By Gina Fleming, OP
Rejoice with me, my sisters and brothers, for 36 new college preachers have been added to our family! During the week of May 22nd, 36 students from Dominican universities/colleges, or colleges with a Dominican presence, gathered at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York, for the 11th National “Preaching in Action” Conference. Participating universities/colleges included Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut; Barry University, Florida; Dominican College, New York; Dominican University, California; Dominican University, Illinois; Edgewood College, Wisconsin; Furman College, South Carolina; Molloy College, New York; Ohio Dominican University, Ohio; Siena Heights University, Michigan; St. Thomas Aquinas College, New York; and the University Central de Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
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.
The conference began with a brief history of Dominic and the Order, 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.
Flor de Maria Buruca, OP, a native of El Salvador, introduced a contemporary sister’s story. She spoke to the students about her difficult journey to America and to the Dominican Sisters of Amityville. And Cheryl Mrazik, from Catholic Relief Services, presented some thought-provoking information on “Preaching in a Globalized Culture.” The next day, Margaret Mayce, OP, UN-NGO representative for the Dominican Sisters Conference, introduced us to her work at the UN which was followed by a trip to the United Nations. A walking tour of New York City was next. Despite the pouring rain, the students and mentors enjoyed their time in our great city.
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 Inn (a soup kitchen) in Hempstead, to at-risk students at the Christian Brothers elementary school; to the earth at Sophia Garden on the grounds of the Dominican Sisters of Amityville motherhouse, the poor immigrant at North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead, to the elderly at the Amityville Motherhouse., to immigrant women wanting to learn English at The Opening Word Program in Amityville.
Again this year, 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. Dr. Maureen Carey, Nancy Murray, OP; Sara Fairbanks, OP; Ancilla Keinberger, OP; Cynthia Velasquez, Dominican Volunteer; 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 student participants. 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, which was attended by many of our sisters, associates and parents, each college group presented an action step which will be initiated by those who attended; in addition, 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 19–25 at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York. More information will be posted on the College Preaching conference web site.
Sister Gina Fleming is director of the National College Preaching Conference and the Promoter of Youth for the Dominican Sisters of Amityville, New York.