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Caldwell University kicked off its celebration of the 800th Jubilee of the Order of Preachers on Nov. 11.

Students, staff, faculty, alumni, special guests and the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, the order that founded the university, gathered to mark the occasion with Mass and a luncheon.

Sr. Patrice Werner, O.P., prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, greeted those in attendance and explained how the Jubilee Year opened formally on November 7, the Feast of All Saints of the Dominican Order, and will end on January 21, 2017, because the 21st was the day on which Dominic received official confirmation of the Order from Pope Honorius III.  “The Jubilee is a celebration of the entire Dominican Family—friars, nuns, sisters, lay members, laity.” she said.

The Mass was concelebrated by Rev. Kenneth Letoile, OP , prior provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, Rev. Albert Berner, Caldwell University chaplain, and Father Kieran Fergas, O.P., an adjunct professor in the Theology Department.

The homilist, Father Letoile, said it was a great gift to celebrate the anniversary with the Caldwell community and that each person is called in a different way to be a part of it.

St. Dominic envisioned Dominicans continuing the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Order of Preachers “is grounded in the mission of Jesus,” he said.  He invited those in attendance to think of themselves as “prayerful preachers” and gave examples of four lay people who “preached” by speaking of their faith to others in public situations.

The Gospel reading was from Luke 4:16-22 and Father pointed out that in that scripture Jesus gives “a mission statement”, just as colleges have mission statements, to bring glad tidings to the poor…and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. He said that in addition to the Dominican Jubilee year, a year acceptable to the Lord, Pope Francis has declared a Year of Mercy to begin Dec. 8.

Father Letoile recommended to students that they remember to pray at the beginning of their day, going over the day with Jesus, and bringing it all to him. At the end of the day, he said “spend a few minutes” going through the day and “you will see where Jesus walked with you.”

President Nancy Blattner said Caldwell University is indebted to its founder Mother Joseph Dunn and the Sisters of St. Dominic for its very existence and that the university embraces the four pillars of Dominican life of prayer, study, community and mission in its daily functioning as a Catholic liberal arts institution of higher education.  The celebration provides a perfect opportunity for each member of the campus community to commit to strengthening the bond that exists between the university and its sponsoring congregation, to fulfill the vision of the foundress and to “play a role in the continuation of the Order of Preachers as begun by St. Dominic,” said Dr. Blattner.

She spoke of the Gospel message from Luke in which Jesus, after reading from the prophet Isaiah, says, “Today this scripture passage has been fulfilled in your presence.”  The verse resonated with her as she thought about how beautifully Caldwell University students are the fulfillment of St. Dominic’s vision.

Sister Kathleen Tuite, O.P., vice president for student life, noted that the procession was led by faculty and staff members who had given service to the university for decades. They were:  Jack Rainey, vice president for finance and administration , Mark Corino, assistant vice president and director of athletics, Colette Lindroth, professor of English, and Marie Mullaney, professor of history.   Students in 800th anniversary t-shirts accompanied the Sisters of St. Dominic in the procession.

Jefferson Daily, a senior, carried the lectionary in the procession and read the first reading. He was delighted to be a part of the historic celebration.  “I’m very proud of the Dominican family and Caldwell University’s longevity.”

Music was provided by the Caldwell University chorale with Laura Greenwald, director, Warren Helms, accompanist, and Nicholas Bushey, cantor.

Earlier in the day, members of the campus community gathered for the burying of a time capsule that will remain in the ground for the next 25 years.  It featured items such as the 75thanniversary book and banner, the 2015 commencement book and videos, university magazines, and the letter Caldwell received when it was awarded university status.   Dr. Blattner said the “artifacts mark our place and time,” so that 25 years from now when the university celebrates its 100th anniversary and the capsule is unearthed, it will have preserved “a slice of our life with Caldwell.”

Dr. Nancy Becker, assistant to the president for special projects, planned the opening celebration and managed all the arrangements for the day.