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By Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP
November 29, 2018, Negombo, Sri Lanka – The Justice Promoters of the Dominican Family from Asia and the Pacific gathered November 3-7 at Negombo, Sri Lanka, to discuss their efforts about bringing about justice and peace in the region. The countries of Taiwan, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, China, and the Philippines were represented.
Each congregation/province reported on their justice and peace initiatives, both the triumphs and the challenges in their respective countries for the past two years. The reports by the justice promoters provided the group with a comprehensive picture of the situation in the region.
Common justice and peace issues that surfaced from the country reports were poverty, government corruption, religious extremism, and environmental degradation. The group spent time reflecting on the challenges and opportunities for Dominican family collaboration.
The conference was an eye-opener, with rich input. Sister Christine Fernando and Ruki Fernando, Human Rights defenders from the host country, shared the situation of justice and peace in Sri Lanka. Sister Cecilia Espenilla, OP, from Dominican Sisters International, talked about human trafficking and touched on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Father Mike Deeb, OP, the Order's permanent delegate to the United Nations, shared on Dominican work at the United Nations and expounded on the role of the Dominican Justice and Peace Promoters.
When the delegation broke into small groups, meeting by country, the promoters – invigorated by what they had seen and heard from each other and from the speakers – were eager to brainstorm toward common goals.
The Philippines Justice Promoters identified four areas where collaboration is promising: the annual Dominican Month for Peace; being in solidarity with the families of the War on Drugs casualties; the Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign; and the ongoing formation of Dominicans committed to justice and peace.
The Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter in particular has committed to facilitate and oversee the assistance program for selected families of extra-judicial killing victims in the Diocese of Kalookan. Selected families will be mainly from the San Lorenzo in Dagat-Dagat, Navotas, a parish administered by Dominican Friars. The modules for psycho-social and spiritual healing that will be used in the assistance program were developed by the University of St. Tomas, Simbahayan, Community Development Office.
The extra-judicial killing of more than 4,000 people suspected of drug dealing or drug use is the result of the war of drugs initiated by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, elected in 2016.
By the end of the conference, delegates had completed drafts of strategic plans for each country and for the region, with the hope that these will be followed through to strengthen justice and peace promotion in Asia and the Pacific. It was indeed a fruitful conference.
Coming together and sharing with one another the work we do among marginalized people in our own countries, we justice promoters found renewed hope and encouragement to continue our efforts. To quote from the conference statement, we say, “Thus we continue the journey, step by step, confident in the knowledge that even in small actions, we can contribute to the in-breaking Reign of God.”
August 31, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – When students begin the academic year at Dominican high schools, some will have much to say about the Dominican heritage. More than 100 students representing 19 schools left the 20th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference in Adrian with a greater understanding of the Order of Preachers – and with specific action plans for expanding their classmates’ awareness of the Dominican family and spirituality.
The 2018 conference was in late June at Siena Heights University in Adrian included many events and activities that made tangible the spirit of the Dominican order.
“The conference is a wonderful place to learn how you can involve yourselves and your schools more in the Dominican faith,” said Lucia Wileman, a student at Rosary High School in Aurora, Illinois.
Her classmate, Abby Homer, added, “I can’t wait to bring this knowledge back to my school.” Rosary High School is sponsored by the Springfield Dominican Sisters.
Sister Mary Soher, OP, an Adrian Dominican Sister and Director of the Conference called the event a wonderful success, thanks to the quality of the presenters, welcoming hospitality at the Siena Heights University and Adrian Dominican Motherhouse campuses.
Along with Adrian Dominican Sisters, sponsoring Dominican congregations and provinces were Dominican Sisters of Amityville, New York; Caldwell, New Jersey; Houston, Texas; Mission San Jose, California; Peace in Columbus, Ohio; Racine, Wisconsin; Sinsinawa, Wisconsin; Sparkill, New York; Springfield, Illinois; and the Friars from the Province of St. Albert the Great.
The young preachers first learned about some of the better-known Dominican saints from Patrick Spedale, campus minister at St. Pius X High School in Houston, Texas, who portrayed St. Dominic; Sister Nancy Murray, OP, Adrian, as St. Catherine of Siena, a 13th Century mystic, reformer, and Doctor of the Church; and Sister Marilín Llanes, OP, Adrian, as St. Antonio Montesinos, noted for speaking out on behalf of the indigenous people of Hispaniola who were exploited by the Spanish conquistadors. Brother Joseph Kilikevice, OP, of the St. Albert the Great Province, spoke on the interfaith mission of the Order.
Throughout the conference, students learned various ways to preach the Word of God, in addition to the more traditional preaching at the pulpit. “Dominican life isn’t just about words,” noted Madison Schomer, a student of Rosary High School. “Your actions are really the game changers.”
During the session on Preaching the Signs of the Times, the students learned about various social justice issues, including immigration, interconnectedness of life on Earth, women’s pay equity, and justice issues.
Representatives of various branches of the Dominican family were on hand to introduce the students to the diversity of Dominicans – Associates, Dominican Laity, Friars, Sisters, and Nuns.
Students also had the opportunity to spend time with Adrian Dominican Sisters and meet their Sister prayer partners during a social.
A part of one day of the conference was spent in preaching through action as participants served local charities.
Finally, Sister Barbara Schwarz, OP, Amityville, former President of the Dominican Institute for the Arts (DIA), gave a keynote address on Preaching through the Arts. Participants experienced preaching through specific arts during breakout sessions that included liturgical dance, preaching, and visual arts.
During the closing banquet, Sister Mary recalled the history of the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference. Sister Gina Fleming, OP, Amityville, who started the National College Preaching in Action Conference in 2002 for Dominican colleges and universities, received the Sister Pat Brady Award for her involvement in spreading the Dominican charism to young people.
During the closing Commissioning Mass, Dominican high school students took their place as young Dominicans, preparing to deepen the Dominican heritage in their classmates back home through specific action plans.
“You opened your hearts and minds to the presentations and to each other,” Sister Mary told the young Dominican preachers. “You took seriously the invitation to contemplate and then act. You generously shared your gift of yourself to every person around you. … Each of you opened yourself to the grace of God. And that’s all that God asks.”
The fruits of the conference and of the young preachers’ learning will be seen in the coming school year, as the students enact their plans to deepen the Dominican heritage at their high schools.
Feature photo (top): Students from a Dominican high school present an action plan for bringing the Dominican spirit to the school this year.
Clockwise from left: Students practice their preaching skills during a Liturgical Preaching workshop presented by Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP. High school preachers participate in a rosary procession through Holy Rosary Chapel. Sister Aneesah McNamee, OP, demonstrates the art of folding paper cranes.