College Preaching Conference
By Sister Gina Fleming, OP
Rejoice with me, my sisters and brothers, for 57 new college preachers were added to the family! During the week of May 20, 57 students from Dominican universities/colleges or colleges with a Dominican presence gathered at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, New York, for the 12th National “Preaching in Action” Conference. Participating universities/colleges included Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut; Aquinas College, Michigan; Barry University, Florida; Caldwell College, New Jersey; Dominican College, New York; Dominican University, California; Dominican University, Illinois; Edgewood College, Wisconsin; Long Island University, New York; Molloy College, New York; Mount St. Mary’s College, New York; Nassau Community College, New York; Ohio Dominican University; Ohio; Siena Heights University, Michigan; St. Thomas Aquinas College, New York; University Central de Bayamon, Puerto Rico; and Yale University, Connecticut.
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. This year, we welcomed back Caldwell College and Mount St. Mary’s College. In addition, Long Island University, New York; Nassau Community College, New York; and Yale University were present for the first time, making this year’s conference, with 19 colleges represented, the most attended conference since its beginning 11 years ago.
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.
Mrs. Yanir Chaucon, a native of El Salvador, introduced us to the plight of the immigrant in our country. She spoke to the students about the difficulties facing today’s immigrants and the need for immigration reform that is just. Peggy Jean Craig from Catholic Relief Services presented some thought-provoking information on “Preaching in a Globalized Culture.” The next day, Sister Margaret Mayce, OP, our NGO representative, introduced our young preachers to a topic we are all familiar with “What is the Earth asking of the Order?” Sister Margaret showed the video to the students and then engaged them in conversation around the topic. All the presentations were well received and certainly raised the consciousness of our young people. A walking tour of New York City was next. Despite the threat of 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 the earth at Sophia Garden on the grounds of the Amityville motherhouse, the poor immigrant at North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead, to the elderly at the Amityville motherhouse, and to people who were still reeling from the effects of hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways at the St. Bernard Project.
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.
A new addition to this year’s conference was a presentation by the “Peace Poets,” a group of young men from Harlem whose poetry and rap speak to their desire for peace in our world. These young men definitely were a hit, as they “spoke, rapped, and sang” in a language that our young people could relate to. Those of us who are a bit older enjoyed them just as much! It was a fitting ending to our day of service.
Sister 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, Sister Nancy Murray, OP; Sara Fairbanks, OP, Mary Ann Euring, OP, Jessica Abejar, a former youth preacher, 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. The students also presented their individual action plans, which are 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 were commissioned to go forth and preach the “Good News” to their fellow students.
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 19–24 at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. More information will be posted on the College Preaching Conference web site as it becomes available.