Dominican Leadership Conference (1935-2010)
Certainly, all members of the Dominican family (sisters, laity, nuns, and friars) consider their founder to be Saint Dominic, who started the Dominican Order over 800 years ago. A formal conference of Dominican Sisters came into being in 1935 when Martine Gillet, OP, the Master General of the Dominican Order, requested the formation of the Conference of the Dominican Mothers General of America. The sisters took this call seriously, and held their first meeting in San Rafael in 1935. By 1939 all 28 congregations in the U.S. participated in the gatherings, with the goal of bringing together congregational leadership for discussion of common aims and problems. Over the years, the conference took on structures so that the sisters had the opportunity to deepen their Dominican spirituality, strengthen the mission, and develop relationships. In 1972 the sisters reached out to include the Dominican Friars in the conference, and thus it became the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC).
From 1991 to 1998 the DLC worked to establish a presence at the UN, which helped shape our present understanding of ourselves as part of an international family. Eileen Gannon, OP (Sparkill), was appointed as the first DLC/NGO representative in 1998. We received our ECOSOC status in 2002. After 2002, Eileen served as the NGO Representative until 2008. Margaret Mayce, OP (Amityville), served in the position from 2008 to 2019. Durstyne Farnan, OP (Adrian), began her service as the NGO Representative in New York in 2019 and continues to serve today.
In 1995 Libby Schaeffer, OP, the DLC Executive Director, provided the impetus and leadership to form the Dominican Communicators Network (OPCOMNET), which strengthened the interconnection of Dominicans all across the country and led to the birth, in 2002, of DomLife.org. The website was originally created by Don Kania, OP. Anne Lythgoe, OP, became the first editor.
While the DLC provided support and opportunities to build relationships among those in elected leadership, there was no organization for the members at large. In 1999, following years of conversations about a “Closer Union” among Dominican Sisters, the Federation of Dominican Sisters USA (Federation) was formed. The Federation included all of the sisters and associates of all member congregations, whereas the DLC was an organization solely for those in leadership of congregations of sisters and provinces of friars.
Dominican Sisters Conference (2010-Present)
The DLC continued to develop and grow. After many years of creating good relationships and programs with the friars, the changing needs of the two groups (friars and sisters) as well as the different kinds of issues facing them were apparent. Moreover, the friars, the nuns, and the laity had their own particular conferences, which the sisters did not have. So, following a two year process of study and consultation, a vote of the members of the DLC in 2009, and a vote of the Federation in 2010, the DLC held its last meeting in Maryknoll, NY, in October 2010, and a new organization was born: The Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC). Mary Sue Kennedy, OP (Adrian), was the DSC’s first Executive Director. In 2014 Patricia Farrell, OP (San Rafael), became Executive Director. In April 2020, Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP (Sinsinawa), became the Interim Executive Director. In 2021 Mary Ellen was appointed DSC Executive Director.