Dominican Sisters Cabra Dominican Sisters Cabra Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:42:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Twenty-Ninth Sunday of the Year (19 October) Thu, 16 Oct 2014 09:31:11 +0000 Hunters and trappers know that if you want to catch your quarry, you must ensure that the trap is secure at both ends, having an enticing entrance but no exit. It would appear that the Pharisees had a good plan this time. Since previous plans to entrap Jesus in what he said had failed, they had devised a new strategy – buddy up with the enemy. By forming an alliance with the enemy, the Herodians, the Pharisees had a fairly fail-proof plan. The Herodians had drawn their fortunes and their petty power from their loyalty to the Romans. Consequently, they supported paying tribute to Caesar. The Pharisees, on the other hand, opposed the payment of such a tribute, because that would be an admission that the people of God were subject to a foreign power. They were sure that in his response Jesus would offend either the Herodians or the loyal people of God, like themselves, who could not accept the foreign power. The consequence would be to engage the ire of one group or the other.Denarius (2)

They laid out an enticing entrance into the trap, that of flattery. We all know that flattery is hard to resist, but it is even harder to recognize. However, for Jesus recognizing flattery was no problem. He knew these people. He knew their hearts, and he knew their words reeked of absolute insincerity. Therefore the alluring entrance was in fact repulsive to Jesus. He had no need of people’s praise and certainly no need of their flattery.

The manufactured problem presented was couched in a language that appeared to express concern for the law. “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” We know they were speaking of their religious laws, because of course by Roman law it was lawful. Jesus did not engage on the question of the law. However, he did point out that they possessed the coin with Caesar’s image on it. Since that was the property of the emperor, their possessing it implied a recognition of the emperor’s authority.

On the matter of law, Jesus’ preaching had been clear as to the law that mattered. Yet again he pointed out that there was no problem in giving Caesar what was his. But, their duty was to give to God what was due to God, those matters which surpassed any laws of state or religion – love, mercy, justice.

We see our church leadership struggle with issues that have been confined by laws. Their challenge is to meet these issues with those gifts of God which far surpass the laws – mercy, compassion, understanding, welcome, acknowledgement, love, humility and contrition.

St. Dominic, a man of God, had a good grasp of this concept, hence our custom of dispensation, where nobody is condemned to a state of manufactured sinfulness.

Elizabeth Ferguson, OP

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A reflection from the Dominican Family Day 12th October, 2014 Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:28:52 +0000 This was the homily given by Fr Rui Lopes at the Dominican Family Day, September 27th on the feast of St Vincent de PaulSt  vincent de paul

We celebrate today the memory of Saint Vincent of Paul, as we know very well he has two major concerns: the care of the poor and the formation of the priests. May be in a superficial view two things bring in different senses. What the formation of the priests have in common with the care of the poor’s. We can put the question in a more central question for today: what the preaching of the Gospel and the social committed have in common?  This question helps us to reflect on the style of our preaching. Many of our brothers and sisters took the problem of justice and peace as the most important challenge of their preaching. Of course we know that some cases with a too much ideological orientation. But we must reflect on that challenge of the Gospel.

We see many difficult situations and how we answer them? Preach means enlighten with the Gospel all the situations. May not only solve a specific problem but also give a complete answer to this problem. In the Order we speak about the Salamanca’s process. We remember with that Las Casas e Vitória. It first explained the situation of the Indians in the New World and the second propose a very consistent study about human rights. The Dominican way to preach is to offer answers with the light of the Gospel. At the beginning of the Dominican laity, with the Rule of Munio de Zamora, the Order of the Penitence of Saint Dominic asked of his members a commitment to the preaching. Preaching was the one way to serve the Gospel and help the others.

Indeed preaching is an eminent form of charity because charity is not just giving material things but the good thing: the light of the Gospel. That’s why the formation of each one is so important.  In the Gospel we heard today is the continuation with the text we had yesterday. We heard yesterday the confession of Peter according to Luke. Today Jesus talks about his messianism: “the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men”. We can find here another component of our preaching: give us our lives and ourselves. Preaching isn’t just the communication of intellectual matters, it is the gift of our lives. We preach when we give ourselves, our time our energy to the others. Like Jesus we are invited to give our lives.
Even as we celebrate S. Vincent of Paul let me remind you of three aspects of Saint Dominic’s example about giving life: the first is the capacity to comfort those who were in trouble: the poor, heretics, even friars. Preaching is also this capacity to give peace. The second way of giving life is this divestment of him. When the Chapter took decisions against his point of view he accepted it with humility. To preach is also to renew the capacity of accepting others and the different opinions.

The third sign is the will of Saint Dominic to be buried under the feet of his brothers. All is life was a gift from himself to help the others to grow, to have life, to find the truth and the real life. To preach is also to give life all that means: hope, light, new sense for life according with the Gospel.
And this form of preaching is common for all the Dominican Family.

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Interview with Sr. Martine Pillay OP Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:20:43 +0000 Twenty years on from the end of Apartheid in South Africa,  Sr Martine Pillay recounts the day she cast her vote in Middle Abbey St and how life has changed since

Sr Martine Pillay, a Dominican Sister based in South Africa recalls meeting a man on a plane who explained to her that he lived in fear of others because he lived separately from those around him. She has never forgotten that man. 1994 was a year full of promise in South Africa because it brought an end to this divide. People had lived in ignorance of one another for too long. The end of the apartheid regime meant that children could now go to the schools of their parents’ choice. They could go to the cinema and travel on any bus they wished.Martine Pillay

With this, came the opportunity to vote and Sr Martine Pillay who was based in Ireland at the time cast her vote in the South African elections at a polling station at the ATGWU district office in Dublin’s Middle Abbey St, where many anti-apartheid demonstrations had been previously held. She describes voting as a feeling of being baptised and cleansed. On this day, about fifteen Irish Sisters who had been based in South Africa at some point also voted, for them it was a symbolic act in support of a non-racial democracy. They were pictured on the front page of the Irish Times.

But how much has changed in South Africa over this period? During Apartheid, jobs were reserved for white people. Sr Martine explains, “it was always a white person managing a black person working.” After returning from Ireland to South Africa in 1999, the first thing she observed, was a white person cleaning the plane. However, other change has been much more gradual to take hold and that “is the change of attitude and heart”. For so long, people had internalised what apartheid was teaching and they began to believe it. “The change of attitude is still at a very slow pace. While blacks and whites can now live in the same areas, many people still have to grapple with the untruths created by Apartheid.”

The biggest division now in South Africa is the divide between rich and poor, whether black or white. After 1994, people began to migrate into urban areas but they didn’t have the means to build houses. The housing situation remains dire. There is a continued lack of suitable housing due to worsening unemployment. In some of the remaining Dominican schools now, teachers and older children are involved in “Habitat for Humanity” an organisation which supports volunteers to build homes for the very poor. This initiative also builds awareness amongst children.

Sr Martine explains that with the ending of Apartheid, new injustices have emerged. Poor black people have now been joined by a growing number of impoverished white people. “These are the group who are now forgotten within South African society,” she says.
There is also evident nepotism across the public service, with many people employed because of their connections but who lack the basic qualifications and experience to do the job. A glaring example of this was the man who did the signing for the Deaf at Nelson Mandella’s funeral. This caused huge embarrassment to South Africa. Overall, the situation is causing unease. People are not receiving an adequate level of public services and Sr Martine believes that this will cause increased instability in the country.

This has also crept into the third level education system. Education has become a problem area for the government, not only have they had to make education available to all, but they have also had to break down apartheid in education. The introduction of quotas in Universities has caused its own problems, resulting in students gaining access into third level, again without adequate qualifications.
A huge change in South Africa has also been the opening of borders to other Africans. Many of these people are entrepreneurs who have set up small businesses to survive. This however has caused a certain level of jealousy amongst native South Africans and has resulted in friction between different groups.

The Cabra Dominicans have a strong legacy in South Africa, having committed their lives to setting up hundreds of schools and educating thousands of children. Last year was the celebration of 150 years in the region. While many of the Sisters are now retired, their legacy is strong with the Dominican ethos evident across these schools. The Sisters are ensuring now that they continue to make their presence felt in the education field, having secured vacant convent buildings and land for education purposes and also by making bursaries available for teachers. They are also involved in the area of child safeguarding by holding w orkshops for the staff and governing bodies.

Other Sisters are involved in the alleviation of the effects of HIV and Aids by raising funds for child headed households. Others are involved in work in the parish and in preparing families for baptism and communion. The older Sisters are committed to prayer, keeping them aware of what is happening in the outside world is important so they can pray to alleviate the hardships, especially with the current situation in Iraq.
Martine herself knew she wanted to become a nun from an early age, converting to Catholicism when she was 14. The rest of her family followed suit. Sr Martine taught all her life apart from when she served on the region council in South Africa. She was also the first non-Irish person on the general Council.

Like all other regions, the Sisters are experiencing decreasing numbers in South Africa. However Martine believes that God is perhaps calling for another way of serving the needs in society. Sr Martine says that living in a convent is different now. She says that her life as a Sister has resulted in her living with the most fantastic women that she would never have met had she not become a nun.

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Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year (5th October) Thu, 02 Oct 2014 10:48:43 +0000 A good teacher, having tried to get a point across through stories and examples, can read in the expressions on the students’ faces whether or not the penny has dropped. If it hasn’t that teacher knows to try again in another way and with some more examples. As these stories concerning the vineyard appear in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus would appear to be such a teacher. If he had any doubt that the scribes and the Pharisees didn’t fully get it after the story of the two sons and the vineyard, another example might clinch it.

At this stage there is no way that they could not recognize the image. Israel is God’s vineyard. In today’s first reading, the Prophet Isaiah describes that vineyard, planted and tended by God, which produced nothing but wild grapes. In contrast, however, the vineyard in the Gospel story produces a lush harvest. The problem is with the tenants. They have assumed privileges, which are not theirs. When it is time to pay the rent, to give what is due, they not only scoff at the rent collectors, they treat them with violence, wounding them or killing them. When the heir comes, they seize the opportunity to kill him too, so that they might have first claim to the vineyard. It is very clear that the actions of the tenants is by design and deliberate. They plan to take for themselves that which was never theirs. Then Jesus asks his audience to judge the tenants, and of course in so doing they are judging themselves.

The vineyard is equated with the kingdom of God. Those who thought it was theirs by divine right are being told that there is no guaranteed or inherited tenure in God’s kingdom. It belongs to those ‘producing the fruits of it.’ By this time the scribes and the Pharisees have finally perceived that Jesus is indeed talking about them. They react like the tenants in the vineyard. They want to get rid of him, because he is a challenge to their claim to righteousness and privilege.1vineyard-rows2

The message of Jesus never ceases to be a challenge. It was for the scribes and the Pharisees, and it was for the early church communities who struggled with their own questions of belonging and membership. Today’s gospel offers us a challenge to look at the vineyards of our lives in which we are tenants – society, church, community, ministry, our earth home.

Sometimes an ownership mentality can blind us to the fact that we are merely passing through, privileged to be tenants tending the vineyards of our lives, and always willing to pay the rent with the fruits of our harvests.

Elizabeth Ferguson, OP

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“Allowing the breath of God to inspire our words”. Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:44:57 +0000 At our Dominican Family Day, 2014 held in Newbridge College, Fr Rui Lopes OP spoke about the importance of preaching and “Allowing the breath of God to inspire our words”.

Here are some excerpts from his speaking notes:

The Word we preach isn’t our word, it’s a gift from God. We are preachers and this is a gift that we need to offer to others.Newbridge Dominican Family Day

The prophet Elijah in the mountain could discover the presence of God in a slight breeze. God comes not in powerful signs like an earthquake, strong winds or fire but in a slight breeze. This text is a real invitation to find the slight breeze or the breath that the Lord uses to come to reach us in our lives.

We need to have this contact with the Word of God. To be taken by the breath of the Word of God we must be transformed by God’s Word.

In the Middle Ages the first lay Dominicans were known as Brothers of the Penitence because the word preached by the friars had a strong impact on their lives. It was so strong that they made groups who took many initiatives to help the poor, but even more important, they sought to change their lives and their environment.

Let us question ourselves about the place of the Word of God in our prayer, in our lives and in our preaching.

Freedom and itinerancy
An important matter of this breath is the liberty that this breeze offers. One of the most important values of our vocation is liberty. In our Dominican family, we always consider liberty as part of our charism.

That liberty makes us conscious of our own responsibility in the development of our vocation: study, prayer, community life and preaching. My preaching and the way that preaching is prepared can be discussed with others. I must take my personal responsibility in the Word I say. In this year of the laity, we must remember the importance of our personal responsibility. The lay Dominican preacher must find personal responsibility in a special way.

There are so many places in the Church and outside where the Word of God must be preached with the liberty that those places can offer.

The Master of the Order in the letter he addressed about laity and preaching reminds us that preaching must be like a conversation. A conversation is a very important moment. In a conversation there are two important times: we hear and we speak and there is also a very important moment of liberty. The word of conversation goes deeper in our lives and can offer answers to many questions.

Many times our preaching doesn’t reach the lives of people because we don’t hear what people have to say to us. We speak about truth in our preaching but this can be too far removed from people’s lives. We must remember how Jesus proposed truth, not theoretically, but with words, concepts, images close to the context of their lives. His preaching was like conversation. Our preaching and lay preaching must be similar to the liberty and confidence that is used in human conversation.

For us friars and apostolic sisters, it’s more comfortable to stay where we are but this is often not faithful to our vocation. We must answer the call of Pope Francis and go to the margins. The challenge is to continuously find new places and new forms of preaching. Many things are changing in our world. There are new realities in our society: in family, in the business world, with the youth, even in the Church.

There are so many forms of openness possible, to help those who want to grow in faith and can’t find a place to achieve this or who wish to try new experiences of mission with young people or to propose times for prayer and reflection to other people.

This breeze of the word drives us to other places, to other people, to experience new challenges.

We also need to reflect today about what it means to be humble and poor. Dominic refused to help the Crusade against the Cathars. He wanted to help them to return in the Church through his poverty and humility. In the religious communities, we need to find a style of life in accordance with the Gospel. Our communities must be the one “santa praedicatio” by its simplicity, poverty and humility. The lay Dominican must find a style. A Dominican style should not just be in an intellectual sense.

We don’t think enough about the example of Saint Dominic and how he can inspire us today. Dominic had a way of preaching where the humility, the simplicity and the poverty have a very important place. It’s very important to preach but it is also how we preach with words, silence and acts.

We are preachers all the time, in different ways; friars, nuns, apostolic sisters and laity. We are invited to make our lives a continuous preaching where everything is the announcement of the Word of God.

When the prophet Elijah felt the breeze he experienced a sense of adoration. He felt God’s presence in the soft breeze. He could see the proximity of God. This breath asks us about our capacity to feel the presence of God all around us.

Our contemplative vocation is also our capacity to see the world in a deeper way, the problems all around our own lives and the lives of others. Our contemplative vocation is this capacity to discern the signs of the times. For us, the history and the present is a place to feel the presence of God.

To be preachers we must be contemplative, we must see the events all around with the eyes of God, to answer them with his love and his mercy.

We must feel the tender freshness of this lovely breath; this breath to preach must transform us. The Master in his letter for the laity speaks about the preaching and the experience. The word with capacity to convince is the word born from an experience.

To preach as a Dominican, we need to rediscover our contemplative identity. Just the experience of this breeze or the experience of being under the cloud of the Most High allowed the word be flesh in our lives, and made it possible to spread it with beauty and profundity.

It is important to think about our contemplative vocation. Being contemplative is about the experience of God in our lives. This inspiring breath transforms us and sends us to preach. To be contemplative is not a privilege for some, it is for everyone.

Rui Carlos Antunes e Almeida Lopes O.P

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Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year (28th September) Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:21:41 +0000 The gospel story concerning the two sons and the vineyard that is offered in today’s readings is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. It follows the entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the Temple and the questioning by the chief priests and elders. They questioned Jesus about his authority, but when he turned the challenge towards them and their opinion about John, they refused to take any stand on the authority of John and his Baptism. So they backed themselves into a corner that they did not foresee, and in a sense fell into their own trap.

The two who were asked to go to the vineyard to work were not hired workers who would have had no option, but they were ‘sons’ who belonged, and who had a choice. The vineyard was a recognizable image. Not only was it the setting of the recent parable of the day laborers, but, for the Israelites it represented themselves. They were the vineyard that God had planted, that sometimes produced a strong yield, and sometimes nothing.

Having heard the little story about the two sons and their father, it was a ‘no-brainer’ to choose which one had carried out the father’s wishes. This was the easy part of the test. However, the challenge and problem was in recognizing who these two stood for. The responses and actions of the two sons were reversed. The one who refused carried out the father’s wishes, and the one who said ‘yes’ did not. In the same way Jesus pointed out the reversal of order in the groups that those two really represented.

The story is indeed about doing the will of God, and being willing to change to do God’s will. The tax collectors and prostitutes were willing to change, for they had repented at the preaching of John. However, the audience here, whom we assume were the chief priests and the elders, did not have that willingness. They had not accepted the baptism of repentance of John. They had never declared themselves sinners like they had done for the tax collectors and prostitutes, so they probably did not think they had a need to repent and change their ways. In this story Jesus puts these two groups on a par. Like the two sons, they both belong. In Jesus eyes there is no outcast group. However, the reign of God only belongs to those who can repent and change their lives. Those who see no need for repentance have cast themselves out. It is a common theme in the Gospel. We are familiar with phrases like ‘I came to call sinners’ and ‘not everyone who says Lord, Lord, enters the kingdom of God’.walk the talk

Two sons and two groups, but only one of each carried out the will. Just in case anyone is stressing about what that will of God might be, this gospel passage puts it plainly: Repent.

Elizabeth Ferguson, OP

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Mindfulness in Daily Life – New 8 Week Course in Dominican Ecology Centre, Wicklow Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:52:34 +0000 Time to destress, find peace, let go of negative thinking and restore your energy.

Well known Mindfulness teacher John Doherty will be running an 8 week course

from Tuesday 16 September, 7.30-9.00 p.m. on the practice of Mindfulness in daily life.

If you think you might be interested just  come along to:

An Tairseach Dominican Ecology Centre

An Tairseach,

Dominican Ecology Centre,
Wicklow Town
Co Wicklow.

Tel. 0404-61833,

Mindfulness flyer – Ecology Centre Wicklow

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Response to Human Trafficking Mon, 22 Sep 2014 13:17:13 +0000 Extract below from DOMINICAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE – Summer 2014 Newsletter
Margaret Mayce, OP, DLC/NGO Representative to the United Nations



Abby McCrary, Dominican Volunteer

U.S. Dominicans

This spring, an Amnesty International document entitled “Decriminalization of
Sex Work: Policy Background Document.” was leaked, causing quite a stir. In it, the
prestigious human rights organization advocates for the right to buy and sell sex.
Such an aim is clearly in opposition to Amnesty International’s mission, and would seem to ignore the exploitation and violence endemic in the prostitution industry.

The Dominican Leadership Conference, represented by Abby McCrary on the UN NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons (CSTIP), composed a statement to encourage Amnesty International to more thoroughly examine their stance in light of how it could potentially create a climate for sex trafficking and exploitation to flourish. In part, this statements reads: “As legal regulations are lessened, prosecution becomes even more difficult in cases of human trafficking. Decriminalization…makes it more difficult for prosecutors to identify and punish traffickers. Full decriminalization of prostitution fuels the growth of modern day slavery by providing a façade behind which traffickers of sexual exploitation are able to operate more effectively.”

Our Sisters Abroad

Meanwhile, our Sisters in Europe and Asia-Pacific are also very involved in this issue through RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation – and TALITHA KUM in the Philippines. Our Dominican Sister Cecilia Espenilla (Philippines) writes,
“We, the Dominican Sisters of the Philippines have agreed that our common advocacy is to fight human trafficking. Hence, since last year we have organized talks and seminars on human trafficking and participated in the same seminar organized recently by Bishops Conference of the Philippines. This school year we will do intensive awareness campaign to both Private and Public School students, the most vulnerable targets of traffickers, where the mission of the sisters are situated. We focus on the 3Ps, Prevention and Partnership and Prayer. We have been in partnership with Visayan Forum, one of the most successful NGOs in the Philippines in fighting human trafficking. Another important element that I think we religious should get involved in, if we have the opportunity, is to sit on human trafficking meetings of the government. I am fortunate that I was given an invitation to sit in this kind of meeting of the Department of Justice of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) which is being Chaired by the Vice-President of the Philippines himself, Honorable VP Binay.”

A Dominican NetworkStop Trafficking

Sr. Cecilia, along with our Dutch Sister Marjolein Brunein are in the process of starting to organize a global network of Dominicans engaged in advocacy against human trafficking and exploitation. This is a wonderful response to one the greatest tragedies of our time, described by Pope Francis as “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.”


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Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year (21st September) Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:04:38 +0000 vineyardYou can see them in our city every day waiting around the builders’ providers stores. They are the day laborers waiting to be hired. They are not begging at the intersections like so many do. They are waiting for employment, for the chance to earn a daily wage. They have come mostly across the southern border, from Mexico and Central America. Many are undocumented and most have had to pay large sums of money to traffickers and face untold dangers to get here. They have come with a dream – to be free of the poverty and violence wrecking their own communities, so that they can work and one day bring their families to freedom. They live with the daily threat of arrest and deportation. In the midst of heated debates over immigration and amnesty, they know that the politicians voice only what they think their constituents believe so as to secure their own jobs.

Today’s parable of the workers in the vineyard is introduced as another image of the kingdom of God. There is no end to space there for more and more people. Throughout the day, the landowner goes out to bring in more people. The more that are brought in, the lighter the workload for those already there. That’s a pleasing thought. Surely then they must be welcome. However, when the landowner offers the same small wage to all, the welcome turns sour. This is an image of the kingdom of God, and those within are not above envy, are not above having a sense of entitlement, are not above exclusion of others. It was a problem in the Christian community among the Jews and the Gentiles at the time of the writing of the Gospel, and it continues to be a problem in our Christian communities and societies today.

“These last ones,” the workers complained, “have worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us.” There is the key phrase – “You have made them equal to us.” This notion, most times buried in the sub-conscious, is the driving force behind the conscious actions of discrimination. It fuels racism, sexism, classism in church and society. It fuels the opposition to amnesty for the newest immigrants and asylum seekers in our countries. It fuels our own attitudes to people who have not had the same economic and educational advantages. It is a driving evil in our hearts. The landowner recognized it and tried to set the workers straight.

There are very few who would not say that we are all equal in God’s eyes. The problem that we fail to acknowledge is that all are not equal in our eyes. We are reminded by Isaiah in the first reading that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and that our ways are not God’s ways. This is a strong accusation for those of us think we are above another in any way. But, Isaiah also admonishes us to turn, from our wicked thoughts, to our God who is generous in forgiving.

Elizabeth Ferguson, OP

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Interview with Sr.Marie Therese Clement DSI Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:46:55 +0000 Untitled

Sr Marie Therese Clement is settling into her new role as International Coordinator of DSI

Sr Marie Therese Clement has had a busy ten months since assuming the position of International Coordinator of Dominican Sisters International (DSI).  She made her first trip to Ireland recently to take a short holiday from her work in Rome.  Despite hailing from St Lucia, Sr Marie Therese doesn’t like the heat and thought that Ireland would be a good destination for some relaxation.

DSI is an important forum for Dominican congregations world-wide who can come together to discuss and solve some of the issues that are facing congregations across the globe.  The Dominican Sisters Cabra is one of the 150 Dominican congregations who are now part of DSI and is represented by Sr Helen Mary Harmey.

Being part of DSI enables a greater level of communication across the continents and one of Sr Marie Therese’s key roles is to maintain regular communication across that network throughout the year, between general assembly meetings which take place every 3 years.  This level of communication has enabled the Sisters to share a common purpose and to bring all of the richness and history that has been accumulated over the years under one umbrella.

Sr Marie Therese admits that this approach is working very well, “Sisters are able to come together to share in conversation and to search for answers to some of their challenges. These challenges range from dwindling membership, aging and few new recruits in some parts of the world to the need for solidarity with Congregations who are in countries of war and prone to devastating natural events.  In addition to these, DSI provides a forum for exchange among its member Congregations seeking new ways of responding to their charism of preaching. Several Congregations have, for example, used this forum to begin and affirm collaborative initiatives some of which have become federations and other types of mergers.

Sr Marie Therese speaks openly about the issues around decreasing numbers of vocations and explains that this is more evident in the developed world when there are greater opportunities elsewhere for self-advancement.  “Fewer people opt for religious life because the long term commitment is seemingly unattractive.”

Sr Marie Therese believes that congregations can recover but this can only be achieved when there is an openness to reinterpret the basic charism of each congregation and to evaluatehow the Congregation has been carrying out its mission.   She believes that Congregations are now being called to revisit “the elements of their structures that make them heavy and are sometimes obstacles to renewal in order to capture the new opportunities for evangelization that exist today.”

Sr Marie Therese is also very pragmatic about the need to reach out to the youth of today but in a non-conventional way.  She believes that young people have a great thirst for truth and they will listen if they are approached in a way that is non-threatening and does not require them to necessarily conform.  “Congregations are making very positive moves by doing some very radical things such as giving up some of their ministries that have become somewhat sterile and closing up large houses with just a few inhabitants to living in neighbourhoods among  vulnerable people who need their help.”

The example of the Dominican Sisters in Iraq at the moment is an excellent example, in that although the sisters have been displaced like many Iraqis, they are developing an apostolate of close proximity with the poor while living in solidarity with them and helping to nurture, feed, clothe and be attentive in the midst of such chaos.  They  appeal to the international community not just requesting assistance in meeting their material needs but asking for justice and peace.

There are many Dominican sisters now also involved in area of ecology. Marie Therese explains that this is also a justice issue.  Governments are intent on taxing people so that they can reverse climate change but it is proven that this approach is not working.  However, in this regard some Dominican Sisters are taking a more radical position to teach people about sustaining the earth while at the same time, undertaking themselves, to work and live in a more sustainable ways, as is evidenced by the positive work being done in Wicklow by the Cabra Dominicans.

People in general look to religion and spirituality for answers to the challenges that they have in life.  When those challenges no longer exist, people tend to turn away from needing faith.  This present world climate requires that attention be paid to area of justice and peace, ecology and also working with people on the margins – the poor, refugees and asylum seekers, etc..  As governments are not adequately meeting the needs of the more vulnerable in society, religious orders can provide help and leadership in this area.

The aforementioned forced our conversation in the direction of the plight of asylum seekers especially in Ireland.  They arrive in a country that claims to be welcoming to foreigners but underneath isn’t really.  The first few years of arriving in a country are very difficult.  These people have moved away from countries where their lives were threatened, where they have, in some cases, been tortured and they often have lost their sense of personal dignity.  They come to a new country with new customs and can easily end up homeless and without the basic skills to adapt to a new culture.  It seems evident therefore and from recent media coverage in Ireland that we, as a nation have a lot of work to do in this area.


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