The Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt gathered Feb. 18-21 for their Chapter of Life and Mission, with the theme “Celebrating Grace: Our Lives Today and Tomorrow,” to chart the course of the congregation for the next six years.
On Friday, Sister Mary Malone officially opened the chapter during an evening prayer service facilitated by Sister Mary Ann Collins. Using the Gospel of the day and, “We cry out to you now—in this our Holy moment in time,” a line from the Chapter Prayer, Sister Kathleen McManus reflected on the themes of grace, impasse and hope. Following this, sisters and associates processed to Heritage Hall, where a litany of deceased sisters and associates was sung. Then, Arlene Flaherty welcomed all into the Huston Room, where the main events of the chapter would take place, with a blessing of the threshold—a place of crossing over into a new time and way of being.
Following preaching by Associate Linda Rutter and a brief ritual, Sister Carmelita Murphy (Grand Rapids) began the official chapter proceedings on Saturday morning. Sister Mary Malone continued with a reflection on the many ways in which sisters and associates have been graced, and have been the vehicle of grace for others, during the past six years. A panel of sisters shared the way in which the four focal points of Chapter—prayer/study, speaking truth to power, living justly and prophetic witness— impact the way in which they live out the mission of the congregation and of the Dominican Order.
In the afternoon, Sister Ardeth Platte (Grand Rapids) and Sister Carol Gilbert (Grand Rapids) presented ways in which they live out the four focal points, with an emphasis on living justly. According to Sister Carol, “Sixty cents of every dollar of U.S. spending goes to the military. Education and social services each receive less than 10 cents of every dollar. One way to live justly and speak truth to power is to contact your lawmakers about where you want Federal funding to go.” This point was really felt as the sisters face significant budget cuts in their ministries due to national, state, local and archdiocesan budget cuts supporting education and social services. “Praise to the Spirit of Justice, which blew throughout Chapter!” exclaimed Sister Diane Forrest, who chaired the Chapter Committee.
The focus of Sunday morning was, “Celebrating the Grace of Preaching,” which began with liturgical preaching by Sister Michaela Connolly. Sister Margaret Palliser (Sparkill), then presented on the topic of preaching from the pulpit of our lives using examples of well-known Dominicans, as well as some that are less remarkable historically, but certainly demonstrated preaching God’s love in their own way.
On Sunday afternoon, Sister Vivian Madden facilitated a prayerful discussion regarding the future of the Congregation, which resulted in a unified commitment to an “Enduring Future.” According to Sister Pat Howell, “We must live by the love we may never see. We voted unanimously for an Enduring Future, not knowing what that would look like, but having the faith and the trust to live into it.” There will be much work in the next few years to facilitate moving into an “Enduring Future,” but sisters and associates were certain that they have a specific charism which is still needed in the world and the Order.
The final day consisted of discussions regarding the election of leadership, which will occur on April 9. The Chapter Directives were presented and unanimously passed. Following the work of the Chapter of Life and Mission, Sister Barbara Werner preached at a celebratory liturgy. Please continue to pray for the congregation as they move towards the Chapter of Elections.
Story and photos courtesy of Jennifer Schaaf, communications director, Blauvelt Dominicans.