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Springfield Dominicans Make New Commitments at General Chapter

Springfield ChapterSPRINGFIELD, IL July 8, 2009 -- After a year of study and a week of in-depth discussion and communal discernment, the General Chapter of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois, unanimously approved three commitment statements that will, for the coming years, give focus to their life in community, their ministries, and their participation in the mission of the Order of Preachers. The keywords are healing, restoring, and reconciling.

The congregation also affirmed their intent to invite women to join them in their consecrated life, and made some changes to the governance of the congregation, including shifting to a five-year interval between General Chapters. Since 1989 chapters have been held every four years.

This chapter, convened June 29 –July 4, 2009, at Sacred Heart Convent, the motherhouse in Springfield, focused on the care of creation, right relationship, and collaboration with other entities in the world-wide Order of Preachers.

Rose Marie Riley
Prioress General Sr. Rose Marie Riley, OP

"For those who are familiar with our ministry, the decisions of this Chapter won’t be a surprise,” said Sister Rose Marie Riley, the prioress general. “What I hope our friends and co-ministers see is a deepening of the work God has begun in us, to paraphrase St. Paul.”

For nearly ten years the Springfield Dominicans have cared for Jubilee Farm, a 100+ acre site west of Springfield where they nurture the land, educate others about sustainability and provide space for prayer and quiet for hundreds of visitors each year. “The chapter commitment statement on Creation is a natural extension of the work we have already been doing here,” said the director of Jubilee Farm, Sister Sharon Zayac.

 “As vowed Dominican women, we reverence all of creation as revelatory of God,” the statement reads. “We embrace as a moral imperative the need to help restore wholeness to all creation.”

This same theme of restoration carries over into the second statement, which flows from the anti-racism work the Dominicans have been doing for the past eight years. The statement reads: “Recognizing that the use of power has an impact on individuals and relationships, we choose to spend our energies and resources to promote relationships based on the Gospel values of respect and mutuality.”

“Our anti-racism work has provided us with a powerful tool for understanding the role of power in either creating or destroying relationships of justice within the human family,” said Sister Marcelline Koch, OP. “We’ve learned so much by working with our partners on the Anti-racism Team, and have come to see that we can broaden the impact of our study by using this same tool to understand how we relate with one another across the national and cultural boundaries that exist within our community – between the U.S. and Peru.

“The same is true of relationships within the Church, the Body of Christ,” she continued. “We’ve said very powerfully at this chapter that we want to be agents of healing and reconciliation for and with all of those who have experienced any kind of abuse of power in the Church.”.

The third statement addresses the way the Springfield congregation of Dominicans plans to approach its ongoing collaboration with the larger Dominican family, which includes friars, nuns, apostolic sisters and laity around the world. It affirms the community’s desire to continue to collaborate in common ministries and to explore what needs to be in place for the congregation to consider merging with another Dominican congregation or creating a new congregation.

“This General Chapter, like the many Chapters of our 136 year history, calls us to fidelity to God, to the Church and those we serve, and to one another,” said Sister Rose Marie. “We ask for the prayers and support of the Universal Church as we prepare for the great work of ministry we’ve been called to through the Spirit’s work at this chapter, and we extend an invitation to women to join us in the enterprise.”

The 250 members of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield minister as educators, health care workers and pastoral ministers in the United States and Peru. They were founded in Jacksonville, Illinois, on August 19, 1873, and moved their motherhouse to Springfield in 1893.

Visit the Springfield Dominicans website

View a video clip of the Chapter here