then and continue to serve others. We wanted to honor our 40th reunion by engaging in a second mission project, this time to support Gianna House and our most enthusiastic biology teacher, Sister Theresa Mayrand’s commitment to provide a safe residence and resources for pregnant women.”
They chose to donate to Gianna House “in honor of the enthusiasm and love that Sister Theresa taught us, alongside other amazing women, such as Sister Joan Weitz, Sister Peggy White, Sister Peggy Manners and Sister Karen Leitz,” Lisa explained.
Lisa said members of the class reached out to 50 to 60 of their classmates to raise the funds. “My thought was that if other alum or persons touched by the Adrian Dominicans might see a mention of a mission-oriented reunion, they might be inclined to make a reunion or tribute to the Adrian Dominicans or their causes.”
Grace Niedbala McKeel, President of the Class of 1979, said that her class’s 40th anniversary gave her the opportunity to reflect on the teachers and classmates who had influenced her life. “Sister Suzanne Schreiber always inspired me with her art and photography and hunger for social justice,” she wrote in an email. “Any hearing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus brings Sister Mary Alice Naour to mind. When I think of Sister Peggy Manners I also picture Sister Karen Lietz right alongside her – what a team!”
Another classmate, Laurie Bliss, wrote about the influence of her Adrian Dominican teachers. “Sister Joan Weitz was someone who gave me the right balance of discipline, structure, and acceptance so that I felt safe and could focus on education and fun. Sister Joan helped give me the foundation to take on life’s ups and downs, to keep smiling, to try to make a positive difference in all I do. … Sister Joan showed me what grace and humility look like.”
Sister Theresa, for her part, said she enjoyed the two-hour visit at Gianna House and a pizza dinner with seven members of the Class of 1979. “I hadn’t seen them in 40 years,” she said. “It was nice.”
Sister Theresa, a science teacher at Dominican High School, said the students especially enjoyed her course on the physiology of women, which had been developed by a colleague and augmented by Sister Theresa. The popular course, which included guest speakers such as midwives, helped the students to understand women’s health and sexuality.
“I was so proud to hear how much they appreciated Dominican High School,” Sister Theresa said. “The way they talked about us teaching them to be their own women and learning to think for themselves made me very proud of Dominican High School.”
Feature photo: Gathered in front of Gianna House are, from left, Mary (Chisholm) Jordan, Cindy (Seguin) Yamamoto, Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, Lisa Gigliotti, and Moira Sheehan. The women with Sister Theresa are all members of the Dominican High School Class of 1979.