Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Diverse Family called to ENCOUNTER

Blog by Ana Gonzalez
Encounter: (v) To meet someone unexpectedly; to unexpectedly be faced with or experience (something hostile or difficult).

(n) An unexpected or casual meeting with someone or something; a confrontation or unpleasant struggle. (Source: Oxford Dictionary)

I absolutely LOVE family gatherings! Regardless of the setting, there is something blissful about getting together; seeing loving faces, receiving hugs, sharing news/ updates, sharing stories over a meal,  and entering deep conversation.

As a candidate with the Dominica Sisters of Peace, I was overcome with the same familial joy every time the sisters would gather for regional celebrations, mission group meetings and our large congregational gatherings. In the middle of thoughtful discussion, there were always abundant smiles, warm embraces and genuine concern and love for each other. These gatherings allowed me to share sincere moments with diverse women who had a varied assortment of experiences, backgrounds and profound insight. In coming together, the heterogeneous became a single Dominican family.  Very similar to a delicious dish, everyone contributed a different ingredient to culminate in a rich flavorful meal.

Now as a novice, led by our directors, during the past two months Margaret, Katherine and I, embarked in diverse activities where we had the opportunity to meet and experience our amazing Dominican Sisters as part of our Collaborate Dominican Novitiate.  We met sisters in Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois. At all of our visits we have received with a HUGE family love and with amazing hospitality. We became the recipients of abundant love and encouragement.

In the visits and our interactive meetings I am recurrently blown away by the passionate commitment our sisters contribute to making our world a better place.  The intimate gatherings fill me with admiration and inspiration by the passion, strength, expertise, talent and so much more that is put forth by each Dominican Sister. I keep telling myself, “in a near future, I want to be just like her…, and her…, and her…!”

I was barely able to contain myself on October 8, when the CDN was invited to join for mass and dinner the Leadership Teams participating at the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) meeting in St. Louis. The occasion brought me the great joy of seeing my Dominican Sisters of Peace leadership team. In addition, I was granted the honor to be able to meet the leadership teams responsible for empowering, facilitating and supporting the work done by our Dominican Sisters. I was bemused by sharing mass and dinner with women who I perceive as absolute Rock Stars!

The conclusion of the DSC meeting felt to me as a joyful family gathering. The hall was filled with smiles, stories and allowed me opportunity to get to speak with several participants. All gave me a valued insight to the rich diversity shared by the Dominican Sisters.  The different congregational missions that inspired the diverse DSC members follow the same Dominican Charism and celebrate being member of the Order of Preachers. It was here were I was introduced to a word that would become the theme to my week-ENCOUNTER .

The joyful occurrence was also a great introduction to the marvelous experience that was ahead in the following days.

The following week, starting on Monday, October 10 the DCN had the grand opportunity to participate in the Global Dominican Colloquium.  The event was hosted as part of the 800th anniversary of the Dominican Order and was organized through the collaboration of the Aquinas Institute of Theology, the Institute for Pastoral Homiletics in Germany and the Institute for Preaching in the Philippines.  

St. Louis, Missouri became the setting for the coming together of Dominican Nuns, Brothers, Apostolic Sisters and Laity from all over the world, and I along with my DCN sisters were a part of this Dominican Jubilee! I kept telling myself, “be still my heart,” and “keep it together woman,” due to being overfilled with a sentiment of awe from being able to participate in the happening. 

The word encounter made the appearance again as part of the keynote presentation by the Master of the Dominican Order Brother Bruno Cadore, O.P.  In his message I heard a call to all Dominicans to embrace Encounter; one where the interaction is beyond superficial, to the profound. We were invited to experience personal interaction; where by taking the time to go deep both parties can be unexpectedly benefited.  

The encounter can be initiated by a difficult circumstance. It is through our Dominican preaching that we are encouraged to become a community of preaching with the world, those in the peripheries and one another.  Hence, we are charged to take the challenge, go deep in dialog, prayer, thought and action, so that we can have a respectful understanding that leads to mutual respect. Through the encounter recommended by Bother Bruno, the Dominican family is urged to be a community of shared friendship.  In my understanding from the keynote speech, if we don’t build the compassionate love for one another within our communities, we will not be able to set the world on fire with our preaching.  The encounter must be a conscious and deliberate action, and it needs starts in our communities, one person at a time.  

The days that followed, I was truly amazed and inspired by the vision shared as part of the insightful presentations and breakout session.  I had the opportunity to hear a seminar by Sister Terry Rickard, O.P., and Executive Director of RENEW International on the importance of encounter in forming everyday preachers as part of the small Christian communities.   Sister Sara Boehmer, O.P., Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany in Waldniel, Germany gave a powerful presentation on how Apostolic Sisters Tame the Dragon through Preaching.  The last presentation I was able to experience was by Dr. May Erika Loanos, Dominican laywoman and professor of theology at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines.  The information put forward by the presenters highlighted the rich diversity of our Dominican Family. Each member and congregation, inspired by the Dominican charism, preaches to our world in different forms and empowers our world.  A challenge is issued when the diversity is seen as difference.  The speakers indicated that we must embrace encounter; to build our familial love and celebrate our varied gifts in order to collaborate in unison to our preaching.  

As part of my Dominican Collaborate Novitiate experience, I am very grateful for the opportunity of getting to know the Dominican Family in a holistic way. The days of October 8 – 14 left a profound imprint in my heart.  My gained lesson is that ONLY through the encounter, we can respectfully listen to each other, dive into a deeper relationship. Encounter is an invitation to go beyond the surface or the disagreement into an intimate relationship.  At the end of the encounter the unexpected occurs! While at the end of the encounter the different viewpoints might not concur, both parties walk away with an understanding and gained respect. 


  1. What amazingly rich experiences you are having--all of you!!! I am envious and joyfilled for you, all at the same time. Take it all in!

    1. Queridisima Rene! Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to read the blog. Our experiences are amazing and so enriching. Con Amor!

  2. So well done, Ana! We are proud of you and rejoice in the many memories shared with you when you visited us in Watertown, MA and, again, as you participated in our Mission Group East. We give thanks daily for the many wonderful ENCOUNTERS that have touched our lives. Blessings, continued prayers and love to you, Margaret and Katherine. As Dominicans we are blessed to have you in our lives!
    Michelle and Chris

    1. Dearest Michelle,
      Thank you for your comments and know that my heart is rejoices when I think of my experiences with Mission Group East, my visits with you, Sister Michelle and Siena! The more I experience the DCN, the more I am at awe of the Dominican Family! Thank you for your prayers and love! Receive my virtual hug and one for Sister Chris!

  3. Thanks to all of you there in St. Louis--your diversity enriches. The Truth so often lies below the surface as the concept of "encounter" suggests and which all experience if open to seeing. I really like to metaphor of the New World Symphony for that is what is emerging again for Dominicans. Yes, as within a symphony, one instrument is sometimes only used for one part of the whole, yet all are needed within to weave the whole.

    1. Dear Roberta,

      Thank you so much for your comment and feedback! I am really loving the diversity and richness of the Dominican Family. Much love!