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Project OPUS
Dominican historians, scholars meet at McGreal Center

In May, 11 U.S historians and Dominican scholars gathered at the Mary Nona McGreal Center for Dominican Historical Studies at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, to plan the writing of “Dominicans on Mission,” the second volume in the series “The Order of Preachers in the United States: A Family History.”

This historical enterprise, commonly known as Project OPUS, began in 1985 with an invitation from Sister Mary Nona McGreal, OP to the Dominican family (nuns, friars, laity and sisters) to research and write the history of the Order of Preachers in the United States. The 2001 publication of “Volume I, Dominicans at Home in a Young Nation: 1786–1865” completed the first phase of Project OPUS.

The group at the May meeting accomplished the following tasks:

  • Designed a conceptual framework for the writing of the next phase of the history of the U.S. Dominican family;
  • Developed a process that determines the content for the history;
  • Devised a strategy that engages authors for the project; and
  • Determined a budget and timeline for the project.
From left: Jeff Burns, John Vidmar, OP; Karen Kennelly, CSJ; and Maggie McGuinness

The meeting’s participants were:

  • Jeff Burns, director of the Academy of American Franciscan History and archivist for the Archdiocese of San Francisco;
  • Sister Mary Ewens, OP, (Sinsinawa) author of “The Role of the Nun in 19th Century America: Variations on the International Theme”;
  • Sister Diane Kennedy, OP, (Sinsinawa), the first director of the Parable Conference and former academic dean of Aquinas Institute;
  • Sister Karen Kennelly, CSJ, one of the founders of the History of Women Religious Conference and organizers of the exhibit: “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America” and recipient of The American Catholic Historical Association Distinguished Award for scholarship and service to Catholic Studies;
  • Margaret McGuinness, vice president for mission at LaSalle University, author of “Called to Serve: A History of Nuns in America,” and winner of the Catholic Press Association 2014 Catholic Book Award in History;
  • Sister Suzanne Noffke, OP, (Racine) well-known Catherinian Scholar and composer of two volumes of Racine Dominicans history: “Embrace the Swelling Wave” and “1901–1964: a Time to Grow”;
  • John Vidmar, OP, (Eastern Province and faculty member, Providence College) author of Fr. Fenwick’s “Little American Province”: 200 Years of the Dominican Friars in the United States and
  • David Wright, OP, (Central Province) archivist for the Central Province and Project OPUS pioneer;
  • Claire Noonan, vice president for mission and ministry at Dominican University;
  • Sister Janet Welsh, OP, (Sinsinawa), director of the McGreal Center.

Liesl Orenic, labor historian and director of Dominican University’s American Studies Program, facilitated the meeting.

The Dominican family as well as those interested in U.S. history will relish reading essays that explore the mission and ministries of the Order of Preachers in the United States from the late 19th century until the end of the 20th century. Each essay will demonstrate a cohesive examination of the ministries of the Order of Preachers in relationship to the societal issues in U.S. history. The volume will begin with the question “What is a Dominican?” and conclude with the query “How are U.S. Dominicans on mission in the 21st century?”

A “Call for Papers” for Volume II: Dominicans on Mission is available on the McGreal Center web site.