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Father Jim Barnett, OP, gives a talk to convocation participants.

Dominican Education
DASS convocation: ‘Preaching Human Dignity in Our Schools’

Administrators, teachers, and staff from 19 Dominican schools throughout the country gathered in Lisle, Illinois in October 2013 for the fifth Convocation of Dominican Secondary Schools. The theme of the convocation was “Preaching Human Dignity in our Schools.”

The convocation was organized by the Dominican Association of Secondary Schools (DASS), an organization “dedicated to helping Dominican secondary schools throughout the country promote and maintain their Dominican identity through formation and networking opportunities,” according to DASS president Sister Jane Meyer, OP.

Sister Pat Brady (left) and Sister Jane Meyer

After a welcome by DASS executive director Sister Patricia Brady, OP, the opening prayer highlighted the historical founding of the Dominican Order, and, via a multi-media presentation, proclaimed how “the preaching continues” not only across the globe, but in each of 24 Dominican high schools in the United States today. Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, OP, superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, exhorted the group to remember that their “very existence as schools is grounded in reverence for the human person, deeply embedded in the words and actions of Jesus and in the teachings of the Church… As Dominican educators, we always preach the dignity of the human person in the context of prayer, study, community, and service.”

Cynthia Thomas (St. Mary's Dominican High School, New Orleans, Louisiana), Sister Kathleen Ann Tait (Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights, Illinois), and Sister Donna Pollard (St. Pius X, Houston, Texas) enjoy conversation at the social hour.

Wednesday morning’s sessions began with prayer provided by the student preachers from Rosary High School in Aurora, Illinois. In the keynote address, Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP, assistant professor of systematic theology at Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, provided a theological foundation for the study of human dignity. Sister Sara called on the participants to realize that “the foundation of human dignity is our divine origin which we share with all of creation… We are the concrete persons spoken by God.” Fr. Jim Barnett, OP, who has dedicated his life to Gospel preaching, recalled the cost of “speaking our truth about the dignity of each person” as he highlighted the challenges faced by the Dominican friars who first came to the Americas in the 16th century.

Break-out sessions included: “Welcoming Gay and Lesbian Students into our School Communities,” (Sister Jane Meyer, OP and Anne Doyle from St. Agnes Academy in Houston, Texas), “Training Leaders for a Just World,” (Bobby Lambert from Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois) and “Digital Citizenship” (Jeannie Finley from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in LaCanada, California).

The convocation closed with an All Schools’ Eucharistic Liturgy celebrating the 800th Anniversary of the Dominican Order. About 500 people—personnel from the six Dominican high schools in the Chicago area, along with convocation attendees—gathered at the Candida Lund Auditorium of Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, for the celebratory event. Sister Jamie Phelps, OP called the group to worship, and Fr. Jim Barnett, OP celebrated the liturgy. The campus ministry department of Dominican University coordinated the music, song and liturgical dance. The a capella choir from Trinity High School in River Forest also participated.

The Dominican Association of Secondary of Secondary Schools (DASS) is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 that seeks to promote the Dominican charism of Veritas (Truth) with its four pillars of prayer, study, community and preaching, within and beyond the Dominican school community. It currently serves 24 Dominican high schools throughout the United States, providing networking and formation opportunities.