Xiomara Mendez Hernandez, OP

Past, present, and a glimpse of the future of Religious Life

This summer, I experienced the past, the present, and tasted the future of Religious Life today. I started my journey in June with the past, through a traditional pilgrimage to Europe which we Dominicans, call Lands of Dominic. Even though it was a short and fast version, as one of my Sisters and I were our own travel agents, it was simple, inspiring and profound. It connected us with the roots of our Dominican Family and how we became “OP” or the Order of Preachers. We visited our founder’s, Domingo de Guzman, birth place in Caleruega, Spain; his first mission as itinerant preacher in Fanjeaux; and Prouilhe, our first convent and the cradle of the Holy Preaching, in the South of France. Our pilgrimage ended in Bologna, Italy,  Dominic’s final resting place. Every place we visited, we were hosted by our Dominican Sisters and Brothers. By the end of our pilgrimage, I understood why we are well known for our “Dominican Hospitality,” as they all were warm, caring, prayerful, and joyful. 

In July, I celebrated the present along with more than 80 young, vibrant, and diverse religious women at our National Gathering.  The title “Boldness and Beauty of Community: Living Religious Life Now!” beautifully reflected our dreams, hopes, and spiritual longings.  The quote by Dorothy Day, “The world will be saved by beauty,” took different shapes and forms during our Gathering. Sr. Nicole Trahan, FMI, presented us with the collected frustrations, pains and aches with which we are ‘bombarded’ in our society, borders, and mass media.  She invited us, “when our hearts are broken, angry, disappointed… surround yourself with beauty.” Then, Tracy Horan, SP, filled our hearts with a “Energía amorosa,” (loving energy) as she shared with us her ministerial experience with the immigrants. She stated, “El lente de la comunión y la belleza es una lupa, para ver más de cerca,” (the lenses of communion and beauty are magnifying glasses that help us to see closer.) I believe, we all returned to our communities with hearts filled with beauty and boldness; we commit ourselves to a preferential option for relationships with God and one another.

Most recently, I had a glimpse of our future during our Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Summer Encuentro entitled, “Embracing the Future – Encuentro con el Futuro – Pagyakap sa Hihaharap.” The title reflected our intentionality of celebrating and honoring our diversity, as it is written in English, Spanish and Tagalog, our three main languages. Our statement of purpose set the tone, while the General Council convened “this gathering in order for us to come together and as a community… a time of great letting go that is also calling us to boldly move forward.” We acknowledged our losses and celebrated the gifts of the many sisters “on whose shoulders we stand.” We also recognized our changing reality and celebrated the gift of who we are today. The invitation was extended to our Associates and Partners in Mission to discern our unknown Future.

Each experience strengthened my religious vocation as I am inspired by our past and continue to believe in our present and future!