Dominican Volunteers USA Silent auction raises funds, honors relationships

Sister Mary Ellen O'Grady, OP (Sinsinawa), presented the third annual DVUSA Mission Award to alumni Claire Noonan and Anthony “Tony” Schmitz.
Sister Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa), presented the third annual DVUSA Mission Award to alumni Claire Noonan and Anthony “Tony” Schmitz.

By Michael Chapuran
Executive Director, Dominican Volunteers USA

Dominican Volunteers USA held its second annual Silent Auction at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, on April 20. The event raised more than $13,000 (and counting) for the post-graduate service program sponsored by 18 congregations and provinces in the U.S. Dominican Family.

The event was attended by the joint boards of DVUSA, friends, family, sisters, friars, plus more than 30 alumni and current volunteers. Favorite items to bid on were a signed St. Catherine of Siena Anthology by Sister Suzanne Noffke, OP (Racine), a Sinsinawa breadbasket, and an Infallible Ale brewed by the Student Brothers of the Eastern Province in Washington, D.C. The Auction Committee also sold “Praedicare” T-shirts and signed up monthly donors to the Torchbearer Monthly Giving Club in exchange for a black DVUSA fleece.

The program of the evening began with humorous and gracious words of welcome from Sister Alice Byrnes, OP (Amityville), co-chair of the DVUSA Corporation Board. DVUSA Executive Director Michael Chapuran then recognized Erica Greil, assistant director of DVUSA, for two years of service and recruiting the largest recruiting class to begin this fall that the program has ever seen! The seven Dominican Volunteers serving in the Midwest were all present and introduced, and one of them, Erin Hallagan serving in Chicago, was the evening’s preacher.

Chicago volunteer Erin Hallaghan, the evening’s preacher, received a standing ovation
Chicago volunteer Erin Hallaghan, the evening’s preacher, received a standing ovation

Erin shared a letter that she had written at Midyear Retreat in Springfield, Illinois, to her “pre-volunteer self.” It talked honestly about what to expect as a volunteer—both blessings and challenges. It resonated with the alumni in pointing out that sisters in community are human, but in that humanity inspire the volunteers to grow in their love of God and love of neighbor. Erin ministers in a domestic violence agency called Sarah’s Inn, and she shared the horrible tragedies she heard recounted by the women she serves in a bilingual support group. She ended the letter by inspirationally also recounting the women’s hope, resilience, and strength to turn from victims of violence to survivors. After sharing how the program is changing her life, Erin received a standing ovation from all present.

Sister Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa), president of the DVUSA Board of Trustees, was introduced to present the third annual DVUSA Mission Award to alumni Claire Noonan and Anthony “Tony” Schmitz—both volunteers with DVUSA’s largest predecessor service program, the Apostolic Volunteers (AV). Sister Mary Ellen remarked on the couple’s exemplary witness to the motto of the AV program: “At the heart of ministry is relationship.”

Claire served in Atlanta, Georgia, at St. Vincent de Paul. Tony served in Chicago, Illinois, at Visitation Catholic School. Both maintained relationships with the AV program after completing their service, Claire even as a co-director of the program for many years. Claire and Tony were two of the first board members of DVUSA when it began in 2001. Claire is currently the director of the Siena Center at Dominican University, which sponsors lectures, classes, and more to bring faith and scholarship to the critical issues of church and society—lectures in which Claire regularly includes the current volunteer communities.

Tony went on to earn a law degree, and uses that experience to volunteer pro bono at the legal clinic of his former ministry site—Visitation Catholic School—in addition to supporting their Junior Scholars Program. Both Claire and Tony have served on many boards dedicated to faith and service, including Claire with Catholics on Call and Tony with the Blessed Sacrament Youth Center in Chicago (a ministry founded by former AVs).

dvusa_musicThe program concluded with a musical performance by recent and current Dominican Volunteers as a tribute to the sisters and friars around the nation. Inspired by their service, current DV Megan Rupp sang re-written words to a song from “The Lion King” on Broadway, while a slideshow showed pictures of sisters and friars in ministry from every sponsoring congregation and province. Between choruses, current volunteers and alumni took turns offering short reflections about how a sister or friar impacted their life. Each story showed what makes this service program truly unique: The relationships in community between the vowed religious and the lay volunteers. As the lyrics of the chorus said best, “I live in you; You live in me / In every prayer; In every deed / We’ll be preaching love; To everyone we meet / I live in you; You live in me.”

The boards and staff of DVUSA would like to sincerely thank everyone for their participation, their support, and their prayers that made this the most successful event to date for the program. The funds raised will support the $100/month stipends of 10 volunteers next year!

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For more information about Dominican Volunteers USA, visit