Laughter echoed in the front hallways of the Akron Motherhouse as five women came from across the country gathered in person for our Come & See retreat this past weekend. (A sixth woman attended the retreat in person at our St. Catharine, Kentucky Motherhouse.) What joy to see their faces! (Albeit masked faces.) This, our first in person retreat in two years took extra effort on the part of retreatants, Ministry of Welcome – Vocations team and the Sisters & staff in our Motherhouses, but it was certainly worth it to be together “in real life.” With strict COVID protocols in place, including testing, masking, and maintaining appropriate physical distance from each other – we were able to have a blessed retreat.
The four pillars of Dominican Spirituality formed the framework for the presentations, which were conducted, in person and via Zoom. Sr. Linda Lee Jackson shared about the Pillar of Prayer and how the Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic can be practiced today from a more wholistic, incarnational approach to spirituality. Sisters Maura Bartel and Ana Gonzalez explored the Pillar of Study in their lives as Dominican Sisters of Peace. Sister Joanne Caniglia shared her deep love of the wide Dominican mission of service and of how God has called her to use her gifts as a teacher and professor for almost 40 years. Rounding out the pillars, Sisters Annie Killian and Mary Vuong shared about their experience of Community. They highlighted how they discerned and chose to establish a new local community in South Bend, Indiana as a response to one Sister’s new ministry in the area. All in all, there was a deep sense of connection, love, support, and encouragement. Questions flowed during the sessions and in between times at meals and informal sharing.
This retreat was truly a hybrid retreat in that we had five women in person at the Akron, Ohio Motherhouse and one woman retreating with the community at the St. Catherine, Kentucky Motherhouse. In both places, the retreatants were able to enjoy the beauty of the motherhouse grounds, open areas, farm animals, chapels, community rooms and heritage exhibits. Woven within it all was time for both communal and personal prayer. Capping off the evening on Saturday was a social with our sisters in formation who zoomed in from Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Ohio to share with the discerning women.
From the opening prayer on Friday evening as we sang the Salve until we closed the retreat with a rousing rendition of the Dominican Blessing by James Marchionda, OP, we felt the prayers and support of all of our Sisters. It indeed takes an entire Congregation to conduct a Come & See retreat. We are grateful to all who made it possible in Akron, St. Catharine’s, and beyond. Our locations might have been more than 300 miles apart, but the distance was made much shorter by the Spirit of God uniting us in a common quest – to discover God’s plan and path for our lives.
We closed with the words to the Dominican Blessing:
May God Creator Bless us,
May God Redeemer Heal us,
and May God the Holy Spirit fill us with light.