Dominican Sisters Europe (DSE)

Conference "Between Monuments and Claims for Justice".

Rome was in a blaze of glorious sunshine! It shone on pilgrims and paupers, tourists and travellers, guides and guards and Dominican women in Rome for the DSE Conference on “Between Monuments and Claims for Justice” Such sunshine brought lightness to our step and a sense of freedom from the darkness of the winter days we had left behind.
In the days that followed “lightness to our step” became more than just words on the page. They haunted our days from dawn to dusk. From our departure from Villa Rosa each morning at 8.45am to our journey by bus to Il Rosario each day for Morning prayer followed by our walks to the Angelicum which hosted many of the programmes we attended .Then subsequent walks, bus and tram rides to other venues for talks and tours “lightness of foot and “speed of lightening” come to  mind as best describing the journey of  us – Dominican women from many European countries – in search of monuments and justice in the Holy city of Rome.The programme was varied and full of rich experiences that I certainly valued.

We attended the Papal Mass in St Peters: attended the Angelicum for several programmes delivered by such speakers as Fr Alejandro Crosthwaite on “Thomas and the common good” Sister Helen Alford on “Catholic Social Teaching as a basis for business ethics” and”  Dominicans for Justice and Peace”  followed by a tour of the Angelicum.; Mr Jan F Qvigstad Deputy Governor of the central Bank of Norway on “Keeping promises and transparency”.
Our  afternoons “with lightness of foot” took us to Santa Sabina for a tour, guided by Fr Edward Ruane  followed by an address by given by Sister M.Fabiola Velazquez DSI and Sister Rose Ann Schlitt DVI .Fr Wojciech Giertych addressed us on “The Preaching of the Faith ” We visited San Clemente and were guided through the centuries by Fr Michael Dunleavy from the Irish province and then with continued lightness (though it was becoming more of a struggle) to the Angelicum for Fr Gerard Chabanon Superior of the Missionaries of Africa to address us on “Justice, Culture, and the African Synod”.

Thursday 4th March following Sister Helen’s talk and tour of the Angelicum we gathered in the head quarters of CARITAS International to be met by  and addressed by Lesley Ann Knight Secretary General of CARITAS.  This was followed by an address from Sister Toni Harris on “Dominicans for Justice and Peace” followed by a short trip on the cobbles of Trastevere to the Sant’ Egidio Community where we were welcomed by Claudio one of the leaders of the Community. Other members joined with us and told the story of the early days of the Community and the inspiration behind the founding and the continuance of this lay Community.

Sant' Agidio 'Community'

Their hospitality was boundless and we enjoyed a full Italian meal before we joined the Sant’Egidio Community for Evening prayer in Santa Maria in Trastevere which for me was a truly moving and memorable experience in a candlelit church

March 5th our final day was memorable in more ways than one!!  We gathered in the afternoon for Mass in Maria Sopra Minerva presided over by Fr Paul Murray – but not before the heavens opened and the line “rain and sun – bless the Lord” took on a whole new meaning! Did we have coats? No! Hats? No! Brollies? No! .But we had the rain – and it rained, as they say “cats and dogs”! So finally we gathered, Dominican Women of Europe, saturated and shivering in the cold damp chapel of St Dominic for Mass prepared by the Irish Dominican Sisters. This was followed by a brief presentation on the process of preparation and research for Sainthood.Father Paul gave his presentation on “Preaching with St Catherine” and the day drew to dusk in Roma as we wound our way to Dia Tres Amici for the Festive, concluding dinner and final event of this most glorious week!
No words can truly paint a picture of the amazing week we had. The journey, the friendships forged, the sharing of meals, the welcome we received from the community in Villa Rosa and from all our hosts and Speakers; The Papal Audience we attended on Wednesday.

Finally the wonderful Dominican women from Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, England and Scotland with whom we shared this memorable experience and the amazing planning and preparation executed by the Swedish Dominicans led by Sister Else-Britt Nilsen OP leave lasting memories.

I share with you some “sound bites” from the presentations (there are many more) that touched me along the journey:

“I am a sigh of LOVE –CHARITY-HOPE- between nations –I am CARITAS! L.A. Knight
“Money cannot be an end – it is a means”.
“The more we share our Faith tradition with others the better we look to society”
“Dialogue is a way of being – how you are. Not how you perceive yourself.”  Sister Helen  Alford.
“God is in charge of history – the now but not the yet.
“Communications? Very important. On line media – how are we using it to Preach?
“Faith and Values. Are we able to have values despite who we are?” L. A .Knight.
“Looking for a better world? Ask the question does our work influence a just and peaceful world where we are?
“Grant us a holy discontent! Catherine of  Siena
“Our Gospel is only about the poor. Our world does not talk about the poor only as a problem”. Sant’ Egidio.

Our journey ended as it began with Rome in the sunshine. Footsore and weary we Dominican Sisters boarded our various planes for our European destinations filled with memories and moments of great richness among the monuments and  cobbled streets of Rome in search of a better understanding of the meaning of Justice in our life – our Congregations – and our communities.

Sister Laurentia