Our sisters in Madrid were to be our hosts for the 2021 YSOP gathering but, as with so much else, COVID-19 intervened. It did not however prevent 40 sisters coming together even while staying apart – by Zoom. The language zones of DSE were represented by sisters of various nationalities and congregations. Our theme was: signs of the times in the distortion of truth. Sr Gemma Morató Sendra OP and Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP offered rich insights.
With Sr Gemma, we considered our current reality. In a post-truth world, emotions and not facts determine what one accepts as truth. Fake news, deliberation distortion of truth to manipulate emotions and beliefs, spreads ever-wider and faster and threatens to undermine society. Dominicans, with our motto Truth, seem an unlikely fit here. Yet, the concern that moved St Dominic must also drive us to engage fully, asking like him: what will become of this world? How mightwe do this? Almost counter-intuitively, the shift beyond Bauman’s ‘liquid society’ to ‘gaseous society’ – everything is volatile, transitory, interpersonal links are weak, search for identity is central, fear of insecurity looms large – offers us a space to contribute. We Dominicans, who have given our whole lives to following God, can relate to this ‘gaseous’world where everything is relative, there are no certainties, the lifelong nature of our commitment is so alien. In the ever-shifting ground of today, we consecrated Dominicans can tellthat our life is rooted in something – or in someone: the God of compassion. We can communicate best by showing people our lives. Our communal life can offer a strong witness to God. Many experience loneliness and existential emptiness, exacerbated by society’s focus on individual over community. We can demonstrate the gift of communal life as a remedy to this pain only if we live together well. This calls us to put a new focus on the quality of our communal life. We can beobsessed with, even oppressed by, the busyness of missionand our communal life suffers. If it causes us to weaken or lose the witness of communal life, busyness becomes an unhelpful, unhealthy trap.
Fr Timothy asked what seeking truth means in the fake newscontext and how we might undertake our mission of truth–telling in a manner that overcomes polarities. Echoing Sr Gemma, he identified relationships and understanding the other as antidotes to fake news and named twin ‘tools’ for uncovering truth: objective study along with conversations that foster friendship. Portrait painters use these to capture and disclose the truth of their subject. Likewise, for Dominicans as truth seekers, we need to combine “intense peering”, the discipline of serious study, with the “exhilaration of conversation”, a deep genuine interest in others. We need Dominican scholars specialised in their field (and enabled and supported to be thus) as much as “charitable” Dominican conversationalists – strong relationship–builders with committed students. Even when seemingly futile, we mustreach across divisions and have difficult conversations. Only together can we undertake this act of hope and discover other people’s truth. Jesus uncomfortable engagement with the Samaritan woman becomes real only when his word“penetrates her aggression” to reach her life’s truth.
On Saturday, we met Sr Marie Monnet OP, Justice and Peace Promoter for Europe and the Middle East. Their aims are to inform (with newsletters) and instruct (online programmes).Asking which issues interest us, she encouraged sisters to explore Domuni University and to contact her if willing to teach. We were glad that Sr Margaret Mayce OP, DSIC International Coordinator, was with us. She introduced the 2021 global visioning process – coming together to share hopes and dreams for Dominican life and mission for the next five years and exploring how DSIC can help. She told us again of her commitment to involving young sisters in DSICand her intention to include them in the 2022 Assembly.
Our thanks especially to Sr Pílar del Barrio OP, DSE Coordinator, and to the DSE Council members for planning and bringing to fruition YSOP21 despite the pandemic. Our thanks too to our translators who ensured language was not a barrier to our communication. It was good to be together. We look forward in hope to YSOP22 and pray that then we can meet safely in person once again.
Sr Eileen O’Connell OP