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Amityville Dominicans
More than 300 sisters gather for convocation

by Margaret Briody, OP

On Friday evening, Feb. 18, Sister Mary Hughes, OP, prioress, convened and welcomed more than 300 Dominican Sisters of Amityville (including four sisters from the Province of Puerto Rico) and their Associates who had been “called together” to “Mend our Nets.”

Sister Mary Hughes read a letter of support from Bishop William Murphy, bishop of Rockville Centre, and a message of prayer and support from our founding monastery, “Heilig Creuz” in Regensberg, Germany.

During the opening prayer the theme of “Mending the Nets” was imaged by our sisters through graceful, creative motion. A panel of four lay guests, Mike Courtein, Brian Maher, Pat Spiegel and Kathleen Tomlinson, recalled various experiences of the “kindness” of Amityville Dominican sisters in their lives. They encouraged us to speak and share more freely of our good works and successes. Our prayer together ended with the singing of Salve followed by a gathering for refreshments.

Saturday morning after Mass with Father Vin Richey, SJ, we turned to the material presented to us by Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK. Simone spoke of our vows and their relationship to Catholic social teaching:

  • Chastity as a “radical availability” to the lives of others as opposed to a society of exclusion and control.
  • Poverty as “a clarity of our own neediness and incompleteness;” working for material things to be available for all and an ecological responsibility.
  • Obedience as “radical listening” and “radical willingness” as in Catholic Social Teaching we are to be in solidarity with the human family, the common good and stand with the poor.

The day ended with Compline (the evening prayer of the Church) sung after dinner.

Sunday morning began with communal sharing of Lectio Divina and a reading from 2 Peter 1: 19-21 (in English and Spanish) on the Prophetic Word. This was followed by a panel of four sisters who gave their reflection on our time together: Sisters Marie Rabuse, Judy Flanagan, Margaret Kavanagh and Alex Wolochuk. They spoke of:

  • Aging and retirement with a sense of humor and faith in our ever present God.
  • Transformation that can move us to great risk as in the life of Mother Josepha, our foundress. And the importance of community.
  • Acknowledging something is broken, naming the loss and following the call to radical and profound availability to our sisters and to the suffering around us.
  • Reflecting on our roots in Christ as revealed in the lives of the sisters who went before us and the traditions of our history, but reminding us that we don’t want to live in the past.

Sister Mary Hughes then gave her reflection that concluded the convocation. Referring to today’s Gospel, she reminded us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and we are to let our light shine before others.

A card was distributed to each with a print of “Mending the Nets” by Winslow Homer. This skill of mending, we are reminded, is passed from generation to generation and is necessary for the fishing industry to flourish. Our work in ministry is analogous to fishing and mending the nets along the way. It is necessary to recognize our brokenness before we can mend the nets. We have become broken in relationships and in ministry, and we need to recognize and mend the nets in light of the past and for the future that we shall pass on to others. We concluded with singing the response on the card, “We will rise up, rise up and follow.”

All returned to the motherhouse for the celebration of the Sunday Liturgy presided at by our chaplain, Father Sam Natale. It was our opportunity to pray with and share our experience with the infirmed sisters who could not attend the convocation.