Sisters observe Year of Dominican Women and Preaching

springfield_women_preachby Sister Barbara Blesse, OP

“Our Prouille Conversations have raised scripture study and the sharing of its fruits to new heights for me.” This comment from Sister Philip Neri Crawford, OP is her initial response to one of the efforts that the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, have chosen to mark 2012 as the Year of Dominican Women and Preaching.

Legend has it that St. Dominic often visited his sisters in Prouille before and after he and his brothers engaged in their preaching ministry. No doubt, in the course of these supportive conversations, the sisters exerted a measure of influence on Dominic’s preaching and thus participated in the preaching ministry. In like manner, 22 sisters at the congregation’s motherhouse are gathering with Fr. Peter Witchousky, OP, their chaplain, throughout this next year to participate in “Prouille Conversations.”

On a rotating basis, four or five sisters meet with Fr. Peter for an hour once a week to discuss the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday and share with one another the impact these scripture passages have on their everyday lives.

The group uses a process adapted from the U.S. Bishops’ 1982 document, “Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Homily in the Sunday Assembly,” to guide their preparation and conversations. Sister Mary Harris, OP observes that the sharing has been “extremely positive” and “most enjoyable” as the sisters reflect on how the scriptures relate not just to themselves personally but also to how they might shape our Church and our world. Sister Sharon Wiertz, OP remarks: “Listening to each member widens my perceptions of what the author was getting at… and the culture of the people in that time. I enjoy reading from the commentaries and sharing with the others in the group.” Sister Laurentia Fenlon, OP considers it a “gift to spend time with the readings for the Sunday liturgy” as she “looks forward to what the others in the group have ‘gleaned’ from the readings.” Fr. Peter, too, has found the sessions “an enrichment,” and shares that: “The range and depth of insights that have been shared have been very helpful in my preaching and reflection on the Sunday scriptures.” And so the conversations continue!

Another way the Springfield sisters have chosen to highlight this special year of jubilee includes inviting sisters to preach more formally once a month at Sunday evening prayer in the motherhouse chapel. Associates are invited to join with the sisters for this time of prayer, followed by dinner together.

In addition, at the initiative of the Springfield Dominican Preaching Committee, communal Study Days will take place July 26–30. During those days, the congregation’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee, its Ongoing Formation Committee, its Anti-racism Team, and its Associate Committee will collaborate with the Preaching Committee to offer presentations under the overall theme of “Informing the mind—transforming the heart.” This entire event will underscore the diverse ways that God’s Word is proclaimed and carried to others as Dominican women and men preach “from the pulpit” of their lives.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield rejoice in the opportunity to join the entire Dominican Order in celebrating the many and varied gifts that Dominican women bring to the ministry of preaching!

Sister Barbara serves on the Leadership Team for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.