Dominican Center initiated the role of apprentices in 2019. Apprentices have already participated in our programs and now are immersing themselves in the Dominican spirit: hospitality, invitation, and contemplation in support of our formation team. Currently, Amanda Dobson has been working with Carmelita Switzer OP in Foundations in Spirituality. Andy Rebollar has joined Diane Zerfas OP in the Spiritual Director Practicum. Mindy Hills works with Sister Diane planning retreat experiences and envisioning ongoing formation for our spiritual directors.
We are excited to share the ministry of Dominican Center with these committed leaders. They bring energy and vision to our future.
The Spirit Invites Us Forward
by Mindy Hills, Dominican Center Spiritual Direction Ministry Apprentice
In May, Dominican Center’s Spiritual Direction Ministry celebrated six newly certified spiritual directors, all completing the two-year Practicum journey they began before a pandemic abruptly closed the physical doors of Dominican Center. Sister Diane Zerfas OP invited each to share key insights from their time in formation. One insight, in particular, seemed to echo among their answers: despite meeting in a virtual format this past year there were gifts of presence and sacred bonding of community. They noticed a deeper capacity to access interior peace as the outside world was experiencing chaos, and this collective sense of peace seemed to help ground their contemplative practices in a profound way.
This year has yielded both challenges and gifts in ways we as spiritual directors practice. We have been dedicated to preserving a presence for our directees, so that they feel supported while finding creative ways to remain open to new ways the Spirit invites us forward.
The Sisters continue to inspire and lead through their relevance, resourcefulness, and as they serve their mission with hospitable hearts. We have all clearly been stretched by the events of this past year. There has been a collapse of ordinary life, exposure of fear-infused wounds, and a societal lesson in letting go. Upon witnessing the welcoming ceremony of new spiritual directors into the Dominican Family, I can say that I remain fastened to the hope of God’s divine light shining to restore our world with the spirit of love.
by Andy Rebollar, Spiritual Director, Dominican Center Spiritual Direction Ministry Apprentice
A few days after arriving in Chuuk, Micronesia, I found myself, a new Jesuit Volunteer, surrounded by the most beautiful sunset I’d ever experienced. The sky was aflame with vivid colors, reflecting off the water, completely immersing me as I sat in awe at the end of a dock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
I carry that sunset with me, but more importantly, a profound sense that God led me there and continues to guide my journey through life. A life that constantly reminds me to be open, listen attentively, and prayerfully discern, so I not only hear God’s call but also respond to it.
In Fall 2020, Sister Diane Zerfas OP invited me to be a Dominican Apprentice and help facilitate the first-year Spiritual Direction Practicum – which would be 100-percent virtual. I knew God was working within this invitation. Now there was space in my life for this role. I was able to respond affirmatively.
This response led me to witness firsthand the seamless movement of the Spirit, converging 12 separate spiritual journeys into the practicum and creating a sacred space for God’s grace to inspire, challenge, invite, and transform all those who engaged in it. Collectively prayer, assigned readings, peer group process, discussions, and relationships provided the entry points for God to meet us where we were and lead us deeper in communion with each other, ourselves, our God, and our callings as spiritual directors.
This is God’s grace in action – made more visible when we are open, when we listen, and when we allow Divine Love to lead us. We may not know where it will take us, but responding to God’s call can lead us to experience more of those awe-filled moments of beauty. How might God be calling you to something of beauty?
by Amanda Dobson, Spiritual Director, Dominican Center Spiritual Direction Ministry Apprentice
What is presence in the virtual age?
What does it mean to be present on a Zoom call ?
As a spiritual director, what does it mean when you cannot be physically present with your directee?
How do you practice when you no longer have access to your place of practice?
What is this mystery of presence anyway?
These are several questions I have been pondering this past year-and-a-half, this year of Pandemic, this year of Zoom. I have to admit, as co-facilitator along with Sister Carmelita Switzer OP, I was very unsure if the Foundations in Spirituality course would work in a Zoom format. We had no idea what to expect. Would people sign up? Would they feel comfortable sharing over a computer screen? Would their internet connections work? And the deeper, quieter thought I mostly kept to myself: But I don’t like Zoom. This is about presence. This needs to be in-person.
This past year has been one long exercise in letting go of the way I think things have to be and being delighted by how God shows up in unexpected places, even Zoom.
They signed up. It was the largest class Dominican Center had seen in years. They shared. Both in small group break-out sessions and in the large group, and they were hungry for more. Zoom was not the great hindrance we feared it would be. Because of Zoom, we were able to have participants from Arizona, Mississippi, and even Canada, in addition to all over Michigan. One participant mentioned wanting to take this course for years, but her work and ministry commitments had made it impossible. Zoom allowed her to finally take the course. Another participant mentioned how nice it was not having to drive somewhere in ice and snow. As I sat in my cozy bedroom Zoom corner, Monday night after Monday night, I was starting to agree.
Many mentioned how important this class had become for them during a year of isolation and lockdown: “An oasis in the desert,” one participant called it. “A lifeline,” said another, and “I feel like I have found my people.”
As a spiritual director, I still have to adjust to the reality that when the world fully opens back up, Dominican Center will not be open to me in the same way. When I left the campus for the last time, I did not know I was leaving the campus for the foreseeable future. Dominican Center had become a kind of home for me when I felt spiritually homeless; a most beloved sacred space of peace and prayer. There is some grief here, and as Rolheiser encourages in The Holy Longing, this is an important step and not to be skipped.
But I’ve also witnessed the birth of something this year: connection when it felt our world was coming apart; community in the midst of isolation; healing in a time of sickness; the flow of the Spirit during lockdown. I am more convinced than ever that our programs are life-changing and that the Spirit continues to show up in unexpected places and exciting ways.
May we all have the courage to not cling to our ideas and preferred ways and places of how and where we think God works in the world. May we accept the spirit of the life we are in fact already living. Pray for us, Sisters, as we pray for you.