Update from 500th Anniversary Committee

500th_anniv_logoIn September 1510, when the Dominicans arrived at Hispaniola, they engaged in pastoral care of the Spaniards and evangelization of the natives. Very soon, the Dominicans became aware of the bad treatment the indigenous peoples received as they were forced to become servants of the Spaniards. Confronted with submission and oppression of the natives, the Dominican community dedicated long hours in meetings to study the problem in depth, until they decided to make a public denouncement of the atrocities.

The friars prepared the denouncement in the form of a sermon to which they gave long and hard deliberation, with the participation of the whole community. Once they decided on the text and wrote it down, it was signed by each one of the members of the community. Fr. Antonio Montesinos was commissioned by the community to preach this homily during the Advent Liturgy in 1511. We celebrate the 500th Anniversary of this significant preaching presence in the Western Hemisphere this upcoming Advent 2011.

In preparation of this 500th Dominican Anniversary, a steering committee has been formed by Sister Toni Harris, OP, to commemorate this event. We invite the Dominican Family to find ways to celebrate this preaching presence beginning with the First Sunday of Advent Nov. 27 and throughout the year 2012.


“I am a voice crying in the wilderness.” To a full congregation, Fr. Antonio Montesinos, OP preached against the oppression and enslavement of the native peoples of Hispaniola modern day Dominican Republic and Haiti. “Tell me, by what right or by what interpretation of justice do you keep these Indians in such a cruel and horrible servitude? By what authority have you waged such detestable wars against people who were once living so quietly and peacefully in their own land?”

How many places around the world can hear this cry today? This Advent, Dominicans in North American will mark the 500th anniversary of this soul stirring preaching with a call to remember its impact and recommit ourselves to the preaching mission of the Order. This was a community preaching, the OP community prepared it together and Fr. Montesinos was appointed the spokesperson.
As members of the Dominican Family in the Americas, we will begin to commemorate this important anniversary through a webcast on Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 at 8 p.m. EST, (7 p.m. CST). The program will focus on past and present issues challenging the Dominican Family in America. Rumor has it that Fr. Montesinos may make an appearance. This presentation will be live streamed at www.sinsinawa.org/live and also available for viewing afterwards by watching an online recording or by purchasing a DVD copy.

Call for Papers

What impact does the soul-stirring preaching of Fr. Antonio Montesinos, OP, have on Dominicans in the Americas today, 500 years after that first fire? Does this preaching of the community and the Dominican mission make any difference to our world now? What is the significance of this early Dominican community’s courageous act of speaking the truth to power? For today’s Church? For today’s world?

The Steering Committee of the 500th Anniversary of Dominicans in the Americas welcomes articles from historians, theologians, justice promoters and preachers of the Dominican Family to submit articles or papers for publication for the upcoming 500th Anniversary of this preaching which challenged the direction of the New World. Themes of the submissions may focus on historical events or persons, current issues of justice, reflections on Dominican life and spirituality. Length of articles is limited to 2,500 words. Suggested questions for reflection following the text for discussion for small groups are also welcome.

Submissions should be postmarked Oct. 1, 2011. Send papers by e-mail or post to: Lsiers6720@aol.com, or Lucianne Siers, OP, 1533 Parker Street, Bronx, NY 10462.

Call for Artists

Artists of all kinds, musicians, painters, poets, dancers, sculptors, photographers, film makers, playwrights and others are invited to express their ideas in new work that would connect with the current issues of justice particularly focusing on immigration, racism, military spending as well as with the history of the Dominican Order in the Western Hemisphere. Please do not send art work, but only send photographs of art with information regarding the size, medium to Lucianne Siers, OP: Lsiers6720@aol.com, 1533 Parker Street, Bronx, NY 10462.

Journey to Mexico

“A Journey of Solidarity to Mexico” December 2011 to honor the Preaching of the Community through our brother, Antonio Montesinos OP, December 1511 and the first Dominican community in the Americas. Itinerary: Dec. 1–10, Mexico City and Cuernavaca; Dec. 10–16, San Cristóbal and Tzimol in Chiapas. All are welcome!

A Journey of Solidarity will present dialogues among Mexican and American Dominicans in the work for social justice in the Americas. The Mexican Dominican Peace and Justice Commission with Dominican Friar Miguel Concha, OP will welcome the group in Mexico City. Dominican Sisters Kathy Long, Aline Ussel and Rosa Pérez will welcome the group at CCIDD in Cuernavaca. Dominican Laity Bet and Daniel Barrios will welcome the group at Tsomanotik, in Tzimol, Chiapas. For more details about our two centers, see www.manotik.org and www.ccidd.org.

For more information about the pilgrimage, contact: Sister Kathy Long, kathlong1@juno.com in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.

Universal Human Rights Conference
500 Year Anniversary of Antonio de Montesinos, OP
Dec. 2-4, 2011 in Washington, DC

Working with international partners, Alma College’s Public Affairs Institute and Center for Responsible Leadership, George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, and the Osgood Center for International Studies are hosting a conference focused on assessing what has been achieved in 500 years of human rights advocacy. The conference will include Sunday, Dec. 4, the conventionally identified date in 1511 when Antonio de Montesinos, OP, delivered a sermon developed by the community, in Santo Domingo calling for reform of Spanish policy toward the indigenous. That sermon launched a Spanish debate about the human rights of the Indigenous Peoples, which in turn contributed to later advocacy of the principle that human rights apply to all people, regardless of nationality.


  • A professional and graduate conference, for which papers are invited, will be held at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3.
  • A seminar focused on religion and human rights will be held at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and Foreign Affairs on Friday, Dec. 2.
  • An undergraduate conference, for which papers and panel proposals are invited, will be held at the Osgood Center for International Affairs in Washington on Dec. 2-3.
  • A celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Montesinos Homily prepared by the Friars in 1511, will be held at St. Matthews Cathedral, Washington, on Dec. 4.

Questions: E-mail montesinos@alma.edu or call 989-463-7203. Web site: humanrights500.org

Request for Co-Sponsorship:

Dr. Ed Lorenz of Alma College, chair of the academic conference is requesting any congregation, justice group, college/university to support this upcoming academic conference in Washington, DC. There is no cost, only support of their efforts. If you would like more information you can email Dr. Lorenz at lorenz@alma.edu.

Play: The Controversy of Valladolid

“The Controversy of Valladolid,” by Jean-Claude Carriere, English version by Richard Nelson, 1992. Contact info: Dramatists Play Service, 440 Park Ave. South, NYC 10016, www.dramatists.com.
After Europeans invaded the land, destroyed the culture, plundered natural resources and subjected thousands of people to servitude, torture and death, the church agonized over its question of the indigenous peoples: Are they human? Are they children of God? Based on a Spanish Papal Tribunal of 1550, this drama reveals the fate of millions of American natives by bringing to light the real-life debates whose outcomes are still felt today.

Movie: Tambien la lluvia (Even the Rain)

The film, “Tambien la lluvia” (Even the Rain) premiered in Traverse City, Michigan, at Michael Moore’s Film Festival. Moore had this to say about it: “Even the Rain is a brilliant movie. At a time when the poor of the world seem to be rising up, I found myself deeply moved and completely enthralled by this film. I encourage everyone in search of a great movie to go see Even the Rain.”

This fictional quest to make a film against all odds, is set against the back drop of the real life “Water Wars,” fought against the privatization of Bolivia’s water supply in the year 2000 and is anchored in the philosophies of historian Howard Zinn, as well as the stories of 16th century priests, Fathers Bartolome de las Casas and Antonio Montesinos, the first radical voices of conscience against an Empire. Read a review of the film by Prakash Anthony Lohale, OP, in Dominican Life | USA.

In the works…

Racism workshops will be available in your area. Sister Marcelline Koch, OP is organizing teams that will travel to regions to explore the issue of racism.

The International Indigenous Council of Thirteen Grandmothers is working to find a way to rescind the 1493 Papal Bull of Pope Alexander VI who declared that any Spaniard could take land in the new world as long as it was not inhabited by a Christian. We would like to assist them in this search to find a way to do this.

Request for assistance

We have come to know that there are several operas composed that include the Dominican presence in America in the 1500s. If you have any further information, would you please contact Anita Smesik, OP at anita@apimusic.org or Lucianne Siers at Lsiers6720@aol.com.

Anniversary Steering Committee

Toni Harris, OP
Chuck Dahm ,OP
Mary Sue Kennedy, OP
Margaret Mayce, OP
Dusty Farnan, OP
Tricia Buxton
Lucianne Siers, OP

For more information, contact Sister Lucianne Siers at Lsiers6720@aol.com.

Articles of Interest

In Evangelical Solidarity with the Oppressed: The Fifth Centenary Anniversary of the Arrival of the Order in America

Juan Manuel Péerez García, OP
Francisco Javier Martínez Real, OP

Seeing, Touching and Speaking the Truth: The First Dominicans in the Americas

Brian Pierce, OP