ADRIAN — On the eve of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first Dominicans to the Americas, modern-day Dominicans were challenged to “begin again” to live out their vocations to the fullest: through evangelical poverty; humble listening and preaching; silence; contemplation; hearts open to people of other cultures and religions; and detachment from material goods and their own agendas.
More than 100 registered participants, as well as local Adrian Dominican sisters who watched broadcasts of the talks, were gathered Friday through Monday, July 8-11, for a special conference, “Being Dominican in the 21st Century,” at Weber Retreat and Conference Center.
The Dominican Order, also known as the Order of Preachers, was founded in the early 13th century by St. Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish cleric in the Catholic Church, to preach the Gospel to people who had been misled by the heresy that all matter is evil. Comprised of friars, contemplative nuns, apostolic sisters and laity, the order is active throughout much of the world.
Adrian Dominican Sister Peg O’Flynn, O.P., director of Weber Center, greeted participants from England, Rome and the Dominican Republic. Represented at the conference were the U.S. women’s congregations of Adrian, Amityville, Blauvelt, Grand Rapids, Houston, Mission San Jose, Peace, Racine, San Rafael, Sinsinawa and Sparkill; Sisters from a Congregation in the Philippines currently stationed in Hawaii; friars from the English Province and the Central and Southern Provinces in the U.S.; and nuns from Our Lady of Mount Thabor Monastery in Ortonville and Catherine Benincasa Dominican Monastery in New Castle, Del.
Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Ann Willits, O.P., kicked off the conference Friday, July 8, with her talk, “The Holy Preaching: Both Inheritance and Invitation.” Noting that St. Dominic’s death-bed words included the exhortation, “Begin,” she encouraged Dominicans throughout her talk to “begin again” to live out the inheritance left by St. Dominic.
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., former master of the order and member of the English Province, opened Saturday, July 9, with his talk, “Dominican Preaching and the Imagination.” He described preaching as more than the words we speak after the Gospel. “It’s in our work, our tenderness, our gestures, in what we say and don’t say,” he said.
Adrian Dominican Sister Anneliese Sinnott, O.P., spoke on “Being Dominican in a World Church,” emphasizing the need to be open to people of all nations, cultures and religions.
In the opening talk on Sunday, July 10, Fr. Brian Pierce, O.P., of the U.S. Southern Province of Friars, encouraged his listeners to preach from the vantage point of those who are poor and suffering. He gave as examples Jesus Christ; St. Dominic and Pedro of Cordova, the superior of the first community of Dominicans to serve in the Americas. The Dominican Order is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Dominicans to the Americas in 1511 and their courageous stance against the mistreatment that the early Spanish settlers inflicted on the native peoples of the Americas. In her afternoon talk, Sr. Margaret Ormond, O.P., prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, spoke of various ways that St. Dominic might have related to and challenged people in the United States today.
Fr. Donald Goergen, O.P., of the Central Province, presented the conference’s final talk on Monday, July 11, focusing on contemplation as a necessary dimension of the Dominican mission. He encouraged the Dominicans to balance their active ministry with silent contemplation and to be detached from material goods and from their own personal agendas.
The conference also included prayer and Sunday Mass, planned by Adrian Dominican Sister Jeanne Wiest, O.P. Reflections were offered by Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Megan McElroy, O.P., co-director of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis, and Sr. Arlene Flaherty, O.P., a Dominican Sister of Blauvelt, N.Y. and a justice and peace promoter for Catholic Relief Services. Participants also had many opportunities to gather for daily periods of discussions and informal socials. †