At Table with Dominic: Becoming Dominican

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one…I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”

Excerpt from Jesus’ final discourse before his passion, death, and resurrection in John’s Gospel 17:15-26

In An Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond E. Brown writes about Jesus’s final discourse in John’s Gospel where Jesus speaks to his disciples before his passion and death.  Jesus has his feet in both “this world and his ascent into glory” (352).  This third and last section of Jesus’s final discourse is Jesus’s prayer for us.  Jesus prays for the disciples as well as those they will gather to carry on the ministry.  A prayer for them to be consecrated, bear witness to the truth, and to be unified so that they are convincing to the world (356).

I am not a Dominican Sister, but I am Dominican.  I owe much of my formation to the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.  Twelve years in elementary and secondary school and another four years of campus ministry in college.  They are the descendants of St. Dominic and by the nature of my relationship with them and now my ministry alongside them as principal of my alma mater San Gabriel Mission High School, I too am a descendent of St. Dominic.  Jesus’ prayer in John’s Gospel may have been similar to Dominic’s prayer for his brothers and sisters as he was dying, that those they would gather would also be unified in the charism to praise, to bless, and to preach the Truth together. 

As a descendant of St. Dominic, I am at table with him in my ministry everyday.  I carry on the charism of Dominic in my school not only in my intentional remembrance of our core pillars, prayers, and Saints, but in my relationship and how I am at table with those whom I serve whether we are studying, praying, or serving.  When I am in right relationship with my community, I am at table with Dominic.  I am at table with Dominic in my classroom teaching, at the lunch benches eating and talking, at the podium preaching and praying, in my meetings contemplating what is best for our school, and at my desk discerning and troubleshooting with my team or superiors the many complex “fires” that are present in today’s Catholic school.  

In the last 20 years in my ministry, I have had many treasured moments of being at table with Dominic in my relationships, but none is more vivid than my own relationship and struggle with becoming Dominican for my community and how that gave life to Dominic on our campus.  When I came back to serve my alma mater professionally, I was saddened by the lack of Dominican sisters in the classroom and on campus in general.  I felt abandoned, confused, and angry.  As the numbers continued to decline and we had zero sisters on campus, I knew if this school was to continue in the Dominican tradition it was going to be up to me.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself and our community I was moved into action to get the Dominican signs, symbols, and prayers embedded in our community from retreats and curriculum to mission statements.  Additionally, I secured our affiliation with the congregation by committing our staff to Dominican days of professional development and our administration to their Dominican conferences.  Furthermore, I made sure the Campus Minister and the student Campus Ministry team were versed and steeped in the Dominican Charism with their own Dominican summer training retreats and Dominican youth conferences.  The real joys of being at table with Dominic have been in collaboration with my staff to help our community celebrate our very own Annual Dominican Youth Day to celebrate our foundress Mother Pia with a prayer service, Dominican Sister keynote speaker, walk-a-thon to raise funds for charity and our school, and ending the day with lunch, carnival, and awards ceremony.  Bringing others to the table with Dominic has been a transformative experience that reminded me that when I meet Dominic at the table I am never alone and I bring the charism already within me to be shared for the good of my community.  

In addition to being at table with Dominic in my relationships, November reminds me that I am at table with Dominic quite literally as he sits on my prayer altar at home and in my office.  I pray for his intercession along with the others that sit beside him like Martin De Porres, Catherine of Sienna, and our foundress Mother Maria Pia Backes. Unlike the altars in our churches during November for Dias De Los Muertos and more like my abuela’s altar, my altars stay up all year long and serve as a constant reminder of my commitment to and membership in Dominic’s legacy.  It is also a symbol of hope and support – I am literally surrounded by champions of faith who came before me and are praying for my success as I do my best to carry on this ministry I am called to.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus had one foot in this world and his other foot in the next.  This is what being at table means and not just in November and not just when we celebrate the anniversary of Dominic’s death, but every day and every moment.  We need to celebrate and honor the lives of those we try to emulate and carry on not only their legacy, but the ministry they passed on to us.  Let us remember that we are consecrated too and Dominic lives on in each of us and those we bring to the table.

Raquel M. Cagigas, Affiliated Dominican of Mission San Jose