This past weekend (March 16-18, 2018) eleven students from St. Agnes Academic HS, College Point, NY, and St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, West Islip participated in a weekend of prayer, study, and the forming of community. These students were the latest group to participate in the Dominican Youth Preaching Workshops, a program of the Dominican Youth Movement USA in partnership with the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Amityville. Through these workshops, the students are introduced to the Dominican tradition of preaching and learn how to bring their baptismal call to preach the “Good News” through the gifts and talents they have been given by God.
The weekend began on Friday evening at St. John the Baptist HS Retreat Center with pizza, fun, and prayer. After some ice breakers to create a more comfortable atmosphere, the evening officially began with a water ceremony, in which each of the groups brought water from their schools and homes, which was blessed and used to bless each other during the Opening Prayer. So began the weekend together as a community of young Dominican preachers.
Sean Puzzo, a Dominican Volunteer with the Dominican Youth Movement USA, led the students through a timeline of Dominic’s Life, the 800 year old tradition of preaching, Dominican Mottos, and the Four Pillars.
After staying the night, the group arose arose early for breakfast and prayer and prepared for the trip to the Amityville Dominican Motherhouse. This is always a fun day for the participants who enjoy the presentations on preaching through drama with DYMUSA Director Gina Fleming, OP; Art with Barbara Schwarz, OP; and Dance with Youth Preaching Workshop alumna and now Coordinator, Jessica Abejar.
New to this workshop was a presentation on the Signs of the Time, where a ministry of the Amityville Dominicans is highlighted. For this workshop, Founder Jeanne Clark, OP, and Executive Director Elizabeth M. Keihm of Homecoming Farm gave a presentation on their Mission, showing a video and leading a discussion on the importance of the care for the Earth. At the end of the session, the students planted marigold seeds as a service to the Farm.
In the afternoon they had an opportunity to meet our retired sisters for an ice cream social which was a participant favorite. The celebration was extra special as the social fell during National Catholic Sisters Week!
These young people are hungering for any opportunity to come closer to God. One need only listen to their reflections during our prayer times to hear the hunger in their hearts for a relationship to the Divine! How blessed are we to be able to provide a venue to foster and ignite that relationship.
The weekends are completed with the Sunday liturgy at the Amityville Motherhouse. St. Albert the Great Chapel was packed with members of the Dominican Family showing support to the newly commissioned Youth Preachers! Students ministered as lectors, presented the gifts, read petitions, and led the congregation in liturgical dance. In addition, Allison Ramos, a senior from St. John the Baptist HS, offered a reflection on the Gospel, relating the parable of the grain of wheat to her personal life. “Jesus is trying to explain that even though there are challenges in life and sacrifices are inevitable, these troubles in our lives are what make us stronger. If the grain of wheat didn’t fall and die, it would not have been able to produce other seeds. It is symbolic of the fact that we must be willing to take risks to fulfill our true purpose in life. The grain of wheat also represents accepting our sins of the past. It is important to acknowledge and learn from the past. But it is up to us to be ready to change and become a better person.
Following the mass, the students and their parents were invited to join us for lunch in our dining room, a wonderful finish to the weekend.
By the end of the weekend, many students felt like they understood what it meant to be a preacher. “Being a Dominican preacher means to be accepting of all and acknowledging everyone’s different and unique talents and abilities and preaching the word of God through it,” one student noted. Another student said that being a preacher means being able “to express yourself in any way you love and feel passionate about.”
For over 15 years, The Youth Preaching Workshops has shared the Dominican charism and tradition, planting seeds in the hearts and minds of the young people who encounter this program. Participants continue to find the weekends very spiritual, prayerful and a great deal of fun. Most importantly, many of the workshop’s alumni stay connected to the Dominican Youth Movement USA. Some return as Youth Mentors and have the opportunity to lead a new group of young preachers, while others have volunteered at the Amityville Motherhouse as part of their community service requirements at school. Many of these same young people also have attended the National High School Preaching Conference in Michigan, with some of our most recent alumni planning to attend this year’s conference. A handful of alumni have also continued on by attending our National “Preaching in Action” College Conference as well as joining local chapters of Dominican Young Adults USA.
However they choose to stay connected, we are grateful for their presence amongst us. Welcome to the Family!
For more information on the Dominican Youth Preaching Workshops click here [hyperlink to www.dymusa.org/ypw]
Click here for more photos from the Workshop [insert FB link]