From May 22-27, 2018, 38 students from Dominican Colleges/Universities and colleges with a Dominican presence gathered at Caldwell University, Caldwell, NJ, for the National College “Preaching in Action” Conference.
The Conference, now in its 17th year, is a collaborative response to our desire as Dominicans to introduce college students to the foundations and characteristics of Dominican Preaching. We actively engage students in prayer, preaching the Word, service, community, and modeling creative ways to make preaching a living dynamic in their daily lives.
Participating universities/colleges included: Albertus Magnus College (New Haven, CT), Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, MI), Barry University (Miami Shores, FL), Caldwell University (Caldwell, NJ), Dominican College (Orangeburg, NY), Dominican University of California (San Rafael, CA), Edgewood College (Madison, WI), Molloy College,(Rockville Centre, NY), Ohio Dominican University (Columbus, OH), Siena Heights University (Adrian, MI), St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, NY) and Xavier University of Louisiana, (New Orleans, LA). Students were joined by more than 30 mentors who helped guide them through the week.
The conference began with a brief history of Dominic and the Order with an array of Dominican songs with a Dominican Spirit in the air as students began to “Catch the Fire.”
Each day of the conference participants are exposed to a different facet of the Dominican Tradition. The first day of the conference highlighted the rich history of the Dominican Family. “Dominicans through the Ages” welcomed some of our Dominican Saints. Mary of Magdala (Diane Capuano, OP), Dominic (Patrick Spedale), Catherine of Siena (Nancy Murray, OP), spoke about the saint’s lives and their own call to preach in the early years of the Order.
North American Co-Promoters for Justice (Marcelline Koch, OP and Fr. Brendan Curran, OP) introduced the five justice priorities of the Dominican Family in the United States and Canada (Climate Justice, Peace and Security for all Life, Migration and Immigration, Human Trafficking, and Economic Justice). They emphasized that we to walk on two feet: Charity and Advocacy.
Br. Joe Kilikevice, OP (St. Albert the Great Provence) led a presentation on the Interfaith Mission of the Dominican Order by introducing the students to dance and song from a variety of different faiths. His message resonated with the students from all walks and stages of faith and spirituality.
The “Signs of the Times” was the focus of the second day. Dominicans have often headed the phrase, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” This focus encourages these students to fulfill their own mission of preaching the Good News.
Lena Picillo, OP, Pat Stringer, OP, and Jeanne Clarke, OP spoke about Justice Issues of the Order: Human Trafficking, Immigration, and Climate Change. Colleen O’Brien and Caldwell University Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors introduced the CRS Ambassadors program encouraging others to bring the program to their own campuses.
The participants spent the next day in immersion sites ministering: to the underserved at St Peter’s OP Shop (an outreach facility), to the earth at the Caldwell Environmental Center, to the elderly in the Caldwell Health Care Facility, to engaging preschoolers at Aquinas Academy, and in aiding Immigrant detainees at “First Friends.”
During “Theological Reflection” there was a wonderful sharing of stories, people, reactions, fears, attitudes, and underlying issues. Many of the students were so moved that they made commitments to get more involved back home.
A highlight of this year’s conference was the opportunity to see a volume of the “St. John’s Bible” which Caldwell University is housing for the year. Caldwell University’s Campus Minister, Colleen O’Brien presented the Bible, its history, and the beautiful artistry.
Next up was an introduction to the other parts of the Dominican Family. The students were able to go around to each table and speak to members of the different groups to obtain some valuable information.
That evening students were given time to interact with the many held with members of DYAUSA, Dominican Volunteers, Associate membership, Leaders of the DYMUSA as well as religious sisters and friars. The students were full of questions. The day was concluded with a DJ and dancing!
Barbara Schwarz, OP concluded the presentations by awakening participants to “the Art of Preaching.” Her interactive and hands-on presentation was a great intro to the “Preaching through the Arts” day. Sara Fairbanks, OP, Janet Marchesani, OP, Nancy Murray, OP, Mary Pat Reid, OP, and Susan Miller, an associate professor from Caldwell University, and S. Barbara presented additional breakout sessions for the students to use their creative energies.
Highlighting the conference were the morning and evening prayer services prepared by the student participants. Students used their creativity and God given musical talents to lead the conference in prayer.
Tired, but filled with the joy of the spirit, Sunday’s closing liturgy was a culmination of a week of prayer, reflection, service, and newfound preaching skills. Students lent their talents as signers, lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, liturgical dancers, etc!
At the closing liturgy, each college group presented their action plan. Students are challenged to create an action plan for the upcoming year at their campuses. Also, each student presented an individual action plan. Witnessing each student making a commitment to continuing the “Holy Preaching” was moving. Each received a Dominican Cross and were commissioned to go forth and preach the “Good News” to their fellow students. These young people feel like part of our Dominican Family and will forever be connected as preachers of God’s love, peace and justice for all!
The Dominican Youth Movement USA wishes to thank the Caldwell University community, especially Dr. Nancy Blattner, President of the University and Kathleen Tuite, OP for allowing use of their facilities and for their graciousness and hospitality. To Colleen O’Brien and Dana McStowe, our tremendous gratitude for all your help! To the mentors who took the time to share this experience with their students. To all of our new YOUNG PREACHERS! Don’t forget “Preach With Your Lives,” it is the only pulpit you need.