Festival of Dominican Spirituality and Contemporary Dialogue

Festival of Dominican Spirituality and Contemporary Dialogue

As the 800th birthday of the Dominican Order was approaching Sr Geraldine, the chairperson of the Education Team of the King William’s Town Dominicans determined that this event had to be duly celebrated. Her idea raised great enthusiasm among the team members and spread further to embrace all Dominican Schools in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Free State, Eastern Cape, and Limpopo. It included all Dominican Sisters and Brothers, Associates, Friends, and Past Pupils, members of other Congregations and Church Leadership.

It extended to the Schools for the Deaf – St Vincent’s and Hammanskraal, and San Salvador, the home for mentally challenged women. The emerging reality needed a home large enough to accommodate over 1000 people. The Newcastle Dominicans of Boksburg offered their facilities. Could there have been a more symbolic choice for the festivities than their “Jubilee Hall” which is large enough to seat all participants.

As the idea took on a clearer shape so the number of helpers increased. This greatly extended team under the efficient leadership of Sr Geraldine and Kelsay Correia took on the planning and preparations for the actual day. As a result of every school’s active involvement, a beautiful web of interdependence and bondedness was created forming the foundation of the actual celebration.

Sr Margaret Schäffler’s creativity gave rise to a unique and most powerful presentation on the life of St Dominic by Fr Martin Badenhorst OP. He did not speak about St Dominic, instead he became Dominic sharing with us his life story, his hopes and disappointments, his challenges and above all his growing relationship with God and all people, especially those trapped in a life destroying heresy - Albigensianism. He shared about the political situation of war and violence in his country and the power struggle within the Church. In a true sense Dominic became God’s messenger travelling Europe on foot bringing the Good News of the Gospel through preaching and dialogue. With the establishment of his Order he completed his mission – a journey of uniting people in Christ’s love so that, empowered by each other, they would go out and preach the liberating truth – Veritas.

Eight hundred years later the situation has not changed. We need Dominic and his brothers and sisters in our modern world to preach the Good News. Thus to deepen Dominic’s message twenty seven “break-away” sessions were organised to focus on specific themes which take centre stage in Dominican Spirituality. Each person was able to choose two presentations. Some examples are: “What would St Catherine tell Pope Francis?” by Dr Nonthando Hadebe and “A Dominican Response to the Signs of our Times” by Madeleen Gorst-Allman. Others presentations focussed on personal growth and healing such as “Mercy and Social Reconciliation” by Terry Sacco or “Body, Prayer and Movement” by Katy van Wyk OP. There were themes on encouragement as for instance “Preach on sister” by Petrus du Toit and “Preach on brother” by Mduduzi Zwane. Care of Creation and Spirituality were equally present in Jason Schäffler’s theme: “Earth, Water, Wind and Fire” and Sr Colleen Moore’s input entitled “The Environment and Spirituality.

The Jubilee Mass formed the climax of the day. The hall was filled to capacity with learners and teachers of the Dominican Schools, Sisters, Brothers, friends and past pupils. Bishop Duncan Tsoke was the main celebrant and Fr Martin Badenhorst OP gave the homily. Bishop Holiday who had come all the way from Kroonstad gave a vote of thanks stressing his appreciation of the Dominican Presence in his Diocese. He pointed out that it was the Dominican Sisters and Brothers who had brought the diocese into being, and who continue to spread the Gospel message through their preaching, teaching and reaching out to the poor and destitute.

As the entrance procession moved to the front of the hall, the entrance hymn, “God’s Spirit is in my heart … He sent me to give the Good News to the poor,..” once again confirmed the mission and charism of the Dominican Order. This spirit of joy and thanksgiving was again expressed in the words of “Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord.” Yes, God’s presence was truly manifest in the spirit of jubilation and bonding love irrespective of colour, culture or creed. Everybody was part of the Dominican family which was also affirmed in the use of the many South African languages including sign language.

At the offertory, each school donated boxes of tinned food for the poor. After Holy Communion there was a special song of gratitude to those gone before, who have paved the way and given direction. The song: “I am standing on the shoulder of the ones who came before me…” was led by Mr Dermot Connors, the headmaster of the Veritas College, and sung by the learners. Sr Ann Wigley of the King Dominicans gave a vote of thanks. 

The Mass ended with the Jubilee Hymn:

Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare
Laudare, we praise our Lord with our saints
Benedicere, we lift our voice in song
Praedicare, we proclaim Your Word to the world
Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare.
Sr Sandra Becker, OP
(05 August 2016)