'Go make disciples of all nations'

Report on 'Young Sisters of the Order of Preachers' 2020

by Sr Chiara Mary Tessaris 

The delegatesYoung Sisters of the Order of Preachers (YSOP) is a yearly meeting that brings together young Dominican sisters across Europe and includes novices and sisters with less than 20 years of professed life. Dominican Sisters Europe (DSE) is a branch of the Dominican Sisters International (DSI) movement. DSI was founded in May 1995 to faciliate worldwide collaboration between the Dominican sisters of apostolic life in their preaching mission.  This year the English Congregation of St.Caherine of Siena (Stone) sent Sr Chiara Mary to the annual YOSP meeting which took place in Riga, Latvia the 3rd to the 5th of January.

If it is true that since the late 19th century the Baltic States have represented the outpost of freedom on the frontier between East and West and that in 1990 they were the first states to proclaim their independence from the USSR, there could have hardly been a better place for holding the annual YSOP 2019 Conference.  Dominican Sisters from Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway and Spain, England, Ireland and the United States  gathered to share a time of personal growth, common prayer and reflection on “ Wounds and Wars: Healing and Peacebuilding: A History of the 20th Century” and to discuss “All that makes us ‘us’: Memory and Identity”.  Sr Pilar Del Barrio, DSE coordinator led the conference assisted by her council.

The main speakers were Church Historians Dr. Jitka Jonová and Sr Sabine Schratz OP.  Jitka, a lay Dominican senior lecturer at Sts Cyril and Methodius Faculty of Theology, Palacký University and Sr Sabine Schratz, Director of Lumen Dominican Centre in Dublin and member of the Historical Institute of the Order of Preachers  provided the participants with a critical analysis of the intricate history of the 20th century, focusing in particular on the impact of the two World Wars and of the advent of Communism on European history, culture and religious life.  Their thorough presentations sparked an engaging and fruitful discussion that allowed the sisters to appreciate and compare how differently the same events had affected their own countries and culture.  Particularly interesting and moving testimonies came from the Slovakian, Czech, Hungarian and Latvian sisters who shared instances of heroic resistance to persecution of the Catholic Church under Communist regimes. 

Strength and weaknesses of international organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations were also discussed particularly in relation to global questions such as protection of minority rights, environmental issues and migration. In this respect the final and conclusive discussion greatly benefited from the participation of the international coordinator for DSI Sr Margaret Mayce OP, who shared with the sisters some of the lessons learnt through her long experience over eleven years as the NGO Representative at the United Nations in New York City.  Sr Margaret reminded YSOP that framing European challenges without losing sight of the global perspective is not only a necessity arising from a world becoming increasingly more interdependent, but also and no less importantly it is a constitutive element of the Dominican call to preach the truth and “to go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt, 28:19).

Sr Sabine’s insightful account of the complex interplay between memory and identity and the role that history plays in shaping both resulted on the one hand in a deeper awareness of how little we know about each other’s history but at the same time it h allowed an appreciation of the role that DSE plays in filling these gaps, bringing Dominican sisters together, and promoting collaboration etween different countries and regions by overcoming linguistic and intellectual barriers.

The gathering was held at the Convent of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany.  Their warm and kind hospitality gave a precious home flavour to this beautiful event.  We were constantly surrounded by the tender, generous and joyful care of the prioress Sr Hanna Rita Laue OP while Sr Nellija and Indra cooked for us delicious meals that greatly contributed to the good spirits of our conversations and sharing at the table.  Sr. Terēze and Sr. Diāna assisted us in joining the celebration of the Liturgy.  Father Jānis Melnikovs SJ celebrated Mass for us every day in English showing great support and interest for us and our meeting.  As a further testimony of Latvian warm hospitality, Sr Hanna organized with the church choir a beautiful Latvian Christmas Carols for our last evening in Riga.  A final thanks goes also to Juta, the extremely friendly cat of the community, who offered us more than one occasion for a very heartfelt laugh!

Sr. Chiara Mary Tessaris

To Praise, To Bless, To Preach.