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Celebrating the Commencement are, from left, graduates Derek Rankins Jr., and Aisha C. Young; Dr. C. Reynold Verret, President of Xavier University of Louisiana; Joan Rutherford, aunt of graduate Aubry Osborn, who was absent due to illness; and graduates Princess McEvilley and Connie McCalla.

August 10, 2023, New Orleans, Louisiana – “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!”

That was the greeting that Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, gave to graduates, faculty members, and administrators at Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) in her commencement address for the IBCS Master of Theology Program. The three-week summer module focused on the theme, “Here I Am – Send Me.”

Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, former Director of the IBCS,
gives the commencement address.
Photo by Irving Johnson III, 2023 IBCS Commencement

Sister Jamie congratulated the graduates – Connie McCalla, Princess McEvilley, Aubry Osborn, Derek Rankins, and Aisha Young – for completing the module, part of the IBCS mission to prepare people for ministry with communities of Black Catholics. 

Sister Jamie also encouraged the assembly to rejoice that the graduates responded to God’s call. “They have committed themselves to theological study, to enhance and root their response to their call to engage in the Church’s ministry in the world. … Let us join our graduates in their promises to continue the mission of Jesus.” 

At a reception later in the day, the Adrian Dominican Sisters were recognized for endowing a $500,000 in Sister Jamie’s name. “Echoing our words of intention, IBCS Director Kathleen Dorsey Bellow said that we made it as an act of reparation for our complicity in the sin of racism and as an investment in the future that IBCS is creating,” said Prioress Elise D. García, OP, who accompanied Sister Jamie to the celebration. “They gifted us with a beautiful statue of a Sankofa bird, which symbolizes looking back at the past to make positive progress in the future.” 

For Sister Jamie, the brief visit to the IBCS was a return to the past, to an institute she was instrumental in founding. In October 1978, she participated in the Black Catholic Theological Symposium, which convened for the first time. Symposium participants proposed the IBCS as a way to sustain the efforts of Black Catholic theologians. Sister Jamie and Father Thaddeus Posey, OFM Cap., then met with the President of Xavier University to start the IBCS. “We had a great meeting with the president, and he agreed to it,” she recalled. 

From left, Sister Elise D. García, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation; Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, SSF; and Father Roy A. Lee, PhD, IBCS Associate Director
Photo by Irving Johnson III, 2023 IBCS Commencement

Sister Jamie joined the faculty of IBCS after receiving her doctorate in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America. She went on to serve on the faculty of the IBCS and directed the Institute for eight years.

“The purpose was to provide education for Blacks and non-Blacks to do effective ministry in the Black Catholic community,” Sister Jamie explained. “To do effective ministry in a community, you need to know the history and culture of that community and the social and cultural circumstances. You can only do that by being in the community.” 

Sister Jamie believes that the Institute has had an impact over the years, helping parishes nationwide. “We have Black Catholic parishes that have enculturated our liturgy,” helping them to create music, liturgy, and a style that reflects the Black community, she said. 

“The people in the pew get a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ by following the mission of Jesus in their particular context,” Sister Jamie said. “The fact that the Institute is still living suggests to me that this is something that God wanted to happen for us to guarantee an improved ministry in the Black Catholic community.”

Read more about the commencement ceremony in an article by Nate Tinner-Williams in Black Catholic Messenger. 

Students begin the closing Mass of the preaching conference with an energetic liturgical dance.

August 3, 2023, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Motherhouse and Siena Heights University campuses were alive in late August with the energy and enthusiasm of students and mentors from 14 Dominican high schools across the United States. The students came to Adrian to learn more about the Dominican Charism during the 22nd Annual High Schools Preaching Conference.

Sister Katherine Frazier, OP, Executive Director of the Dominican Youth Movement, offers a reflection during the closing Liturgy.

Members of the Dominican family – Sisters, Friars, Associates, and Laity – also participated in the Conference as presenters, leaders, and volunteers. Adrian Dominican Sisters serving as prayer partners for the students had the unique opportunity to meet the students during an ice cream social at the Motherhouse. 

Read more about the preaching conference in a press release by Sister Katherine Frazier, OP, Executive Director of the Dominican Youth Movement (DYM). Programs offered by the DYM include the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference, the National College “Preaching in Action” Conference, and Dominican Young Adults USA.




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