I don't know about you but after such a long-cold winter in the Midwest, I have been enjoying every single day of this beautiful summer!
In between finishing winter and starting summer courses, I have had so many sister adventures. In May, I was invited to be part of the annual Dominican College Preaching Conference in Rockville Centre, NY where I performed the life of the first saint in America, Rosa de Lima. For me, America is a continent not just a country. Apparently, they really liked it because I was invited to do it again; this time at our own Mother House Campus in Adrian, MI for the Dominican High School Preaching Conference. It was wonderful to know and to study the life of this inspiring Dominican woman, to embody her character, and to dress like a "real nun" from the sixteenth century even though she remained a lay woman.
Then, I returned to Chicago for a short time to preach a Mission Appeal at St. Gall Parish in Chicago. It was a marathon of five Masses, one in English and four in Spanish, all in one day. I felt very blessed by the warm welcoming from both the beautiful community and its amazing, very inclusive and compassionate pastor, Fr. Gary Graf, which made my day worthwhile. On my return to Adrian, I was part of our annual Dominican Institute of Art Gathering where I gave a workshop entitled: "Spirituality in Movement: How Movement can Spiritually Enhance Prayer and Meditation." And of course, I performed liturgical dance on two occasions.
Now, I am back in Chicago, working on a very exciting event for the future of the Dominican Sisters whose Mother Houses are in the USA. I have been part of Giving Voice since 2009, when I was still a candidate soon to become a novice. It was during the gathering of the 20's and 30's sisters in Fort Lauderdale, FL when the GV slogan "I Love Religious Life.... And Believe in Its Future" touched my heart deeply and had me bond to this group of young and vibrant sisters. Because of my involvement with GV and all the wonderful experiences my sisters heard from me, last year my Prioress, Attracta Kelly, OP, submitted my name to be on special committee.
One of the Dominican Prioress received a grant to create a project for young Dominican sisters to get together and to imagine-dream-build our future as Dominican Religious Women and I was chosen to be one of the organizers. After several in-person and conference-call meetings, we discerned and entitled it: Dominican Women Afire! Envisioning our Future! A bilingual, English-Spanish, gathering for young Dominicans under 59 years old or less than 10 years as finally professed. This event will take place in the Oblate Retreat Center in San Antonio, TX from August 28th -31st, where 142 vibrant women from 16 Dominican Congregations came together from six countries: Dominican Republic, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, Puerto Rico, USA, and Vietnam. We, the committee, stated: Our time together was filled with deep, meaningful conversations that will guide us into the actions that create the future we envision as Dominican Women in this time and place... Akin in our desire and confidence to live Dominican life with passion, connection, and commitment to preaching the Word of God in each moment. In preparation, we read an article on religious life: Changed Not Ended, written for America Magazine by our own GV member, Julia Walsh, OSF. Our aim was also to gather our dreams, hopes, and vision for the future as we get to know each other in a meaningful way.
It has been a real honor and a great learning experience to be part of this faith-filled committee of women who really believe in the future of religious life and want to do something to make possible its continuation. As I prepared for this gathering, I reflected on the prayer-poem Hearts Afire written by one of our Adrian Dominican theologian's Patricia Walter, OP. Its last verse reads:
Living flame of love,
burn deep within us.
Give us strength to endure the heat
and set our hearts afire.
May this same flame of love continue to ignite all the hearts of women who Love religious life and believe in its future!
Sr Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, MI. She lives in Chicago where she is a preacher, liturgical dancer, and full-time student at the Catholic Theological Union pursuing a Masters of Art in Pastoral Studies.