The annual Founders Week activities at Dominican College had special significance this year because the Dominican Order is celebrating the 800-year anniversary of the founding of the Order. In honor of the Jubilee, several renowned and accomplished Dominican Sisters spoke at the College. Throughout the week, the focus was on the Dominican pillars of study, community, spirituality, and service.
Founder’s Week kicked off on Monday, September 19, with a keynote presentation from Sr. Kathleen McManus, O.P., Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Portland. Sr. Kathleen reviewed important Dominicans throughout the 800-year history of the Order and focused on St. Catherine of Siena’s famous quote, “If you are who you are meant to be, who will set the world on fire.” She reached out to students and brought the age-old history of the Order of Preachers into the present by asking, “How do know who you are meant to be?”
Sr. Kathleen encouraged the students to be touched by the needs and suffering of our world, to study, and to contemplate to find the answer to that question. She concluded her speech by telling the students, “When – not if, but when – you are who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire because you are all about the Dominican difference. “
Throughout the day on Monday, the Sisters of the Blauvelt congregation, as “Itinerant Preachers,” visited classes to explain the mission of the Dominican Order. The Sisters also spoke with students and faculty about the meaning and significance of the Jubilee celebration.
Monday evening, Sr. Barbara Reid, O.P., V.P. and Academic Dean of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, addressed a crowd of Dominican Sisters, Board members, administrators, faculty, and staff about Seeking Truth in a Year of Mercy. She talked about seeking the truth about God, seeking the truth about ourselves, and seeking the truth about others. “If the truth about God is that God is mercy and seeks to be with us, then it is incumbent on us who are made in God’s image to be the bridge to God’s mercy and to one another,” she said. Sr. Barbara added that while it may be easy to be a bridge of mercy to our beloved family and friends, a greater challenge is building bridges of mercy to our enemies and accepting mercy from them as well.
The Living the Legacy speech, delivered each year by a Dominican College graduate, was given on Tuesday, September 20, by Sr. Mary Doris, O.P., ’63, the Foundress and Director of Siena House in the Bronx, which provides shelter to pregnant women and women with children under the age of three. Sr. Mary urged the students to get involved. “Whatever way – whatever small or big way – you can reach out in your neighborhood or wherever you live, there are people who need your help. So whatever decision you are making in your life choices, please think about making a difference in the lives of children,” she said.
Two students, Brianna Torres, ’18, , and Christine Ditzel, ‘19, spoke to fellow students on Wednesday, September 21, about their trip to Fanjeaux, France, in June to walk in the footsteps of St. Dominic with students and staff from Dominican colleges across the United States. Each year, two students are chosen to go on the trip, which is partially paid for by the College. Brianna said this Founders Week was more meaningful to her because of what she learned. “Now I fully understand how the Dominican Order began, the work that was put into it, and the spirit of St. Dominic,” she said.
The Dominican College community and the Dominican Sisters gathered on Thursday, September 22 in the Convent Chapel for a Dominican Jubilee Liturgy. Father Kenneth Letoile, O.P. said in his sermon that he was educated by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt and credited the Sisters with his decision to become a priest. He then asked all the Sisters to stand and thanked them for helping us be who we are meant to be. The sisters were thanked by everyone in attendance with a hearty round of applause.
Dominican College students practiced what they had learned during the week with Preaching in Action activities on Friday, September 23. More than 30 students traveled to Goshen, NY, to volunteer at the House on the Hill and Harmony Farm. The House on the Hill, which is run by the Sisters of St. Dominic, provides daycare to the children of migrant farm workers. In addition to helping to care for the children, the students worked with the migrant workers in the farm and did heavy landscaping and clean up on the property to make the grotto usable again.
Founders Week concluded with the 66th Annual Dominican Sisters Festival. Dominican College students volunteered at the Festival, where local residents enjoyed food, games, and pony rides.