August 3–9, Dominican Volunteers USA oriented its largest class in history—20 members—to begin a year of service! The new volunteers came from cities around the United States, most having just graduated college a few months earlier and never having met, to learn or refresh the charism of the Dominicans and build a foundation of pillars and relationships to sustain them in ministry.
The Dominican Volunteers represent many Dominican colleges, as the recruiting model for the organization has begun a three-year process to place more energy at these institutions of the Dominican Family. Six of the 20 volunteers are alumni from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois; two are from Edgewood College (Madison, Wisconsin); and two are from Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, Michigan). Also represented are Ohio Dominican University, Dominican University of California, Notre Dame, and many others.
After an introduction to the congregation in Blauvelt by Sister Michaela Connolly, OP, each day of orientation the volunteers focused on one of the four Dominican Pillars. Sunday focused on service. Volunteers reflected on what their motivations were to doing a year of service. Conversations over the dinner table with the Dominican sisters of Blauvelt helped them also focus and articulate their goals for the next year.
Monday brought a study of St. Dominic, St. Catherine, and the Dominican charism. Sister Margaret Mayce, OP (Amityville) gave an inspiring talk focused on the current work of the Dominicans to respond to the needs of the Earth, and she introduced the volunteers to the Dominican Call to Justice. The day ended in the evening as Sister Nancy Murray, OP (Adrian) performed an entire one-woman show covering the life and love of St. Catherine of Siena!
Tuesday was an active day learning and developing tools to live a common life. After reflecting on the meaning of interdependent community and doing a Myers-Briggs personality inventory, Sister Didi Madden, OP (Blauvelt) introduced the practice of Compassionate Communication and Nonviolent Communication.
Wednesday was devoted to the pillar of prayer, and Fr. Walter Wagner, OP (St. Joseph) led the volunteers in an experience of praying the Divine Office, articulating its rich history, traditions, and meanings. Sister Margaret Palliser, OP (Sparkill) used that foundation to teach prayers used from the Dominican Praise—an inclusive translation that many volunteers will utilize for morning and/or evening prayer during the year. In the afternoon, Sister Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa) led the volunteers in different experiences of prayer, from Lectio Divina to journaling to praying with the whole world… literally (they held a globe)!
Perhaps the highlight of the week was St. Dominic’s Day (Aug. 8) when the volunteers celebrated a noon feast with the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt and one by one were called up to receive a gift from the sisters. The group then made the short trip to Sparkill to be commissioned formally at a Mass with the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, where they met their sister prayer partners for the year.
DVUSA is honored to not only have 20 volunteers begin service, but also to have five of that number as renewing volunteers serving a second year: Drew Hileman, Angela Maiorano, Teresa Roll, Luke Sullivan, and Cynthia Velasquez. Volunteers are serving at ministries in the Bronx, Long Island, New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans, Indiana, Utah, and San Francisco/Redwood City, where they will be for the next 11 months.
Dominican Volunteers USA was started 13 years ago by 17 congregations of Dominican sisters and two provinces of Dominican friars. Recruiting volunteers mainly from Catholic and secular colleges and universities, the organization places them in ministry throughout the United States. They will minister to the economically poor and marginalized as teachers, tutors, job coaches, campus ministers, peace and justice advocates, and more—all sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as contemplatives in action.
What is unique about the Dominican Volunteers among the hundreds of volunteer groups? DVUSA offers professional development and lay formation, providing an opportunity for both professional and spiritual growth. DVUSA is also one of a small number of programs that adds the support of living with a community of men or women religious who serve as mentors for the volunteers in their ministry. Dominican Volunteers serve for one year with the option of renewing for another year. Besides new graduates, the volunteers also accept older men and women.
Rachel DeBruin is program and recruitment coordinator for Dominican Volunteers USA, and Michael Chapuran is executive director.