This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
We gather here today to celebrate our heritage as Dominican women, who proclaim as our charism: veritas, Truth.
Our call is to preach the Truth —in season, out of season— to transform ourselves and the world from a place of darkness to an oasis of light. It is as important today as it was in the day of Dominic and Catherine. All people who dwell in darkness have the right to bask in the light of a God who saves. We, as Dominican women, have the power to proclaim that Truth that brings light to the world.
We are honored today to have with us our Dominican Sisters who have come from all over the international community. They are here to bring the light of Truth to our brothers and sisters in the U.N.. Their presence is a reminder to each of us that wherever we find ourselves we too have the responsibility to be proclaimers of Truth. To them, we extend a warm WELCOME.
The scripture reminds us that whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that her works may be clearly seen as done in God. That light finds its way to us in our personal faithfulness to contemplation and in our persistent relationships with each other.
Jan Richardson gives insight into when she writes:
I cannot tell you how the light comes.
What I know is that it is more ancient than imagining
That it travels across an astounding expanse to reach us.
That it loves searching out what is hidden,
What is lost, what is forgotten
Or in peril or in pain.
That it has a fondness for the body
For finding its way toward flesh,
For tracing the edges of form,
For shining forth through the eye, the hand, the heart.
I cannot tell you how the light comes,
But that it does. That it will.
That it works its way into the deepest dark that enfolds you
Though it may take long ages in coming
Or arrive in a shape you did not foresee.
Her words afford us images for understanding, prayer and reflection.
I would like to take the next few minutes to take us on a journey of remembrance, one familiar to many, yet worth repeating. It is a journey from darkness to light, a journey that will touch on our past, our present, and hopefully a lens for our future.
We are all versed in our individual Dominican histories. We are aware that when our congregations were founded, the world was smaller. Information was shared via conversation and the written word. Transportation was slow and often dangerous. News took time to be communicated, and often only in part. There were steadfast rules regarding religious institutes, and most congregations were considered institutes of the second order.
Norms included prescribed daily prayer at specific hours of the day as well as enclosure. I have often wondered how the prescribed rigors of the day afforded our foremothers the time and energy to discover and name what today we call mission? How did Augustine, Hyacinth, Aquinata, Bertrand, Catherine, Dominica, Molly, Alice, Mary Ann. Johanna, Mary and countless others risk what was tested and true to embrace what today we describe as apostolic life? Each one risked what was known to illuminate what was unknown. The needs of humanity cried out in the darkness and the Spirit pushed these women from the darkness of ignorance into the light of Truth, whoever lives the Truth comes to the light, so that her works may be clearly seen as done in God.
The process of transformation took root slowly and not without pain and struggle, and each formed today what we term our individual foundations.
Years pass. Schools, hospitals, orphanages, church related institutions were established. Congregations grew and flourished. Benefactors were plentiful. Sisters were educated to meet the needs of the institutions. The world became larger. Travel and communication were less cumbersome. The needs of humanity became more visible. Many religious institutes built larger and more efficient convents to accommodate the growing number of vocations.
A World of Change
The Church under Pope John XXIII convened what was termed the Second Vatican Council to bring members into the modern world. Part of this historic meeting was the concept that religious institutes, too, were part of the modern world and the apostolate of religious institutes were affirmed. Along with this acknowledgement came struggle and darkness. Congregations took seriously the admonition of the Council and attempted to implement its recommendations. They took time in study, prayer, and dialogue, and sought alliances with others to flesh out what was asked of apostolic religious life in light of the Gospel.
The world suddenly became wider. Initiatives for women multiplied, new educational opportunities opened up. Many creative and well-educated sisters left religious institutes in pursuit of change and a world with more opportunity for women.
For many within the religious institute, it was a time for grieving with new questions of direction and mission. Where was the darkness leading?
The critical mass that remained soon found ways to invite others into their lives and initiatives like Associates and Fraternities began. The already established institutions afforded opportunities for creative realignment. Others were invited to the table to share stories and struggles. The Truth became clearer as the light shined forth through the eyes, hands, and hearts of others who shared the mission.
For many, the already established ministries took on new meaning. Educational and healthcare facilities responded with new initiatives. Access to needed services were moved into neighborhoods where they were needed. Because of these moves, new insights and understandings clarified mission. Expansion and new initiatives happened.
As seekers of the Truth, the darkness was again pierced with slits of light.
Our Present Reality
Our Scripture focuses us, whoever lives the Truth comes to the light.
Today, we Dominican women find ourselves older, fewer, and, hopefully, wiser. Our energies are being spent in staffing our institutions, care and planning for our elderly members, and the restructuring of our apostolic endeavors. The critical mass has decreased and new vocations are few. What have we learned living our Dominican life? What has our current wisdom taught us? Our charism of Truth will never die if our eyes, hands, and hearts have the courage to embrace the light. It has taught us that our faithfulness to study and contemplation will lead us to the light of action.
Our world is now so small. We can find it instantly on our iPhones and in our living rooms. The needs of our world are daily with us. Where is the Truth calling us?
Ongoing Dominican collaboration should be our way of life. Our younger members need grounding in the charism and the freedom to bring their knowledge and incentives to the conversation. Our associates need the encouragement and challenge to be more involved in our future. All of us need to be able to open the door to new ways of living our Dominican life. We need to take action to create and support new initiatives that support our charism. We need to open our lives to the myriad of people of good will who seek the light of Truth. We need to learn from them. We need to do it NOW, not later.
And in doing so. The light of Truth will come.
And so, may this day, turn ourselves to the light.
May we lift our faces to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies to follow the arc it makes.
May we open and open and open still
To the blessed light that comes.
So that our lives of Truth May bring us to the light
and our works may be clearly seen as one in God. Amen.