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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 13, 2019, Adrian, Michigan – The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, in Iraq, have returned to their community on the Nineveh Plain after years of internal displacement in Northern Iraq – and are now ministering to people there. But, as they rebuild their lives they depend on prayers from the Dominican family.
That was the message that Sister Clara Nas, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, brought to Sisters in the Adrian Dominican Congregation during a recent presentation in Adrian.
Sister Clara was in Adrian during her first trip to the United States to visit Sister Raghad Saeed, OP, in Adrian for the summer during a break from her doctoral studies in nano- technology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Sister Raghad translated Sister Clara’s talk.
The Sisters – and thousands of other Christians and religious minorities – were forced out of their homes on the Nineveh Plain in 2014 when ISIS arrived. While living in northern Iraq, the Sisters ministered in the refugee community by establishing schools and clinics, and providing spiritual support and presence.
Sister Clara said she met with the General Council of her community many times to plan their return home, after it was liberated from ISIS. “It was difficult to make the decision because of the unstable condition in Nineveh,” she said. Ultimately, they decided to return to Qaraqosh and other cities in the area, where most of the Christians were returning.
“Through all things, we are women of faith and hope, so the Sisters continue to accompany our Christian people in this area, to serve the people spiritually and morally, to live close to them and live with them in solidarity,” Sister Clara said.
They found their homes, convents, and churches destroyed or severely damaged and are rebuilding their lives. “We needed to work, fix, and repair what ISIS destroyed and burned,” Sister Clara said. The rebuilding is taking place with the help of Christian humanitarian organizations and the Dominican family in the United States and Europe.
Because their convent was destroyed, the Sisters moved into a small house in the Kurdistan area and other small convents in the areas where they minister. Among other ministries, the Sisters opened a kindergarten in Erbil and a primary school in Ankara. They continue to minister in Baghdad – both in a hospital and in a school with an enrollment of 560 Christian and Muslim students.
To answer a question about what U.S. citizens should do in light of a possible war with Iran, Sister Clara asked that they write to government officials, encouraging them not to bomb Iran. Iraq would be in the middle of such a war. “We need a simple thing – to live in peace,” Sister Clara said. “Just leave us to live in peace and that is all that we need. We can help each other and we can build again, but we need a safe area – not a war zone.”
Sister Clara also asked the U.S. Dominican family and the people of the United States to pray for them. “Please continue to pray for us because we need that, and we are so grateful for your help, for your support, for your solidarity with us.”
As a tangible sign of their gratitude, Sister Clara presented the Adrian Dominican Sisters with an altar cloth, hand-sewn and embroidered by the Dominican Sisters from Iraq. The altar cloth was placed on the altar in St. Catherine Chapel for the Feast of Pentecost on Sunday, June 9, 2019.
Watch the entire video of Sister Clara’s presentation below.