By Sister Mary Soher, OP
Director, Dominican High School Preaching Conference
Where do Dominicans preach? Where don’t they preach!
Ninety-eight participants of the 13th Annual Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference decided to keep the excitement and ignite their schools with their experience June 25–30, 2011. Twenty-two Dominican high schools gathered at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. The conference began by building community and getting to know each other during the opening ritual. Our days began and ended with prayer, each created and led by the participants.
Sunday began with visits from St. Dominic and St. Catherine portrayed by Mr. Patrick Spedale and Sister Santina De Luca (Springfield) and a presentation about the four pillars of the Dominican charism, prayer, study, community and preaching by Mr. Michael Petro. Our American saints joined us in the afternoon, St. Rose of Lima, St. Martin de Porres, and Antonio Montesino, also known as Sister Rosa Monique Pena (Adrian), Brother Herman Johnson (Southern Province), and Father Jim Barnett (Central Province). By evening, the group was ready for interfaith dances presented by Brother Joe Kilikevice (Central Province).
Social justice topics were presented on Monday. Students and adults attended four of six presentations. Topics and presenters included immigration by Father Brendan Curran (Central Province), the United Nations and the Millennium Development Goals by Sister Margaret Mayce (Amityville), our family in Iraq by Sisters Ban Saaed (St. Catherine of Mosul) and Beth Murphy (Springfield), Catholic social teaching by Sister Marie Danaher (Amityville), human trafficking by Sister Judy Morris (Peace), and missions in Africa by Sister Mary Brenda (Houston). The afternoon finished with a wrap up by Sister Durstyne Farnan (Adrian), the outgoing co-promoter for Justice of North America.
Tuesday was a day to share our enthusiasm and gifts with the Adrian community. Again, students and adults immersed themselves among the vulnerable populations and earth community. Returning to campus, the group joined the motherhouse community for its Tuesday evensong prayer for peace before enjoying time with their wisdom sister prayer partners.
Wednesday was a day to explore preaching through the arts. Sister Barbara Schwarz (Amityville) began the day with a multi-method art keynote involving sound, movement and color. Participants then choose among the following workshops: monoprint by Brother Doug Greer (Central Province), liturgical movement by Sister Luchy Sori (Adrian), t’ai-chi chih by Sister Mary Brenda (Houston), liturgical preaching by Sister Sara Fairbanks (Adrian), colored pencil mandalas by Sister Barbara Schwarz (Amityville), rosary making with either Sister Ban Saaed (St. Catherine of Mosul) or Sister Jean Patrick Ehrhardt (Springfield), collage with Sister Xiomara Mendez-Hernandez (Adrian), dances of inclusion by Brother Joe Kilikevice (Central Province), or taize with Sisters Melissa Blankestyn (Springfield) and Teresia Scheuer (Adrian). The day ended with the awards banquet in which Brother Joe Kilikevice (Central Province) was presented with the Sister Patricia Brady Award.
Thursday marked the sending of the conference participants back to their school communities. At St. Catherine Chapel at the Adrian sister’s motherhouse, students presented the action plans of what they would bring back to their schools as well as fully participating as ministers in the closing liturgy. The enthusiasm and sincerity of these young adults not only carried with them through the summer as they shared their return and reflections on their Facebook page, but also manifested with accountability posts as the year began. Briana Acosta (St. Agnes Academy TX) said, “It will open your heart to others and God in a deeper way!” Christopher Vance (Dominican High School) shared, “The conference was the best religious experience so far in my life. I loved seeing kids my age that were just as excited as I am about my faith.” Taylor Brockman (Dominican High School) added, “Amazing experience that has allowed me to grow as a person, a friend, and a preacher.”
These young preachers have presented at faculty staff retreats (Marian Catholic High School and St. Mary’s Dominican High School), presented the 4 pillars (Sacred Heart Griffin High School, St. Agnes Academy TX, Our Lady of the Elms, Fenwick High School), created a Faces of Christ poster (St. Catherine High School), presented reflections (St. Mary’s Dominican High School), reached out in prayer to the east coast schools during Hurricane Irene (Rosary High School), and coordinated activities for the International Day of Peace (Regina Dominican High School and St. Mary’s Dominican High School). Additionally, students from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Marian Catholic High School, San Domenico, and St. Thomas Aquinas High School are fund raising with Sister Mary Brenda (Houston) to drill a borehole for water in Africa.
Next year’s conference will be June 26–July 1, 2012 at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. More information can be found at www.domlife.org/opteens or contact Sister Mary Soher (Adrian) at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.