By Sister Gina Fleming, OP
During the week of May 22, 35 students from Dominican universities/colleges or colleges with a Dominican presence gathered at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, for the 10th national “Preaching in Action” conference.
These young people came together to learn about the Dominican charism of preaching and how that charism can be incorporated into their own lives and passed on to others. They were given the opportunity to experience themselves as preachers using the mediums of art, dance, drama, and music. Once again this year, we were also blessed with some new mentors, and two new schools who were experiencing the conference for the first time.
Participating universities/colleges included Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut; Caldwell College, New Jersey; Dominican College, New York; Dominican University, California; Dominican University, IllinoisL; Edgewood College, Wisconsin; Molloy College, New York; Mt. St. Mary’s College in New York; University of Missouri; Siena Heights University, Michigan; St. Catherine’s College, Louisville, Kentucky; St. Thomas Aquinas College, New York; and for the first time, the University Central de Bayamon from Puerto Rico.
The conference began with a brief history of St. Dominic and the Order of Preachers, complete with an array of Dominican songs. There was definitely a Dominican Spirit in the air! A presentation depicting “Dominicans Through the Ages” welcomed some of our Dominican saints to the conference. Mary of Magadala, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Rose of Lima, and Antonio de Montessino spoke about their lives and their own call to preach in the early years of the Order. Joe Kilikevice, OP highlighted the interfaith mission of the Order by introducing the students to dance and song from a variety of different faiths.
Sister Luma Khudher, OP, from Iraq, introduced the students to her congregation while helping them visualize life in Iraq now. And Jessica Howell, from Catholic Relief Services, presented some thought-provoking information on “Preaching in a Globalized Culture.” The next day, Sister Margaret Mayce, OP, introduced us to her work at the United Nations as NGO representative for the Dominican Sisters Conference, followed by a trip to the Pilsen Neighborhood where Brother Brendon Curran, OP spoke to the students and sent us out on a walking tour of the neighborhood. After two days of studying these difficult topics, it was a welcomed respite to go to Navy Pier, where the students and mentors enjoyed the many shops and great company.
On the next day the participants were ready to put their “preaching into action.” They spent the day in immersion sites ministering to the poor at the Pilsen Neighborhoods soup kitchen, the children of San Miguel School, caring for the earth at Urban Habitat, ministering to former incarcerated peoples at St. Leonard’s Ministries, helping the elderly at H.O.M.E., and working with immigrants wanting to learn English at Casa de Providencia. Once again we added time for “Theological Reflection.” There was a wonderful sharing of stories, people, reactions, fears, attitudes, and underlying issues. Many of the students were so moved by their experiences that they made commitments to get more involved with their own communities back home.
Barbara Schwarz, OP concluded the week’s presentations by awakening the participants to “The Art of Preaching.” Her interactive and hands-on presentation was a great introduction to the “Preaching through the Arts” day. Doug Greer, OP; Nancy Murray, OP; Sara Fairbanks, OP; Sharon Bossler, OP; Ami Omi, MaDonna Thelen, OPA; and Sister Barbara presented additional breakout sessions for the students to use their creative energies.
Highlighting the conference are the morning and evening prayer services prepared by the students. Students use their creativity, musical talents and giftedness of voice to lead the entire group in prayer which begins and ends each day. This is but one of the elements of the conference that students enjoy immensely and plan on recreating on their college campuses. At the closing liturgy, each student presented his or her individual action plan which is a vehicle for incorporating what they learned at the conference into their own lives and the life of their campus. It was moving to witness each student making a commitment to continuing the “Holy Preaching.” Each then received the Dominican Cross and was commissioned to go forth and preach the “Good News” to their fellow students.
As you can see, it was a jam-packed week, full of opportunities for study, community, prayer and mission/preaching. Upon leaving, these young people feel part of our Dominican Family and will forever be connected. Wherever they go, they will be preachers of God’s love, God’s peace and God’s justice for all!
Next year’s conference will be held May 21–26 at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York. For more information, visit the Preaching in Action Conference web site.