More than 60 Adrian Dominican Associates, prospective Associates, and Sisters gathered virtually August 21, 2021, to explore the role of Associates as “Charism Carriers,” helping to promote the Dominican Charism into the future. The gathering drew Associates from throughout the United States and the Dominican Republic.
A charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit to an individual, intended to be shared to benefit the entire community. The Dominican Charism includes preaching God’s Word, the truth, in the face of the heresies of our day.
Mary Lach, Director of Associate Life, facilitated the four-hour Zoom meeting. Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, and Sister Patricia Harvat, OP, General Council Liaison to the Associates, welcomed participants.
As women and men who make a non-vowed commitment to the Adrian Dominican Sisters and to the Dominican Charism, Associates live independent lives and participate in ministries, prayer, and special events with the Sisters, other Associates, and Associates of Dominican Sisters of other Congregations.
Partners was an inclusive gathering. The work of interpreters Elizabeth McMeekin and Suzzet Gonzalez allowed Associates from the Dominican Republic to participate fully in the gathering. In addition, their interpretation enabled English-speaking participants to listen to a presentation by Spanish-speaking Associate Fabiola Reyes. In her video presentation, Fabiola highlighted some of the many ministries in which the more than 20 Associates in the Dominican Republic are engaged, including healthcare, education, and preaching on the radio and social media.
“Our faith sustains us,” said Fabiola, a dentist who frequently visits underserved areas of the Dominican Republic to offer dental care. “We hope that our service has a lasting impact.”
Mary Lach gave an update on the programs of Associate Life, including three weekly gatherings on Zoom: discussions on the Dominican Charism, a book club, and reflection on the coming Sunday’s Gospel. Beginning in September, prospective Associates will participate in a monthly communal formation program via Zoom.
After gathering in virtual break-out rooms to share ways in which they have been “Charism Carriers” in the past year, Associates assembled to listen to a presentation by Sister Patricia Walter, OP, “Through a Looking Glass: Charism in Motion.”
In her presentation, Sister Pat – former Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, a theologian, and Formation Director – compared the looking glass of the Dominican Charism with that featured in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. “Alice discovers an alternative universe, recognizable but very different from what she knows,” Sister Pat said. “It’s very much topsy-turvy.”
In the same way, Sister Pat said, Jesus and St. Dominic presented an “alternative universe” to the people of their times: a world marked by love, self-donation, and nonviolence. “To live in this counter-cultural world, we need the gift of Christian community and the Dominican family,” she said. “That’s one of the most important aspects of Dominican Association and vowed life.”
A looking glass also gives us a view of ourselves through the eyes of others, Sister Pat noted. “Through the looking glass of friends and community I come to a deeper understanding of my gifts and liabilities,” she said. “We do this for one another. It’s a way we seek truth and receive it.”
Sister Pat also reflected on charism. “Each of us with this vocation to the Dominican family … has a share in our common charism as preachers of the Gospel,” she said. “Charism is our guide or compass to the future.” To get to that future, we need to look at our charism and make decisions based on our identity as Dominicans and on the needs of our time, she said.
Sister Pat concluded her talk with a reflection on friendship – so central to the Dominican family because of Dominic’s ability to draw others to himself and to befriend them. St. Dominic always referred to himself as a brother, she said. “Dominic is the first among equals,” and Dominicans are “friends in mission.”
After discussion of Sister Pat’s presentation in small groups and all together, participants listened to a number of updates on Associate Life:
- Following recommendations of the Advisory Board, the General Council appointed two new members to the board. Janice Donner of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is a retired speech pathologist who served years ago as Representative of Associate Life. Kathleen Shannon Dorcy, of Seattle, had been an Associate with the Edmonds Dominican Sisters before their merger with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She has been involved in cancer research, including work with nurses in Uganda, and retired after teaching nursing at the University of Washington in Tacoma.
- Sister Patty Harvat introduced Elizabeth Keith, who was named as consultant to the General Council’s work of establishing the Office of Dominican Charism. Its purpose is to invite women and men “to a shared expression of the Dominican Charism in our world,” reaching out to Associates, Co-workers at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse, and Partners in Mission at sponsored institutions and legacy institutions, as well as other spiritual seekers.
- Associate Kathleen Woods updated participants on the Envision 2030 Committee, established in August 2020 to explore how Associate Life might look in 2030. The committee has explored the literature of Associates groups in other congregations of Dominican Sisters and has studied the results of a poll conducted among Adrian Dominican Associates. The group will gather in the Fall to draft a final report and continues to seek input from Associates. “Our goal is not one of actual implementation of action plans, but to suggest a direction for the future,” Kathy said.
After the Partners gathering, Associates continued to celebrate with the acceptance of four new Associates: Laura Boor, Megan Meloche, Melinda Mullin, and Sheila Wathen. Mary Jo Alexander, a former Adrian Dominican Sister, was welcomed as an Associate the week before, on August 15, 2021.
If you are interested in exploring Associate Life, contact Mary Lach, Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.