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National College Preaching Conference
30 students participate in eighth annual conference

Gina Fleming, OP, Director, National College Preaching Conference

During the week of May 25, 30 students from Dominican universities/colleges or colleges with a Dominican presence gathered at Dominican College in Blauvelt, New York, for the Eighth National “Preaching in Action” Conference. The participating universities/colleges included Barry University, Florida; Caldwell College, New Jersey; Dominican College, New York; Dominican University, California; Dominican University, Illinois; Edgewood College, Wisconsin; Molloy College, New York; Mount St. Mary’s College, New York; Siena Heights University, Michigan; St. Louis University, Missouri; and St. Thomas Aquinas College, New York.

These young people came together to learn about the Dominican charism of preaching, and how that charism can be incorporated into their own lives. They were taught how the Word of God is vital to the life of all Dominicans, and were introduced to a variety of ways they can make that Word come to life bringing life to themselves and others. They were given the opportunity to experience themselves as preachers using the mediums of art, dance, drama, and music.

Once again, students who had previously been participants of the conference and are now members of Dominican Young Adults USA came back as adult mentors for their respective schools. The transfer of leadership from adult mentors to Dominican Young Adult mentors was wonderful to see. It was what had been dreamed about, put into action. This year we were also blessed with many new mentors who were experiencing the conference for the first time. From their reactions, I believe they will return in the future.

The conference began with a brief history of Dominic and the Order complete with an array of Dominican songs. There was definitely a Dominican Spirit in the air! A presentation depicting “Dominicans through the Ages” welcomed some of our Dominican saints to the conference. Mary of Magadala, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Antonio de Montessino, and our sister from Iraq, Luma Khudher, OP spoke about their lives and their own call to preach in the early years of the Order. Joe Kilikevice, OP highlighted the Interfaith Mission of the Order by introducing the students to dance and song from a variety of different faiths. Didi Madden, OP presented some thought provoking information on our “Connection with the Earth… connection with the poor.”

Margaret Mayce, OP our NGO to the UN welcomed us to her ministry site and introduced us to three other NGO representatives who opened our eyes to the issues of global sustainability, the plight of indigenous people, and human trafficking. Difficult topics but well worth studying. The rest of the day was spent taking in the sights of the New York city.

On the next day the participants were ready to put their “preaching into action.” They spent the day in immersion sites ministering to the poor of the Bronx at POTS, the children of migrant workers in Goshen, caring for the earth at the Empowerment Center, ministering to developmentally disabled adults at St. Dominic’s Home and helping provide food and other goods for the less fortunate of the city at People to People. On the previous night, 14 students had the experience of participating in a “Midnight Run.” They made sandwiches, collected clothes, toiletries, etc. and went by van, with adult supervision, to the sections of the city where the homeless are. From their comments the next morning, I am sure that it was a life-changing experience for each of them. Most of the students wished they could have gone to more than one site.

This year for the first time we added time for “Theological Reflection.” There was a wonderful sharing of stories, people, reactions, fears, attitudes, and underlying issues. Many of the students felt the experience mirrored organizations in their own home towns and made commitments to get more involved with their communities.

Barbara Schwarz, OP concluded the week’s presentations by awakening the participants to “the Art of Preaching.” Her interactive, hands-on presentation was a great intro to the “Preaching through the Arts” day. Nancy Murray, OP, Sara Fairbanks, OP, Diane Forrest, OP, Dr. Maureen Carey, MaDonna Thelen, OPA and Sister Barbara presented additional breakout sessions for the students to use their creative energies.

The morning and evening prayer services prepared by the student participants were highlights of the conference. Students use their creativity, musical talents and giftedness of voice to lead the entire group in prayer which begins and ends each day. This is but one of the elements of the conference that students enjoy immensely and plan on recreating on their college campuses. At the closing liturgy, each student presented his or her individual action plan which is a vehicle for incorporating what they learned at the conference into their own lives and the life of their campus. It was moving to witness each student making a commitment to continuing the “Holy Preaching.” Each then received the Dominican Cross and were commissioned to go forth and preach the “Good News” to their fellow students.

It was a jam-packed week, full of opportunities for study, community, prayer and mission/preaching. Upon leaving, these young people feel part of our Dominican Family and will forever be connected. Wherever they go, they will be preachers of God’s love, God’s peace and God’s justice for all!

The dates for next year's National College Preaching Conference are May 24-29, 2011. Keep checking www.domlife.org for more details on where the conference will be held. And “May The Preaching Continue in Our Very Lives.”