“We must contemplate our responsibility as priestly people and our own willingness and ways to share the fruits of meditation and worship with others. There is a stirring in our consciences to assume responsibility for the needs of our neighbor,” said Aquinas Weber, OP, to her Sisters in Christ. That stirring of conscience would grow, and contribute to the communal spirit of Holy experience at Marywood for years to come.
It was 1985, when Dominican Chapel, where Sisters prayed in community, was renovated and opened its doors so the Sisters could welcome a much larger community to worship. Sunday Assembly was born of a common vision of unity and relationship: sharing the Word of God and recognizing the face of God in one another.
By 1993, emboldened by this experience of ever-widening community, the Sisters next opened the doors of Dominican Center. The pillars of Dominican spirituality: prayer, common life, study, and service, informed their vision of this new space that would welcome others to share the campus where Sisters live.
Hearing the preached words, We are one in Christ, we respond to the call to quest for relationship. The vision for Dominican Center evolved out of the Sisters’ own contemplative quest for growthful communion with others.
Breaking Down Walls
In June 1994, Sister Carmelita reported to the Congregation: “Dominican Center… [is] causing boundaries of separatism to dissolve and people, regardless of race, class, creed, or gender, are coming to Marywood Campus.”
“Here, there is a convergence of where we celebrate diversity in unity. Mine might be different from yours, and that’s alright,” says Lisa Mitchell, characterizing the openness she sees on the Marywood Campus. Lisa is a Dominican Associate since 2012, participant in Sunday Assembly, and now director of Dominican Associate Life.
That spirit of inclusivity has been intrinsic to Dominican Center programs: people of all faiths coming together to seek deeper relationship with God. “We encourage and inspire growth in awareness and confidence in the Word. That often leads to greater confidence in personal foundation faith,” says Ann Walters, OP, spiritual director and presenter.
Experience with the Spiritual Director Practicum
“Individual relationship with God is at the heart of everything. The Spiritual Director Practicum program helps others strengthen their awareness and sensibility to that quality of spirituality,” says Mike Wood, deacon at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Parish in Kentwood, Michigan and a Dominican Associate.
Mike was in the second Spiritual Director Practicum class at Dominican Center. As an ordained deacon, he sought additional resources to support his role in his parish. “Being a spiritual director is profoundly deaconate. Learning the holy listening; it’s something that informs everything I do.
“In the 90s, this experience wasn’t offered anywhere else. And during and after completing the program, I personally felt, and still do, that this Dominican Spiritual Director Practicum should be a requirement for the deaconate.
“The staff and presenters were exceptional. Sister Suzanne Eichhorn was brilliant; Jerry Toshalis, a Methodist pastor and psychotherapist, was so open and integrated in his own spirituality.
“There were no lectures. It was an interactive and profound learning with and from people who were deeply grounded in their realities of faith and spirituality. They were imparting experience as well as knowledge. It was grace.
“It’s all part of the Ignatian spirituality that invites you to enter, to imagine, and be open to our thoughts and experiences of divine grace. It’s life changing—and that’s what conversion is supposed to be.”
Experience of Being Present For One Another
"We believe we bear fruit in the ordinariness of every day—and oftener, perhaps, than we like, in the hardship of pain and loss and difficulty. For the kind of love with which we are blessed is also the kind of love that must be willing to be poured out—in sacrifice and love – for others—in tasks that are bigger than ourselves."
These words were spoken to the Congregation by Sister Barbara Hansen on July 1, 1994, when she was installed as Prioress.
What the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids hoped for in Dominican Center was that people would find welcome and community.
For a time, it seemed that it was women who were most open and responsive to our Spiritual Direction and early programs, recalls Barbara Hansen, OP. “Many women have been able to move out of difficult times in their lives—divorce, deaths, life changes. What they found at Dominican Center and Dominican Chapel was safe refuge. Men followed soon after.”
Kelly Wysocki-Emery recalls her experience during a personal retreat. “I sought out a silent retreat. I had only 48 hours, but the time allotted for my silence, my grieving, and sitting with my pain (both past and present pain) was a godsend. Having no distractions, not having to put on a happy face for anyone and being alone to process what I was experiencing was just what I needed. I consider it an incredible gift that we have this space in Grand Rapids.”
Dot Ledrick, a Dominican Associate and retired marriage and family counselor, was one of the laypersons invited to join the first advisory board for Dominican Center. “Commitment recognizes relationship. It distills, refines, clarifies, and challenges daily living. Dominican life has taught me many ways of being and many ways of being with. How do we best engage our questions? How do we walk humbly? How do we collaborate? How do we listen to the gentle probing of the Spirit?
"Being on campus, working and volunteering with the Sisters, ministering with the Spiritual Formation Program, practicing Spiritual Direction, working on the Associate Advisory Board for twelve years has had a profound impact on my life. With much gratitude, I have been woven into the fabric of this beloved community.”
Experience Learning, Hospitality & Inclusivity
Shannon Cohen is a difference-maker: author, motivational speaker, trainer, and co-founder of the organization Sisters Who Lead.
"Dominican Center at Marywood is such a gift in our community. Under the leadership of Margarita Solis-Deal, I have personally seen the impact of the Center's renewed commitment to be a safe, inviting, and accessible place for all. A willingness to assess the Center through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion and a willingness to pause, and in that pausing, honestly and intentionally assess and ask questions like: 'Who comes through our doors and who doesn't? What is the demographic composition of our classes? Who is missing? Who knows about us and who doesn't? How do we bridge that gap?' Asking these tough questions has resulted in a shift in the way in which the Dominican Center lives out its mission and great commission in community."
Hearing the preached words, We are one in Christ, we respond to the call to quest for relationship. The vision for Dominican Center continues to evolve out of the Sisters’ own contemplative quest for growthful communion with others.