General Assembly of Dominicans Nuns in North America

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General Assembly of Dominicans Nuns in North America
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The North American Association of Dominican Monasteries held its General Assembly at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, Nashville, Tennessee from September 13-23, 2016. The Dominican Sisters generously hosted the Assembly in celebration of the 800th Jubilee of the Order.

The theme selected for the Assembly was “In the Joy of Dominic: a joy ever new, a joy which is shared.”

We began with a day of retreat on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Father Walter Wagner, OP, our Religious Assistant, provided two conferences which focused on the Holy Cross and the idea that in the Cross itself God shows us how He transforms the limitations of the frailties of human life so that they serve our sanctification. Thus we can befriend the vulnerability of monastic life, and make living at this time fruitful for our own spiritual growth. When fear has been named and befriended it becomes possible to live an undefended life after the pattern of our Holy Father, Saint Dominic.

Father César Valero Bajo, OP, promoter for the Nuns of the Order of Preachers, spent two days with the Assembly.  He posed this question to the nuns, “How do we Dominicans preach in a world and a society where people are indifferent to religion? He thought this question vital for Dominican Order and stressed that Dominican contemplative life is submerged in the abyss of God’s love. The joy of God always shone in the face of Dominic and the joy of Dominic is itself a wonderful preaching.  

Father César challenged the nuns to reflect on what kind of reality shines forth from their faces. He told the nuns that they always have to look for the light of hope that comes from God. Quoting the Holy Father he said that every monastery must be compared to a light house for someone lost at sea. Father César begged the nuns to have a spirituality of beggars. Always to be attentive, humble and persistent.

Guest speakers were Brother Herman Johnson, OP, province of Saint Martin de Porres and Father John Paul Walker, OP, province of Saint Joseph.

Brother Herman spoke about the vocation of the cooperator brothers and the joy he has experienced in his vocation. He witnessed to the powerful intercession of Saint Martin de Porres and how he continues to be loved by so many, Dominicans and non-Dominicans alike. As part of his afternoon session, he reenacted the life of St. Martin de Porres to the great delight of the nuns.

Father John Paul Walker, OP gave two conferences. The first was entitled, New Beginnings. He listed six characteristics of a new beginning, emphasizing that they cannot take place without first the willingness to allow the death of the old. Quoting from the Libellus of Blessed Jordan in the Lives of the brethren, Father made the comparison of the brothers who were sent out to preach on August 15, 1217 without any preparation but Dominic’s trust in God’s grace. Another example was the trust in God’s Providence and the brothers’ joy in spite of their lack of success during a whole day of begging.

The afternoon conference focused on “Trust, Confidence and Joy”. He began with the story of the early brethren being fed by angels when they had no food. Their joy was such that observers thought them drunk on one such occasion after a long day of begging without any success. Father also emphasized qualities of this JOY such as passion, benevolence. He cautioned us about taking ourselves too seriously. Father John Paul emphasized that true joy is an effect of love.

The prioresses and delegates then moved on to the business portion of the Assembly. A day was spent in the spirit of true Dominican government. The proposals submitted by the member monasteries as well as changes to the statutes and directory were discussed and voted on by the Assembly body.

The Assembly elected the new officers of the Association. President, Sister Maria Christine, OP, Corpus Christi Monastery, Menlo Park, CA; Vice-President, Sister Mary Catharine, OP, Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit, New Jersey; First Councilor, Sister Mary Rose, OP, Monastery of the Infant Jesus, Lufkin, TX; Second Councilor, Sister Marie Tersidis, OP, Queen of Peace Monastery, Squamish Valley, BC, Canada,; Third Councilor, Sister Mary Jeremiah, OP, Monastery of the Infant Jesus, Lufkin, TX.

Toward the end of the Assembly a day was spent in the beautiful Tennessee countryside at the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia’s Bethany Retreat House. The nuns thoroughly enjoyed a relaxing day and the company of each other and the gracious hospitality of the Dominican Sisters. 

 

(22 October 2016)