2023 Dominican Sisters Conference Elected Leaders Meet to Look Toward the Future

COLUMBUS, OH –On October 11-13, the Dominican Sisters Conference held its Elected Leaders annual meeting at the Martin de Porres Center. Sixteen Congregational Leadership Teams gathered to “Ignite the Future – Ahora!” hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Sr. Joan Scanlon, OP, served as facilitator.

The Conference began with a spirit-filled entrance into the chapel by all the participants.  Each congregation was warmly welcomed by Anne Lythgoe, OP, DSC President.  Pat Twohill, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, preached the joy of getting together and facing the future together.  After an inspiring prayer service, the participants moved to the Martin de Porres Center to continue the meeting.

Executive Director Xiomara Méndez Hernández, OP, invited the participants to embrace “a radical option for relationship.” DSC is all about relationships and has been since the first meeting in 1935.  It was formerly known as the Dominican Leadership Conference, (DLC) until 2010, when it reorganized as the Dominican Sisters Conference.  Since that change, we have together faced the challenges of the Apostolic Visitation and the Pandemic, among others.

Since she accepted the position seven months ago, Xiomara has visited the United Nations, Sparkill, Blauvelt, the Justice, Peace and Care of Creation Promoters meeting, the National Dominican Associate Directors (NDAD) and the meeting of the under 70 cohort this summer.  She has felt the support of the Executive Committee and especially of Anne Lythgoe, OP.  She looks forward to a Convocation for Dominican Sisters and Associates in 2025.

The Futuring Leadership Team (FLT) were present to share their report along with their new Associate Director for Futuring, Lisa Kane, OP. Mai-Dung Nguyen, OP, spoke of their passion for Dominican Life into the future – to share the Charism, the preaching, community in diversity, life-long study, contemplative posture.  Life is who we are, not what we do.

Kathleen Tait, OP gave the background for this group.  Five years ago, the DSC formed the Dominican Sisterhood Futuring Task Force to promote a reimagining of Dominican life and Mission into the future. In 2021. The Futuring Leadership Team (FLT) was formed. The group meets quarterly. They have created a database of the sisters under 70 which has generated a clearer picture of the numbers of Dominican Sisters in the United States in this cohort. In July of this year, the Cohort met in Columbus at Ohio Dominican University. That gathering formed seven working groups on projects and hopes for their future, one significant topic was to create some kind of structure in the future for the cohort itself.

Pat Magee, OP, noted that this cohort was younger and more culturally diverse than the DSC.

That gathering formed seven working groups on projects and hopes for their future. one significant topic was to create some kind of structure in the future for the cohort itself. New members Ann Killian, OP, Cathy Buchanan, OP, and Lystra Long, OP joined the FLT after the summer gathering.

Lorraine Reaume, OP, reported that there are 242 Sisters in the cohort under 70.  Seven of the Congregations are actively seeking vocations.  If all the current trends continue, there will be 103 Sisters under 70 in 2033 and 36 Sisters under 70 in 2044.  There is high energy, a diversity of race and nationality, and a willingness and excitement to do face the future together.

The participants also welcomed Reg McKillip, OP, the Co-Promoter of Justice for North America, and Dusty Farnan, OP, our representative at the United Nations, who gave reports on their work for justice.  They were asked to include thoughts about the current ways of being sustainable in the future.

Margaret Mayce, OP the International Coordinator of the Dominican Sisters International Confederation (DSIC), and Pat Siemen, OP, the North American Continental Coordinator of DSIC, shared with us the work their offices. Margaret began by reading a letter from the Prioress of Dominican Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Israel and Gaza, pleading for prayers as they face the new outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas. Three Dominican Sisters are trapped in Gaza.

DSIC is sponsoring a program for our younger sisters, entitled “Faith and Praxis for Global Leadership.”  The program will be on-line, with a gathering in Caleruega the summer of 2024. Sisters finally professed less than 20 years are eligible to participate. Also, they are hoping to develop a “Think Tank” of former prioresses, current ones, and some sisters at large. Pat added that funding grants are being explored.  They are working to ignite the future for the younger sisters.

On behalf of the Executive Committee, Anne Lythgoe, OP, introduced their Road Map, a narrative description of what was accomplished this past year, and what the Committee was looking toward for the year ahead.  Anne asked, “What will ignite our fire – Ahora? This is a moment for us to dream together with our younger sisters about what Dominican Life and Mission will be in the United in the years to come.”   She recalled the film The Shawshank Redemption, that invites us to “Get busy living or get busy dying.” 

Her remarks led to a discussion of the practical and urgent importance of each DSC congregation moving together in the direction of a common future, in concert with the dreams and hopes of younger sisters. The members whole-heartedly affirmed the need to draw together the resources and the people needed to initiate such a process that is timely, effective and inclusive.

The gathering ended with a Ritual of Gratitude and Welcome New Members of the Executive Committee, Cheryl Liske, OP, and Kathleen Tuite, OP. The DSC is grateful to all who made the meeting possible and fruitful, especially the Dominican Sisters of Peace and our great Planning Committee!