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Dominican Leadership Conference
Annual meeting reflects Facets of Change

By Anne Lythgoe, OP (Catherine de’ Ricci)

Rose Marie Riley, OP (Springfield) and Pat Stringer, OP (Caldwell) during prayer. Photo by Beth McGarvey, OP.

MARYKNOLL, NY—In some ways the annual meeting of the Dominican Leadership Conference seemed like many other gatherings of the Family: joyous noise, stimulating presentations, happy reunions among friends and getting to the work of preaching. But this year, even as the DLC celebrated 75 years as a leadership conference, it allowed space for the creation of a new organization: the Dominican Sisters Conference. The theme of the meeting was Facets of Change.

After several years of evaluating structures and planning for the future, a new design is unfolding that will provide the apostolic sisters with an organization that serves both the members of the Dominican congregations and their leaders. It is hoped that over time this new configuration will make it possible to create closer bonds among the other branches of the Dominican Family (friars, nuns, laity).

Keynote speaker, Ann Willits, OP (Sinsinawa), enjoined the group to reflect on the meaning of family, of Dominican Family, of belonging and of home. She reminded the group of Dominic’s insistence on companionship and a heart that always holds room for the other.

Barbara Reid, OP (Grand Rapids) addresses the group

Barbara Reid, OP (Grand Rapids), also a keynote speaker, offered her reflections on Preaching with the Heart, Mind and Eyes of Women. In her preaching, Barbara clearly pointed out that there is a difference between understanding who God is through the experience of women in the scriptures and understanding simply stories about women in scripture. How do we recognize God in “women’s clothing”?

Through a special arrangement of the Maryknoll sisters, Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, (as portrayed by Helen Phillips, MM) founder of the congregation, visited the group and engaged in some lively reminiscence with Janet Welsh, OP (Sinsinawa) of the McGreal Center on the foundations of the DLC. Maryknoll Sisters were part of the founding group of sisters who came together in 1935 and have been members of DLC ever since. Earlier, Janice McLaughlin, President of the Maryknoll Sisters, offered an insightful welcome and shared stories of Maryknoll charism and foundation. Many participants remarked how thrilling it was to meet Maryknoll missionaries from around the world, many of whom spent 30 or 40 years in faraway lands preaching the Gospel. Their welcome and hospitality was exceptional.

Later in the program, a multimedia presentation offered a powerful glimpse into the history of the DLC over 75 years of American history, music and popular culture prepared by Anne Lythgoe, OP.

The new beginnings of the Dominican Sisters Conference took an important step forward with the introduction of its first Executive Director, Mary Sue Kennedy, OP (Adrian) an the election of its first Coordinating Committee: Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP (Springfield), Pat Farrell, OP (San Rafael), Judy Golden, OP (Amityville), Rose Celeste O’Connell, OP (Adrian), Mary Virginia Leach, OP (Mission San Jose) and Michaela Connolly, OP (Blauvelt). The Coordinating Committee and Mary Sue have been consulting with the Executive Committee of the Dominican Leadership Conference to put into place the elements of the new organization that need to be created as Sisters Conference unfolds.

From left: Gemma Doll, OP (Peace), Maureen Geary, OP (Grand Rapids), and Lorelle Elcock, OP (Hope).

On Sunday many participants traveled to Ellis Island to view the Women and Spirit Exhibit offered by LCWR. Others visited the United Nations and learned about our presence there from NGO Representatives Margaret Mayce, OP (Amityville), Ann Braudis, MM (Maryknoll), and Lucianne Siers, OP (Grand Rapids).

A major highlight of the meeting was a raucous and affectionate tribute to Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa) who completed her 13 years of service to the DLC as executive director. By special arrangement of the planning committee, the one and only Marilyn Monroe (Judy Golden, OP) joined the celebration all the way from her place of rest in Forrest Lawn and offered a stunning rendition of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend. If we were not speechless, we were out of breath from laughing and cheering. Many tributes followed and words of congratulations poured forth. The conference presented Mary Ellen with a book of remembrances from members of the Executive Committee over the years along with a video tribute to her service to the DLC. You had to be there to really appreciate the entire event.

Spanish speaking table

Other invited guests included Maria Fabiola Valasquez Maya, OP (Presentation) DSI International Coordinator; Toni Harris, OP (Sinsinawa) International Co-Promoter of Justice and Peace; sisters from the Dominican Congregation of the Christian Doctrine from Mexico, Joye Gros OP (Peace) and Megan McElroy, OP (Grand Rapids), co-directors of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate; Jim Barnett, OP (St. Albert), Dominican Ashram; Durstyne Farnan, OP (Adrian), co-promoter of Justice, Peace, and Care of the Earth; Ban Madleen Saeed, OP (St. Catherine of Siena, Mosul, Iraq); Alejandro Crosthwaite, OP (Holy Name), Angelicum; and Michel Cote, OP (St. Dominic Province, Canada).

Durstyne Farnan, OP (Adrian) and Gemma Doll, OP (Peace) presented a resolution to the assembly on immigration. After discussion, the DLC unanimously accepted the resolution on immigration reform.

Closing prayer

In October 2011, a meeting of the leadership will be held at the Dominican motherhouse in Springfield, Illinois. In subsequent years, membership meetings will be held both regionally and nationally in a three-year cycle.