Dominican Youth Movement, USA Forges Ahead as College “Preaching in Action” Conference Celebrates its 15th Year
By Sister Gina Fleming, OP
“I have been to Disney Land many many times and it is surely Magical, but it doesn’t compare to the Magic I felt this past week.” -Conference participant from Barry University
During the week of May 23rd, thirty five students from Dominican Universities/ Colleges or colleges with a Dominican presence gathered at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY for the 15th National “Preaching in Action” Conference. The participating universities/colleges included Albertus Magnus College, CT; Aquinas College, MI; Barry University, FL; Caldwell University, NJ; Dominican College, NY; Dominican University, CA; Dominican University, IL; Edgewood College, WI; Molloy College, NY; Ohio Dominican University, OH; Siena Heights University, MI; St. Thomas Aquinas College, NY, and Xavier University, LA.
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.
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 Magdala (Pat Hanvey, OP), Dominic (Patrick Spedale), Catherine of Siena (Lena Pennino Smith), spoke about their lives and their own call to preach in the early years of the Order. Pat Duffy, OP spoke about the Dominican Family and how each of us is a particular puzzle piece that adds to the Family Tapestry. Joe Kilikevice, OP highlighted the Interfaith Mission of the Order by introducing the students to dance and song from a variety of different faiths.
The next day Margaret Galiardi, OP spoke to the young people about “God and Mother Earth” while Katt Maloney, Isabella Bogin, and Josie Umuhoza, all current Dominican Volunteers, introduced our young preachers to their ministries and the particular issues that are addressed in these ministries. Katt ministers at the United Nations, Isabella ministers at Siena House (a women‘s shelter for those with children under the age of three), Josie ministers at the OPening Word program (a literacy program for immigrant women who desire to learn English). All the presentations were well received and certainly raised the consciousness of our young people. Again this year, we added 15 minutes of contemplative time after each presentation. The students took this time to write down what they heard, what they learned, and what they would like to bring back to their campuses. You could hear a pin drop in the quiet.
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), to the earth at the Homecoming Farm on the grounds of the Amityville Motherhouse, to the elderly again in the Amityville Motherhouse, to women who are working to learn English so they can become productive members of our society, and engaging preschoolers at Shepards Gate, who are the children of Immigrant parents here on Long Island. For the students who ministered at our Motherhouse we arranged for them to have lunch with the retired sisters in our Dining Room. The students randomly sat with sisters throughout the room and shared their stories. At the end of the lunch period, the young people extended their hands upon the sisters and together sang the “Dominican Blessing.” It was a powerful scene to say the least.
Again this year, we added time for “Theological Reflection” before and after service. 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.
Next up was an introduction to the other parts of the Dominican Family. Tables were set up like a college fair. The students were able to go around to each table and speak to members of the different groups as well as obtain some valuable information through brochures and other materials. The presenters included members of DYAUSA, Dominican Volunteers, Associate membership, Leaders of DYMUSA as well as religious sisters and friars. The students were full of questions around these topics. The day was concluded with a DJ and some late night dancing!
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 intro to the “Preaching through the Arts” day. Vicki Toale, OP, Ancilla Kleinberg, OP, Marianna Euring, OP, Leone Mathon OPA, Jessica Abejar, a former youth preacher, and S. Barbara presented additional breakout sessions for the students to use their creative energies.
At the closing liturgy, which was attended by many of the Molloy College Community as well as the Amityville sisters, each college group presented their action plan. This plan will be implemented by those who attended when they return to their campuses in September. In addition each student presented their individual action plan which is 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.” The great news for the growth of the Dominican Youth Movement USA (DYMUSA) is that out of the 13 attending schools, 7 have committed themselves to beginning Dominican Young Adult chapters on their campuses. In that way they will continue their connection to the Dominican Order and be connected to a Congregation or Province of Dominicans in their area. What a blessing!
Each then received the Dominican Cross and were commissioned to go forth and preach the “Good News” to their fellow students.
Upon leaving, these young people felt like 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!
Special thanks goes out to all of the Molloy College community and Dr. Drew Bogner, President of Molloy College for allowing us to use their facilities and for their graciousness and hospitality. To Catherine Muscente and Jacqueline Williams my tremendous gratitude for all your help! And last but not least, to all of our new YOUNG PREACHERS. Have a great summer. And don’t forget “Preach With Your Lives,” it is the only pulpit you need.