Determining the Focus of the Dominican Peace and Justice Ministry

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They came from every corner of the country—from New York to Houston; from Washington to Kentucky—the North American Dominican Justice Promoters all made their way to Grand Rapids, Michigan for their biennial meeting March 1–2. While the winter sun shone brightly on the motherhouse of the Grand Rapids Dominicans and the snow-covered ground, it was the warmth of Dominican hospitality and the embrace of old friends and colleagues that broke through winter’s chill. Sisters, friars, lay Dominicans, and co-workers were all gathered to determine the focus of the peace and justice ministry of the Dominican family for the next two years.

In the midst of the decade-long Jubilee celebration of the Dominican Order’s 800 years—beginning in 2006 and concluding in 2016—the meeting comes at what seems like an auspicious time for the order. The year 2011 marked the anniversary of the revolutionary sermon of Antonio Montesinos, OP, and the Dominican community in Espanola marking the first act of human rights advocacy in the New World.

 

In light of these significant anniversaries, the Dominican Sisters Conference held its first convocation near Chicago in October 2012. During the convocation, the question arose “What is EarthAsking of the Order?” As the leadership of the congregations and provinces continued their conversations, it was decided that the question was of great enough significance that the issue of Earth, climate change, and the question itself would be placed in the realm of the justice promoters to enflesh as a key element in our 21st century preaching.

Over the two-day meeting, the group reflected on the current Call to Justice priorities set in the fall of 2011, and reexamined the relationships between climate change and such issues as immigration, human trafficking, peace and security, economic justice, and care of creation.

Sister Eileen Gannon

The group also heard from the DSC representative to the United Nations (UN) Margaret Mayce, OP. Margaret offered insights into the United Nations’ ongoing commitments and obstacles in addressing Climate Change. Having participated in Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, she was able to give deep accounts of the Rio Declaration on the Environment and Development, The Kyoto Protocol, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs set to expire in 2015), and the emerging Post 2015 agenda. Margaret also outlined the importance of the relationship between the Dominican Family (from students at Dominican Schools up to the Master of the Order) and its representation by both herself in New York, and Fr. Oliver Poquillon, OP, in Geneva; the Dominican Family has direct contact with social issues where they are in the world, and through the two representatives those direct experiences are given voice in the context of a world stage.

From left: Stella Goodpasture, Lyn Kirkconnell, Ann Marie Lustig, Mary Sean Hodges

Sister Pat Daly, OP, of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment (TriCRI) also gave voice to a Dominican ministry of addressing climate change. This time, through the means of engaging corporations through shareholder dialogues. She shared such priority issues addressed through the work of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) such as excessive speculation on food commodities, carbon dioxide and methane output monitoring, and the power of the investors’ voice when urging corporations to conduct business with a priority beyond greatest financial returns. Socially Responsible Investors (SRI) operate with the priority of what they call “the triple bottom line” which is people, planet, and profit.

Christopher Matthias and Sister Mary Sue Kennedy (Adrian), executive director of the Dominican Sisters Conference

As the justice promoters took time reflecting on the relationship between the Gospel, justice, and the myriad ways through which preaching is carried out, a brief visit to the Fredrik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park during the first day of the butterfly exhibit offered an up-close and personal chance to connect to the splendors of the natural world that the Earth is asking all of us to protect. While we are never in short supply of words to describe the need for justice, few are as compelling as a sense of awe. It is through this awe that we move towards preservation and reconciliation with Earth’s natural systems.

Renewed in spirit, the justice promoters worked tirelessly to construct a new Call to Justice, one that will carry us through 2015 and will soon be published on Domlife.org. For now, the question shifts to you, the reader: “What is Earth asking of you?”

Christopher Matthias is coordinator of justice and peace for the Dominican Sisters of Adrian in Adrian, Michigan.
Photos by Lyn Kirkconnell