During my time in campus ministry with the Newman Center at UC San Diego, Fr. John Paul Forté, OP, planted a mustard seed that took root in my heart with a single comment, “You would make a great Dominican.” To be honest, I had no idea what that meant at the time and was close to dismissing it altogether, but I was curious about what he saw in me to make such a comment. As I witnessed the Dominican Friars living and serving together, I gradually surrendered to the clarity of a deep desire and calling to a life of study, community, prayer, and ministry. Through this clarity, I began to see in myself what Fr. John Paul had seen first, and it was profound presence of God’s love that compelled me to contemplative action in pursuit of truth. Years later when I entered the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose as a candidate, I had begun my first official step to becoming a Dominican. I still had no idea what that meant, at least not completely, but with the start of formation, I learned that I was not alone in this life-long discovery.
We are women of the Word, uniquely individual,
who choose to walk together, consciously growing from I to We to One.
~ from the 25th General Chapter Direction Statement, Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose
When I entered the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, my congregation changed as I changed through transition and formation. When I became a Dominican novice, the Dominican family changed as I changed through growth into the charism. In fact, religious life changes as each individual is called into it. This mutual change is as true for me and for future generations as it was true for Saint Dominic and for those who have gone before us. I began my candidacy with a call to become a Dominican, and I continued to the novitiate with a hope to become Dominican. As my formation prepares me to make vows, I am growing deeper into the understanding of how I belong to my congregation, to the Dominican family, and to the world as a religious sister.
I shared a moment with Sr. Rolande after we preached our first homily that we prepared for our Preaching class at Aquinas with Fr. Greg Heille, OP. She asked me, “So we are preachers now?” To this, I responded, “Yes, but when will we learn to be missionaries?” We both laughed, and it was in our laughter that we acknowledged a thirst to learn about how each of us live out the spirit of Saint Dominic. Even in our Vowed Life class with Sr. Juliet Mousseau, RSCJ, we are exploring the various ways in which different religious congregations emerged and lived out their vows – how the vows were lived out in the past, how they are lived out now, and how they may be lived out in the future as new understandings and needs arise. What a privilege it has been to be immersed in a collaborative experience that allows us to share our charism among and beyond our community and that connects us to all congregations through a collective mission to serve God and to meet the needs of the world. The future of religious life is collaboration. I may not have a complete idea of what that means, but at this moment, I have a glimpse of what that may look like. I truly believe that the vision of collaboration starts now, with a pursuit to strengthen relationships with my sisters and brothers in the Dominican family as well as to establish relationships with my sisters and brothers in the whole of religious life. This is no easy task and requires the transforming presence of each and every one of us – as a preacher, a missionary, or any other facet of Saint Dominic’s spirit that abides in us.
As a young woman pursuing religious life, I have been asked many times how I feel about all the changes and uncertainties of the future not only for my congregation but also for all religious congregations. My response is one of gratitude and of hope. I am grateful for our pioneer sisters, our foundresses, and our sisters before us who, in their own time, in their own way, and in their own part of the world, have laid the foundation to continue the spirit of Saint Dominic during periods of great change and uncertainty. I am hopeful that, by their example and by the grace of God, I too can contribute to the growth of this same spirit. I was not the first to face these changes and uncertainties in religious life, and I will not be the last.
Until next time, we continue to pray for each other so that we may find or create new ways of being a Dominican and of being Dominican.