Caldwell, N.J., June 5, 2019 – Isabelle Pioch came away from the annual Dominican Preaching Conference full of ideas that she would like to bring back to her campus and incorporate into her own life. From a service day to possibly visiting detention centers to focusing more on contemplation, Pioch is looking forward to taking what she learned and putting it into action. The Siena Heights University student joined 35 other students from Dominican colleges and universities at Caldwell University May 21-26 to explore how the Catholic Dominican tradition can be a part of their everyday lives. “I am also going to continue expressing my faith through my artworks and projects,” said Pioch, a graphic design major. Madison Perry, a biology student at Caldwell, was happy to discover that “preaching is not just standing behind a pulpit but can be expressed through art forms and service.”
Speakers presented on topics such as the Saints of the Order, The Dominican Family, Preaching the Signs of the Times, Preaching Through Service and Preaching Through Art. In “Saints of the Order,” “St. Dominic” portrayed by Patrick Spedale, campus minister at St. Pius X High School in Houston, spoke about “holy preaching” and encouraged the students to see that there is “a great need for great preachers of truth today.” Dominicans “love to study and study to love,” he said, and it is important to have “the Bible in one hand and the iPad in the other in order to read the signs of the times.” Dominic was “destined to do great things in life in the name of Jesus Christ,” said Spedale, and he encouraged the students to do the same in striving for the best in their lives.
A session on social justice included topics such as immigration, climate change, human trafficking, economic justice, and peace and security. The students were encouraged to look for solutions for famine, war, prejudice, racism, and sexism through advocacy, fundraising, and by asking systemic questions and look for answers.
Perry enjoyed meeting other students from across the United States. “Despite not being Catholic, this conference has helped me grow closer to God and I was happy to have met such an accepting community of students, mentors, and staff.” It was an empowering conference, said Pioch, “and really opened my eyes to the wide, yet connected world around me.”
Sister Gina Fleming, O.P., executive director of the Dominican Youth Movement USA, was in awe of the participants’ energy and interactions. “The future of our communities, our country, and our world is in the hands of these young people.” It was a privilege for her to share the Dominican charism with the students. “I have tremendous hope that they will make a difference with their lives.”
Caldwell’s director of campus ministry, Colleen O’Brien said it was a gift to see the students engage in their faith in more active ways. “Our Caldwell students learned quite a bit and hopefully they will be able to carry this experience with them into their future. We look forward to putting some more Dominican values into practice this next school year.”
Dana McStowe, the campus ministry program coordinator, assisted in running the program. Caldwell student Kassandra Pardo also attended.
The Caldwell students who helped with set-up and other logistics were Brooke McPherson, Maria Lesniewski, Julianna Verso, Brittany Gaule, and Anthony Pineros.