New class begins year of service with orientation

Above: This year’s class of Dominican Volunteers with Sisters Marcella Connolly, OP and Mary Kremer, OP. In 1973, Sisters Marcella and Mary founded the Apostolic Volunteers program that grew into DVUSA.


Dominican Volunteers USA

Eighteen young women and men were commissioned as the newest class of Dominican Volunteers on Aug. 12 after a week-long orientation at Sinsinawa Mound, the motherhouse of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters in Wisconsin.

The week began on the eve of St. Dominic’s Day with young adults arriving from as far as California and Connecticut. Of the 18 newest lay members of the Dominican Family, 12 are women and six are men. Two are are returning for a second year of service. Three are from Notre Dame and three are from Dominican University (River Forest, Illinois); two are from Dominican University of California (San Rafael) and two are from Edgewood College (Madison, Wisconsin). Other alma maters represented include Ohio Dominican University (Columbus), St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, New York), University of Dayton (Ohio), St. Mary’s (South Bend, Indiana), and Villanova (Pennsylvania). New schools represented this year include the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Molloy College (New York), and Barry University (Miami, Florida).

There were presentations and reflections on the Order of Preachers (Sister Janet Welsh, OP, Sinsinawa); Dominican spirituality (Sister Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP, Sinsinawa), even the Dominican Call to Justice and Climate Change (Sister Margaret Mayce, OP, Amityville). The volunteers were introduced to Liturgy of the Hours and Dominican Praise by Sister Mary Ellen Winston, OP (Sinsinawa), then saw a powerful performance on the life of St. Catherine of Siena by the talented one-woman show that is Sister Nancy Murray, OP, Adrian. Alum/Trustee Sara Brabec (2009) and her fiancee Patrick Gilday (former Jesuit Volunteer) led sessions on creative forms of prayer. Many thanks to all who came together and graciously donated their time and expertise to prepare this group for ministry.

One highlight of the week was meeting the sowers of the seeds planted in 1973 that became DVUSA: Sister Marcella Connolly, OP and Mary Kremer, OP. Sister Marcella, who is in retirement and living at the Mound, is the foundress of the Apostolic Volunteers, DVUSA’s largest predecessor program that began in 1973 and ran successfully until 1999 before DVUSA was born. After ministering in Bolivia until the 1970s, Sister Marcella returned to the United States, traveling to tell college students about her experience. She heard in them a yearning for opportunities to serve and to do so communally, so she took their desires and made it into a program for post-graduate service. We had the honor to simultaneously visit Sister Mary Kremer, OP who was visiting the Mound. Sister Mary easily saw Sr. Marcella’s vision in 1973 and used the inspiration to grow and establish Apostolic Volunteers for its first six years. Sister Marcella courageously planted the seed, and Sister Mary nourished it into life. We sung these women the Dominican blessing, expressed our deep thanks, and Sister Mary left the volunteers with the word “Life-Changer” to describe what they are about to encounter in ministry.

Visiting with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters: Volunteers Sarah and Ashley will be living in Penn Community this year, where Sisters Patty Caraher and Nora Ryan lived for 24 years!
Visiting with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters: Volunteers Sarah and Ashley will be living in Penn Community this year, where Sisters Patty Caraher and Nora Ryan lived for 24 years!

Now the Dominican Volunteers are beginning their year of service. Two are serving with Mission San Jose Dominicans at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco. Four are serving in Dominican ministries dedicated to foster care, home health care, global systemic change, and homelessness in the Bronx, New York, with a collaborative support group of five congregations (Amityville, Blauvelt, Caldwell, Hope, and Sparkill) and two dedicated alumni. Two are serving with Catholic Charities Refugee Programs in Atlanta, Georgia, with Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa. Chicago is home to two volunteer communities: Sinsinawa’s 20+-year old House of Connections and a new DVUSA-leased community hosting two Dominican Sisters of Springfield. There are 10 total volunteers serving in various ministries throughout Chicago.

May this year be one of great growth, deep faith, and joyful service for all, and please pray for all those showing the courage to serve and those, especially in community, whose support is making this year possible.

View more photos from the orientation on Facebook

DVUSA is the national service program of the Dominican Family. Each year, it places approximately 20 stipend volunteers in ministries of service throughout the nation. What makes the program unique is that volunteers share community with vowed religious Dominicans who mentor them in the Four Pillars of Dominican spirituality. The program’s office is based in Chicago, Illinois, at St. Pius V and has a staff of two former volunteers. The program celebrates its 15th anniversary as a national collaboration in 2015. Combined with predecessor programs beginning as early as 1973, it has more than 500 alumni!

For more information about Dominican Volunteers USA, visit their web site at