Dominican Women Afire
By Sister Patricia Connick, OP
“I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gifts God gave you when hands were laid upon you… bear your share of hardship with the strength that comes from God.” — from 2 Timothy
Nearly 130 enthusiastic women, 59 and younger or less than 10 years finally professed, from 16 congregations of the Dominican Sisters Conference, fanned the flames of our Dominican charism at a multicultural, bilingual gathering at the Oblate Center for Renewal in San Antonio, Texas this past Labor Day Weekend. We were indeed Dominican Women Afire (DWA)!
Throughout the weekend, we engaged in a creative process which focused mainly on deep, contemplative conversations with one another about our dreams and hopes for the future. We gathered in the company of 10 sister companions who simply listened to us and then offered their reflections. In addition, two “time travelers,” Catherine of Siena and Montesinos, were available for conversation throughout the weekend to individuals and table groups as desired. We sang full-throated as we prayed throughout the weekend: in church, outside, and in the conference room. On Saturday night, we enthusiastically danced as we playfully got to know each other.
As we prepared to leave San Antonio, we met in regional and congregational groups to make sure we were ready to bring back our experience and to follow through on the commitments we made.
The questions we considered may help you understand the focus of our “fire conversations” and the genesis of our action steps:
- (As I come to this conference): What needs to be ignited within me?
- (After watching a short video on what is happening in our world today…) As we allow the light of the charism to illuminate our present reality, how are the challenges/shifts of today inviting us to transformation? How might they be pointing to shaping our future?
- What are the questions, hopes, fears, dreams I hold about the future?
- What is a possibility or opportunity you would recommend to move us into the future? What has the capacity to influence Dominican life and mission?
- (After meeting with individuals holding similar interests in “fire conversations”): What is being ignited in me? For what am I grateful?
- As I hold all the proposed actions, what is this saying about our future? What is being ignited within me today? To what am I ready to commit myself as we move forward?
Five key foci emerged from the wisdom of those gathered:
- The Re-founding of Dominican Life for the 21st Century—Confident in the future of Dominican life and impelled by the mission, we claim a primary identity as Dominican sisters who come from a variety of congregations.
- The Vision and Structure to Support Dominican Sisters Afire—We will attend to elements and processes that are participatory, inclusive, and intentionally focused on the Holy Preaching with a spirit of generativity rather than diminishment.
- The Development of the Network—We envision a network among the members of this cohort that uses or develops existent Internet resources or creates new ones, to engage each other, build relationships and larger networks.
- The Commitment to Mission in the Moment—This includes responding to trauma on a global level through developing resources for training, assistance and information as well as working toward the creation of an inter-congregational, intentional community with one house focusing on a justice issue or systemic change.
- A Strategic Response to Unaccompanied Children that includes education, advocacy and public preaching of welcome.
Additionally several members agreed to move forward on the existent question: “What is Earth asking of us?” Another group agreed to focus on the study topic “YES to Transformation!” This includes topics such as systems thinking, nonviolent social change, nonviolent communication, and peace-building skills. Finally, many members signed up to add an additional 15 minutes of daily contemplative prayer devoted to the intentions of the Dominican Family.
A planning team will be formed (from approximately 40 that volunteered for it!) to lead the group forward. A delegation of four women from DWA will also be formed (from the 30 or so that volunteered) to communicate with those at the leadership meeting of the Dominican Sisters Conference in October.
We are most grateful to the GHR Foundation and to each of our leadership teams for their support of this energetic event.
I would like to close with this quote from our Jesuit brother, Teilhard de Chardin: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day for the second time in the history of the world, [we] will have discovered fire.”
Call us “pyrophiliacs,” for we have been reignited by our Dominican charism! Fuel its fire; fan its flames!
For more information and to view more photos from the event, visit the following links: