Our Inter-charism Novitiate Comes to a Close

It’s hard to believe that the year is coming to an end!  It seems like such a short time ago that we moved in and together planted our individual plants in a mix of soil from our various Mother Houses into one pot.  And yet so much has happened, it also seems a lifetime ago.  The seeds of deepening faith, prayer, community, study and ministry planted in the years of formation prior to this canonical novitiate year continued to grow in the rich soil of the two charisms, Dominican (OP) and Providence (SP).  This year’s unique inter-charism experience only added to the gifts so many Dominican novices have received through the years at the CDN – classes and Masses with student brothers from the Priory, the ICN workshops and opportunities to share faith, conversation and fun together during over-night stays (this year through the hospitality of sisters and brothers at Ruma and King’s House), discussions on current issues in religious life with Sr. Elyse Ramirez, OP, panel nights, and educational and recreational outings.   All of these experiences spoke to the richness of Dominican life, rooted in the vows and the four pillars, and to God’s creative abundance.  

The S-Pops during the CDN opening ritual

Our community prayer at the CDN combined some of the traditions of both charisms.  The SP’s use the People’s Companion to the Breviary, which Dominicans had been using prior to the introduction of Dominican Praise.  We used the former for morning prayer and the latter for evening prayer one week, and switched the next week, and always ended by singing the Dominican Blessing. The CDN tradition of chanting the psalms and canticles, and the variety of readings in the People’s Companion, drawn from saints and powerful Catholic writers, enriched the communal prayer that I had already come to love.  When the pandemic forced Janice and Jessica to remain at their Formation House in West Terre Haute, Indiana after Spring Break they introduced the Dominican Blessing into community prayer there.   At the CDN we kept the SP tradition of exchanging the sign of peace after morning prayer on Tuesdays, and continued to follow their meaningful way of praying communal lectio divina, but missed our SP sisters’ input during faith sharing.  The SPs are known for bringing artistic creativity to their prayer; they inspired us, and the art supplies at the CDN got a wonderful work-out during our reflection days.   

Sisters of Providence Marsha Speth, Janice Smith, and Jessica Vitente

Our first dinner together with Jessica and Janice included Jessica’s Postulant Director, Sr. Marsha Speth, SP.  That evening in August bore special fruit after the conversation turned to liturgical dance, a creative talent that Marsha and Novice Director Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP, share.  The ideas that sprouted then grew into an Easter season (Zoom) “Moving Prayer” workshop that gave Jessica and me along with some other ICN novices and directors a chance to learn about and experience praying with dance and motion.

An ICN meeting before COVID-19

The pandemic, as tragic as it is, has offered many opportunities to practice communal discernment, and has helped me learn to hold things lightly.  ICN meetings on Zoom might not have been ideal, but we were all grateful to the speakers who willingly adapted their presentations to new circumstances and to technology, and to our creative novice directors who provided us with a remarkably meaningful closing ritual, and a chance to celebrate with each other using Zoom. 

An ICN meeting during the pandemic

In addition to COVID-19, this year of prayer and discernment offered other challenges – the personal ones that come with self-examination and growth, and universal ones including poverty, health disparities, racism and other injustices that remind us how far we still are from living the Gospel truths Jesus preached.  What role will God call me to play in the on-going work of establishing God’s “kindom,” as the SP’s taught me to say?  I look forward to continuing to discern that, and to growing in religious life, and learning to preach the Gospel more effectively.  As I move on to the apostolic year of my novitiate, I find myself more inspired than ever by the example of St. Dominic, the joyful friar who listened to others with compassion and shared God’s love with everyone he met, by the entreaty of St. Catherine of Siena to  “proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear” and by the advice of the SP’s foundress, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, SP, who said “Reflect seriously on what you desire to do. Above all pray much that our dear Lord may make known to you what He wishes you to do.”

Jessica and Sr. Joni Luna, SP – moving day, May 2020

So, with a grateful heart, and prayers of gratitude for all those who worked with us, prayed for us, and helped make this very special year of growth in God possible, may peace be with you until we meet again.

May God Creator bless you – with love from the S-Pops