From Aug. 4–10, the 14 newest Dominican Volunteers traveled from all over the United States to Maryknoll, New York, for their orientation to the Dominican Family and a year of faith-based service. It is hard to think of a better place to inspire the next class of volunteers than the Maryknoll motherhouse (hosted graciously by Sister Janet Hockman, MM and Sister Joan Berninger, MM), where sharing meals with the sisters uncovered stories and anecdotes from centuries of mission work in developing countries around the globe.
The week began with presentations on the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers by Brother John Blazo, on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners by Sam Stanton, and on the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic by Sister Theresa Baldini.
The week—which is always planned around the Feast of St. Dominic (Aug. 8)—included a mix of sessions, trips, and conversations. Sessions covered topics like the Dominican charism, forms of prayer (liturgical and creative), Catholic social teaching, simple living, communication and conflict, Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, and for the first time a Privilege Walk activity showing what institutional or societal circumstances move us forward or backward in our careers, schools, etc.
The session began with presentations on the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers by Brother John Blazo, on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners by Sam Stanton, and on the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic by Sister Theresa Baldini.
Sister Diane Capuano, OP (Amityville) provided a rousing history lesson as Saint Dominic. Sister Gina Fleming, OP presented on the Dominican Family Today. Sister Ginny Maguire, OP spoke on community life and simple living. Sister Margaret Mayce, OP shared about the Dominican mission at the United Nations. Sister Diane Morgan, OP led a talk on what it means to be Dominican. Sister Connie Kelly, OP (Hope) spoke on Catholic Social Teaching, and Sister Janet Marchesani, OP (Hope) led us in centering prayer and the Nine Ways of St. Dominic. Sisters Alice and Eleanor Uhl, OP (Caldwell) gave a stand-up comedy routine disguised as a presentation on Myers-Briggs. Sister Pat Wormann, OP (Caldwell) presented on communication and conflict. Fr. Walter Wagner, OP from the Province of St. Joseph taught the volunteers the spiritual foundations for the Liturgy of the Hours and Lectio Divina.
The volunteers celebrated St. Dominic’s Day Eve with the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt and St. Dominic’s Day with the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill. The volunteers prayed evening prayer with the congregations and then learned what being joyful is all about as they were treated to delicious feasts. To top it all off, they took the train to Manhattan and toured Ellis Island, St. Paul’s Chapel at Ground Zero, and spent the evening walking around Times Square and Central Park. That last day in Manhattan, God blessed them with symbolic waters of renewal from the heavens (i.e., they got drenched in the rain).
Before flying and driving to their ministry sites in San Francisco, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Racine, Chicago, New York City, and Atlanta, the volunteers were commissioned in a candle-lighting ceremony at Mass in Maryknoll, joined by alumna Kira Maffet (DV 2009–10). To thank the sisters for their hospitality, the volunteers joined voices and sang the Dominican Magnificat in three-part harmony (taught to them during the week by new DV Adam Deline).
Dominican Volunteers USA was started 10 years ago by 17 congregations of Dominican sisters and two provinces of Dominican friars. Recruiting volunteers mainly from Catholic and secular colleges and universities, the organization places them in ministry throughout the United States. They will minister to the economically poor and marginalized as teachers, tutors, job coaches, campus ministers, peace and justice advocates, and more—all sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as contemplatives in action.
What is unique about the Dominican Volunteers among the hundreds of volunteer groups? DVUSA offers professional development and lay formation, providing an opportunity for both professional and spiritual growth. DVUSA is also one of a small number of programs that adds the support of living with a community of men or women religious who serve as mentors for the volunteers in their ministry. Dominican Volunteers serve for one year with the option of renewing for another year. Besides new graduates, the volunteers also accept older men and women.
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Erica Greil and Michael Chapuran (DVUSA staff) and Sister Dolores Mitch, MM, provided material for this story