If it is true that since the late 19th century the Baltic States have represented the outpost of freedom on the frontier between East and West and that in 1990 they were the first states to proclaim their independence from the USSR, there could have hardly been a better place for holding the annual Young Sisters of the Order of Preachers (YSOP 2019) Conference. The event took place in Riga, Latvia, from the 3rd to the 5th of January. Dominican Sisters from Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway and Spain, England, Ireland and the United States have gathered to share a time of personal growth, common prayer and reflection on “ Wounds and Wars: Healing and Peacebuilding: A History of the 20th Century” and to discuss “All that makes us ‘us’: Memory and Identity”. Sr Pilar del Barrio, Dominican Sisters Europe (DSE) coordinator led the conference assisted by her council.
The gathering was held at the Convent of the Sisters of Bethany. The prioress Sr Hanna Rita Laue OP and her community
offered a friendly and welcoming setting that made possible a joyful and fruitful exchange of ideas, experiences and challenges.
The main speakers were Church Historians Dr. Jitka Jonová and Sr Sabine Schratz OP. Jitka, a lay Dominican senior lecturer at Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, Palacký University and Sr Sabine Schratz, Director of Lumen Dominican Centre in Dublin and member of the Historical Institute of the Order of Preachers have provided the participants with a critical analysis of the intricated history of the 20th century, focusing in particular on the impact of the two World Wars and of the advent of communism on European history, culture and religious life. Their thorough presentations sparked an engaging and fruitful discussion that allowed the sisters to appreciate and compare how differently the same events affected their own countries and culture. Particularly interesting and moving testimonies came from the Slovakian, Czech, Hungarian and Latvian sisters who shared instances of heroic resistance to persecution of the Catholic Church under communist regimes.
Strength and weaknesses of international organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations were also discussed particularly in relation to global questions such as protection of minority rights, environmental issues and migration. In this respect the final and conclusive discussion greatly benefited from the participation of the international coordinator for Dominican Sisters International(DSI) Sr Margaret Mayce OP, who shared with the sisters some of the lessons learnt through her long experience over eleven years as the NGO Representative at the United Nations in New York City. Sr Margaret reminded YSOP that framing European challenges without loosing sight of the global perspective is not only a necessity arising from a world becoming increasingly more interdependent, but also and no less importantly it is a constitutive element of the Dominican call to preach the truth and “to go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt, 28:19).
Sr Sabine’s insightful account of the complex interplay between memory and identity and the role that history plays in shaping both has resulted on the one hand in a deeper awareness of how little we know about each other’s history but at the same time it has allowed to appreciate the role that DSE plays in filling these gaps bringing Dominican sisters together and promoting collaboration among different countries and regions by overcoming linguistic and intellectual barriers.
Sr. Chiara Mary Tessaris English Dominican Congregation of St Catherine of Siena.
(Posted with the permission of Sr. Chiara Mary Tessaris. Photos courtesy of Sisters Sheeba Jem and Diana Cermane)
The next YSOP meeting will be held in Madrid from 8-10 January, 2021 on the theme: Signs of the times in the distortion of truth. Young Sisters of the Order of Preachers (YSOP) is a yearly meeting that brings together young Dominican sisters across Europe. Young Dominican sisters includes novices and sisters with less than 20 years of professed life. Translations for different languages will be provided as necessary. Please contact the DSE council member for your language zone in order to sign up! Information on upcoming events and updates can be found on the DSE website: https://dseurope.wordpress.com/