Dominican Sisters Conference Elected Leaders’ Meeting

Milwaukee October 14, 2022—— Meeting in-person for the first time in several years, the elected leaders of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) gathered here with a number of associates and partners in mission. The DSC includes 19 member congregations around the US, about 80 people attended the October 12-14 meeting.

The Racine Dominicans welcomed everyone to the meeting by hosting the opening prayer at their motherhouse along with a cookout with the flavors of Wisconsin: brats, beans, potato salad, and beer. Not to mention spectacular views of Lake Michigan.”

The meeting’s theme: “Truth” was a connecting thread for all the presentations, reports, and conversation throughout the days as a response to the social and political polarization we experience.

Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP (Peace) President of the DSC, opened the annual meeting by suggesting that the organization of the DSC is not really a “container” as we have described it in the past. Rather, she offered a more enriching and imaginative way to think of DSC as a kind of ecosystem, with intersecting root systems. 

“We are a complex, organic, ever changing, rising and falling, expanding and contracting collection of organizations in diverse relationships –with shared roots, exchanges of energies, interests, shared passions and frailties,” Anne said.  “A dense and beautiful forest.”

A major focus of the meeting was a presentation given by the Futuring Leadership Team (FLT) which represents the under 70 cohort of Dominican sisters in the United States. The team reported on preparatory work for a 2023 in-person meeting of sisters under 70 to be held at Ohio Dominican University, Columbus, Ohio.  The FLT has been developing affinity groups among the cohort on such topics as care for creation, immigration, science and theology, unlearning racism, founding charism, and

welcoming new members. They have also created an online platform called Dominican Explorations for shared reflection and information along with tools to draw together younger Dominicans. They also developed a cohort database which will help support building relationships with one another.

Another dimension of the conversation about the future of Dominican Life and Mission emerged when the Executive Committee’s Roadmap document was presented.  This led to an energetic and thoughtful discussion among the members that shifted the focus of the Executive Committee’s work toward creating a full-time position for a person who will give the leadership needed to animate the futuring process. This leader will work with the FLT to actualize its vision. The members felt a great urgency around the challenges we face in preserving our charism and planning for the future. The group hopes that together with the under 70 cohort, we might uncover new, and yet, unidentified ways to enliven our Dominican life.

The need to identify a dynamic FLT leader, brought into sharper focus the current search process underway for a new DSC Executive Director. Members of the conference were urged to identify candidates for this position and encourage qualified candidates to discern this position as a possible call to service. Presently, Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa) serves in this role.

Reg McKillip, OP (Sinsinawa) updated the conference members on the work being done by the North American Justice Promoters within the Gospel Call to Action document. Reg serves as the North American Co-Promoter with Brendan Curran, OP (St Albert the Great Province). The justice promoters are exploring future ways to collaborate more closely on critical issues: climate justice, peace and security for all life, migration and immigration, human trafficking, and economic justice.

The meeting also featured input from Dusty Farnan, OP (Adrian), United Nations NGO Representative of the DSC and International Justice Co-Promoter. Dusty described a wide range of UN projects including a virtual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Students from Dominican Academy, NYC, and Mount St. Dominic Academy in Caldwell, NJ participated in the UN International Day of the Girl and Dusty will participate in the COP 27 UN conference on Climate Change in Sinai, Egypt. The members prayed the Dominican blessing with Dusty in support of her work and for a safe journey,

Margaret Mayce, OP (Amityville) the International Coordinator of Dominican Sisters International Confederation (DSIC) presented a report on the ways Dominican sisters around the world are responding to the war in Ukraine with direct support to refugees by providing housing and basic needs. She also described the work being done to solidify the DSIC’s standing as a civil and canonical organization in Rome, Italy, where the offices are located.

The North American DSIC Continental Coordinator, Gene Poore (Peace) followed Margaret’s presentation with an overview of the range of DSIC congregations around the world. She also shared the goals of the Coordinating Committee.

The Associates and Sisters Committee also made a presentation and invited table discussion about the diverse ways associates and sisters of different congregations are getting together for ongoing formation, and the value of it. The presentation also highlighted programs, retreats and other opportunities via Zoom available to all and the interest to develop suggested topics from the survey that was shared earlier in the year.

In between reports, discussions, and processes, the members prayed together, enjoyed sharing meals and memories with old and new friends.

There were complex changes to the Executive Committee this year. Two members: Corinne Sanders, OP (Adrian) and Janice Brown, OP (Adrian) are leaving to begin terms on their congregation’s Leadership Team. Maryann McMahon, OP (Racine) is completing her time on the committee. Terry Rickard, OP (Blauvelt) begins a second term. These sisters have served with generosity, dedication, creative problem-solving and good humor. The whole assembly broke into applause to express. their affection and gratitude.

We welcome new committee members:  Pat Stringer, OP (Caldwell), Veronica Esparza Ramirez, OP (Mission San Jose), Lisa Kane, OP (Racine), who will join current members, Terry Rickard, OP (Blauvelt), Anne Lythgoe, OP (Peace), and Pam Mitchell, OP (Sinsinawa).

Finally, the members turned their attention to the extraordinary service of Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa), who is the Executive Director of DSC. On behalf of the group, Anne Lythgoe, OP (Peace) called Mary Ellen to the stage and said, “who ever the new Executive Director is, they cannot possibly replace you. They will be in your shoes but can’t really fill your shoes. We could not leave here without acknowledging all the ways you have nurtured and cultivated this forest: your generosity, your ability to think of possibilities, your agility when faced with challenges, your good humor and resourcefulness. We love you, and we are so grateful for your service.

On behalf of all of us. Thank you.”

The 2022 DSC Leaders Meeting will take place in Columbus, OH, October 11-13, 2023.