“It is a life-giving and life changing experience surrounded by Dominican preachers from all over the United States”“A powerful experience of the Dominican tradition, a week of preparation to make a positive change in the world”Conference participants from Siena Heights University, Adrian, Michigan
From May 22-27, 2018, thirty-eight students from Dominican Colleges/Universities and colleges with a Dominican presence gathered at Caldwell University, Caldwell, NJ, for the National College “Preaching in Action” Conference.
The National College “Preaching in Action” Conference, now in its 17th year, is a collaborative response to our desire as Dominicans to introduce college students to the foundations and characteristics of Dominican Preaching. We commit ourselves to actively engage students in prayer, preaching the Word, service, community, and modeling creative ways to make preaching a living dynamic in their daily lives.
The participating universities/colleges included: Albertus Magnus College (New Haven, CT), Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, MI), Barry University (Miami Shores, FL), Caldwell University (Caldwell, NJ), Dominican College (Orangeburg, NY), Dominican University of California (San Rafael, CA), Edgewood College (Madison, WI), Molloy College,(Rockville Centre, NY), Ohio Dominican University (Columbus, OH), Siena Heights University (Adrian, MI), St. Thomas Aquinas College (Sparkill, NY) and Xavier University of Louisiana, (New Orleans, LA). These students were joined by more than 30 mentors who helped guide them through the week.
These young people came together to learn about the Dominican charism of preaching and how that charism can be incorporated into their own lives and passed on to others. They were given the opportunity to experience themselves as preachers using the mediums of art, dance, drama, and music.
The conference began with a brief history of Dominic and the Order complete with an array of Dominican songs. There was definitely a Dominican Spirit in the air as students began to “Catch the Fire.”
Each day of the conference students and mentors are exposed to a different facet of the Dominican Tradition. The first full day of the conference helped participants better understand the rich history of the Dominican Family they were becoming a part of. A presentation “Dominicans through the Ages” welcomed some of our Dominican Saints to the conference. Mary of Magdala (Diane Capuano, OP), Dominic (Patrick Spedale), Catherine of Siena (Nancy Murray, OP), spoke about the saint’s lives and their own call to preach in the early years of the Order. They shared the ways in which each saint answered their call to preach in the early years of the order.
Participants were blessed to have the North American Co-Promoters for Justice at this years conference (Marcelline Koch, OP and Fr. Brendan Curran, OP) who introduced the five justice priorities of the Dominican Family in the United States and Canada (Climate Justice, Peace and Security for all Life, Migration and Immigration, Human Trafficking, and Economic Justice). They emphasized that we as Dominicans need to walk on two feet: Charity and Advocacy. They challenged the participants to recognize the importance of their voice in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations member states in 2015.
Br. Joe Kilikevice, OP (St. Albert the Great Provence) led students and mentors in a presentation on the Interfaith Mission of the Dominican Order by introducing the students to dance and song from a variety of different faiths. Br. Joe is the director of the SHEM Center for Interfaith Spirituality in which “the sojourners of all spiritual paths and faith traditions, as well as the spiritually homeless, are welcomed into a sacred space where the prayer, meditation, rituals, and wisdom of the peoples of the world are experienced and reflected upon.” Br. Joe’s message resonated with the students who come to the conference from all walks and stage of faith and spirituality.
The “Signs of the Times” was the focus of the second day of the conference. Dominicans have often headed the phrase, “Preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” A focus of the conference is awareness of the Signs of the Times. It is a hope that this will encourage these students to fulfill their own Christian mission of preaching the Good News.
Lena Picillo, OP, Pat Stringer, OP, and Jeanne Clarke spoke to the young people about some of the Justice Issues of the Order: Human Trafficking, Immigration, and Climate Change. Colleen O’Brien and the Caldwell University Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors introduced the CRS Ambassadors program to the students and their mentors encouraging others to bring the program to their own campuses.
As in the past, students were asked to take 5-10 minutes for contemplative time after each presentation. The students took this time to reflect and write down what they heard, what they learned, and what they would like to bring back to their campuses. You could hear a pin drop in the quiet.
The participants were ready to put their “preaching into action”. They spent the next day in immersion sites ministering: to the underserved at St Peter’s OP Shop (an outreach facility), to the earth at the Caldwell Environmental Center, to the elderly in the Caldwell Health Care Facility, to engaging preschoolers at Aquinas Academy, and in aiding Immigrant detainees at “First Friends.” As always, the service piece of the week is always a powerful experience for the participants.
Again this year, we added time for “Theological Reflection” before and after the service day. There was a wonderful sharing of stories, people, reactions, fears, attitudes, and underlying issues. Many of the students were so moved by their experiences that they made commitments to get more involved with their own communities back home.
A highlight of this year’s conference was the opportunity for students to see a volume of the “St. John’s Bible” which Caldwell University is housing for the year. Caldwell University’s Campus Minister, Colleen O’Brien presented the Bible, its history, and the beautiful artistry within the book. The students really enjoyed the presentation and wished there was more time in the schedule to spend learning the particulars of the pictures and calligraphy.
Next up was an introduction to the other parts of the Dominican Family. Tables were set up like a college fair. The students were able to go around to each table and speak to members of the different groups as well as obtain some valuable information through brochures and other materials.
That evening students were given time to interact with the many held with members of DYAUSA, Dominican Volunteers, Associate membership, Leaders of the DYMUSA as well as religious sisters and friars. This is a unique opportunity for students to learn more about the members of the Dominican Family, ask questions, and collect valuable information.
The presenters included members of DYAUSA, Dominican Volunteers, Associate membership, Leaders of DYMUSA as well as religious sisters and friars. The students were full of questions around these topics. The day was concluded with a DJ and some late night dancing!
Barbara Schwarz, OP concluded the week’s presentations by awakening the participants to “the Art of Preaching.” Her interactive and hands-on presentation was a great intro to the “Preaching through the Arts” day. Sara Fairbanks, OP, Janet Marchesani, OP, Nancy Murray, OP, Mary Pat Reid, OP, and Susan Miller, an associate professor from Caldwell University, and S. Barbara presented additional breakout sessions for the students to use their creative energies.
Highlighting the conference were the morning and evening prayer services prepared by the student participants. Students used their creativity and God given musical talents to lead the conference in prayer which begins and ends each day. This is but one of the elements of the conference that students enjoy immensely and plan on recreating on their college campuses.
Tired, but filled with the joy of the spirit, Sunday’s closing liturgy was a culmination of a week of prayer, reflection, service, and newfound preaching skills. Students lent their talents as signers, lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, liturgical dancers, the list goes on!
At the closing liturgy, which was attended by many of the Caldwell University community as well as the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, each college group presented their action plan. Students are challenged with the creation of an action plan for the upcoming school year. This plan is the vehicle for sharing what they have learned at the conference to their college campuses. In addition, each student presented an individual action plan. You can view the action plans here. It was moving to witness each student making a commitment to continuing the “Holy Preaching.”
Each then received a Dominican Cross and were commissioned to go forth and preach the “Good News” to their fellow students.
Upon leaving, these young people felt like part of our Dominican Family and will forever be connected. Wherever they go, they will be preachers of God’s love, God’s peace and God’s justice for all!
We here at the Dominican Youth Movement USA wish to thank the Caldwell University community, in particular to Dr. Nancy Blattner, President of the University and to Kathleen Tuite, OP for allowing us to use their facilities and for their graciousness and hospitality. To Colleen O’Brien and Dana McStowe, our tremendous gratitude for all your help! To the mentors who took the time away from their summer vacation to share this experience with their students. And last but not least, to all of our new YOUNG PREACHERS! Have a great summer! And don’t forget “Preach With Your Lives,” it is the only pulpit you need.