Even though it’s been more than four years since I attended the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference, one thing I remember is, oddly, the extreme Texas pride we all adopted suddenly as we reached campus. “Y’all never heard of Buc-ee’s?” we would ask the Chicago preachers, as if they were obligated to be already familiar with our gas stations here in Texas. On the first full day of being on campus, it was as if the Holy Spirit invited us to talk about each of our state traditions over breakfast because as a result, we had become suddenly very close. This friendship persisted throughout the program and manifested in volleyball matches, rosary making, dance parties, community service, and car rides through corn fields. In fact, these social activities were what I remember most about the program because the community we built gave religious activities flavor. The same could be said about the various religious activities built into the program- they pushed us closer as a community.
At the first-ever preaching conference I attended, I learned quite a lot about being a preacher through these connections I built, which have somewhat persisted until the present day. For one, a preacher is not only called to learn about God’s love through coursework and set the occasional example at mass for other students. A preacher is called to love those around them regardless of boundaries that may prevent them from doing so, just like we chose to love one another regardless of whether or not our neighbor grew up in a state as cool as ours. In the real world, one does not normally come by a group of individuals who carry the same energy and vibrancy for prayer and for the community as the group of individuals I met at Siena Heights. Connecting with complete strangers from all over the country on a deep level in less than 24 hours may be one of my favorite memories of this Preaching conference, and I cherish having had the opportunity to attend the Dominican High Schools Preaching Conference.