By Sister Margaret Mayce, OP
Saturday, Sept. 19, was an extraordinary day in the soon-to-be 800-year history of Dominican Life and Mission. A group of 100+, men, women and children, including Catholic Workers, Jesuit Scholastics, Passionists, Sisters of St. Joseph, Dominican Sisters and Brothers from the Northeast and Dominican Sisters from the Midwest gathered to celebrate the Eucharist and offer prayers of blessing for the newly established Benincasa Community. We listened to the Gospel story of Mary and Martha, who lovingly extended their warm hospitality to Jesus and his companions. Our Preacher, Pat Daly, OP (Caldwell), invited us to see the integration of the active and the contemplative in our lives as disciples; of service rooted in prayer. It could not have been a finer message for this fledgling community, whose enthusiasm for life rooted in the Gospel is palpable. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Sisters representing the five Northeast Congregations (Amityville, Blauvelt, Caldwell, Hope and Sparkill), processed through the house, blessing each room:
May this good house be blessed with the rich heritage of Dominic and Catherine; may it be Truth, may it be Love for all, near and far, and may it awaken a new hope for the future of our life together on our blessed and broken planet.
Housed in the former Blessed Sacrament Parish Convent on West 71st Street in Manhattan, Benincasa is the fruit of the vision and persistence of Karen Gargamelli. Karen, a former Dominican Volunteer, lived with Amityville Sisters Pat DeMarco, Connie Kavanagh and Janetta McAlevey while she taught at Most Holy Trinity School in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Upon completing her year’s commitment, Karen studied law at City University of New York., and is now a public interest attorney, specializing in housing law. Though she never felt quite called to the religious life, her experience of Dominican life and mission captivated her heart and spirit. She feels strongly that we need to acknowledge and cultivate the seeds of new expressions of Dominican life already implanted in the laity. Thus, her great desire to establish a lay community, which would live in the spirit of Dominic and Catherine, guided by the four pillars of our Dominican life – prayer, study, community and mission. In Karen’s words, “Benincasa Community seeks to break and share bread with those hungry for integration between their job and their spiritual life. We hope—through study and prayer and sharing resources—to cultivate a contemplative life and a community life that will support our active life of ministry.”