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Irish Dominican Offers Insights on St. Catherine as Peacemaker

Mary O'DriscollORANGEBURG, NY --April 19, 2009-- After leading a four day retreat at Mariandale Retreat Center in Ossining New York, Sr. Mary O’Driscoll, OP (Cabra) gave an afternoon talk on Catherine of Siena as a model peacemaker at Dominican College.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” a well-known hymn refrain was sung intermittently throughout the afternoon as Sr. Mary spoke to a group of Dominican Sisters and Associates.  “This is the message of Catherine of Siena and the message for us today,” she said.  This presentation, and the retreat which preceded it at Mariandale Retreat Center in Ossining, NY were co-sponsored by the Northeast Dominican Promoters of Preaching and their six respective congregations.
About forty women representing five of the congregations of the Northeast  spent the previous weekend of April 16-19 focusing on the scriptures of Easter Week. Dominican Sisters of Hope, who were in Chapter at the time, were unable to attend..

Liturgical planning for the retreat was a joint effort of Diane Morgan, OP and Judy Golden, OP (Amityville) with Nancy Garson, OP and Patricia Mood, OP (St. Catherine De'Ricci).   Pat Mood noted: "With Dominican Praise as the backbone of our morning and evening prayer, we lifted our hearts and voices in praise, which Dominicans do so well.   We created such a joyful sound! And  itt was a rich blessing to have our brother, Aedon McKeon, OP to preside at our Eucharistic celebrations."
Sr. Mary reminded us all that the Gospel is best preached when a community living the Gospel -- is doing the preaching.  Inviting us to ruminate on the scriptures narrating the Resurrection appearances, Mary challenged us to pass through the "doors of disbelief, disappointment and fear" and to open ourselves to the light of Resurrection that we might Proclaim the Good News in and by our lives.  At the concluding ritual each person received a lighted candle, and Mary's exhortation: "Courage!  Go out and continue the Holy Preaching!" 

During the Blauvelt program, it was perhaps by chance, but more likely the Spirit, that in the Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” three times.  According to Sr. Mary, “Peacemaking and reconciliation are at the heart of the Easter season and of our Dominican vocation.”  Sr. Mary then went on to explain how St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church, Patron of Italy and Europe, earned those titles, at least in part, due to her peacemaking skills.  She used the image of Catherine holding a cross and an olive branch as she told stories of Catherine negotiating between warring factors in the Church and 14th Century Italy.

Sr. Mary then offered suggestions, based on the examples from St. Catherine’s life, on how Dominicans today could be peacemakers.  Being engaged in life and society, listening to both sides when there is a disagreement, speaking out, and taking the side of the oppressed in situations of injustice were just a few of the ways Sr. Mary suggested people act – whether on a local or global scale – in order to be peacemakers.

During her presentation in Blauvelt, the service began with a procession and blessing of water, which was a mixture of water from Mariandale and the Easter water from Blauvelt, symbolizing the connectedness among all Dominicans.  After chanting the psalms and proclaiming the Word, participants were invited to preach to each other how they would be peacemakers.  The day concluded with the Dominican Blessing and a hearty rendition of “Family of Dominic.” 

contributors to this story: Jenn Schaaf , Director of Communications
Sisters of St. Dominic , Blauvelt, NY

Pat Mood, OP (St. Catherine de' Ricci)