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New Association of Dominican Monasteries Holds First General Assembly

SPRINGFIELD, IL - October 6, 2008 -- After nine days of intensive discussion on various items among over 20 delegates, the first official General Assembly of the Association of Monasteries of Nuns of the Order of Preachers in North America concluded Wednesday, September 24, 2008 in Springfield, Illinois with several new directives adopted.

Sr. Maria Pia (Bronx, NY), Sr. Stephanie (Springfield) and Sr.Mary of the Sacred Heart (Bronx, NY)

praying compline

Chapter session deliberations on proposals

In 2000 the Congregation for Religious urged the nuns to move from a non-canonical status as a “conference” to canonical status as an “association.”  The group, which had met every four years since its inception in 1975 as a conference, received approval from Rome in 2006 to form an association. This new canonical status makes it possible for the nuns to gather together and make decisions which will foster and strengthen their monastic, contemplative life.

The 2008 General Assembly, which focused on the theme: “Liturgy, the Heart of Our Life,” brought together the prioresses, delegates and observers from several Dominican monasteries.  In the course of the assembly, the nuns created a “directory” or bylaws for the new Association.  They formed three new standing committees and elected a leadership council.  Sister Mary John, from the Monastery of the Infant Jesus in Lufkin, Texas, was reelected president of the Association for another four year term. 

“It’s been a very good meeting,” Sister Mary John said.  “We’ve been open and honest, facing some serious issues troubling us.  The discussion has created unity and a hopeful atmosphere for the future.”

Also elected to the new leadership council were as vice president, Sister Miriam of the Monastery of Mary the Queen in Elmira, New York; and as general councilors: Sisters Mary Thomas of the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Farmington Hills, Michigan; Mary Catharine of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey; and Mary of the Sacred Heart from Corpus Christi Monastery in Menlo Park, California. 

“I feel wonderful!  It’s been so exhilarating and exciting for the possibilities,” Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart said about the formation of the Association and the bond it has created.  “Monasteries all over the world live by the same rule of life– one mind and heart in God.  We live it out in slightly different ways and places – but in unity.”

Formation, Communications, and Healthcare were the three new standing committees formed at the assembly.  The Formation committee aims to assist the nuns with new-member issues and provide a program which will provided resources for the monasteries on various topics.  The Communications committee sets out to continue the publication of the Association’s two periodicals:  Association Sharings, which is an exchange of thoughts and ideas between the monasteries, and the Dominican Monastic Search, a theological journal authored by nuns from various monasteries.  The Healthcare committee was established to address the ethical and sensitive issues facing healthcare today.

The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois provided their motherhouse as a gathering place for the assembly.  Sister Mary Dominica Brennan, a canon lawyer and member of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, was present during the assembly as an advisor and consultant.

“Our Association is so closely connected with the Springfield Dominicans because the first gathering of the nuns from various monasteries was here in Springfield,” Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart said.  “That was when they first came together.  Now the Association has come together for the first meeting – back in Springfield – where it began.”

“It has been a privilege to be the host sight for this historic event,” said Sister Rose Marie Riley, Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois. “We strongly believe in the value of collaboration for the sake of the mission.  This was a unique opportunity to connect with our Dominican nuns and provide the space for their collaboration.  It was hard to say ‘good-bye’ but we know that our connection will continue.  We enjoyed their presence so much.”

“We like to call ourselves the Dominican family and I’ve experienced that very strongly here,” Sister Judith Miryam from the Monastery of our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey said.  “Sister Dominica has been wonderful to have because we’ve been talking about legislative documents and law and wording is very important.  What’s great about her is that she is a Dominican, so she has certain knowledge of our life and our way of doing things, which is always collegial in Dominican government.”

“What has been one of the great blessings of this particular meeting is that the Sisters have welcomed us to their facility and really just opened the whole facility and just said:  ‘anywhere you want to go you’re welcome, just call us and we’ll help you out in anyway,’” Sister Mary John said. 

The goal of the Association is to strengthen Dominican monasteries and the unity between each one.  Toward that end, the leadership council will gather annually to discuss issues and make recommendations and decisions.  Individual committees will meet at their discretion. 

“I think what we will have to do in the coming year is build on trust, increase trust between the monasteries,” Sister Mary John said.  “As they see the Association working, and hopefully they will see that it’s nothing really threatening them, other monasteries will feel encouraged to join.”

By Nathan Mihelich
Director of Communications
Dominican Sisters of Springfield

click here to learn more about the meeting at the website of the Association of Monasteries of Domincan Nuns.

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