From 17 – 21 January 2017 an international congress was held on the mission of the Order of Preachers to close the Order’s eighth centenary. More than 600 Dominicans, friars, nuns, sisters and lay Dominicans from all over the world came to Rome for this special congress.
The European Council of Lay Dominican Fraternities (ECLDF) was present, together with many other Lay Dominicans from Europe as well. Here is a short impression of Leny Beemer- de Vos from The Netherlands, President of ECLDF.
The congress was held in the Angelicum, the Dominican university in Rome. It was an enormous organization not only for the Congress itself, but also to arrange for food, drinks, beds etc, for all the delegates at the congress. In the main lecture hall of the Angelicum the great plenaries were held, with interpreters for the three languages of the Order: Spanish, English and French. For the workshops there were separate groups in the three languages. I had chosen the English workshops, in which there were participants from Europe, the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Asia and Africa: a mixture of cultures and at the same time the feeling to belong to one big family.
We heard impressive witnesses of brethren and sisters and lay Dominicans from countries which are at war or with oppressive regimes. We heard Sister Luma Khuder, one of the Sisters in Mosul. She told about signs of hope within the terrible things they have to live in. She got an ovation after her talk. And many others told their stories of oppression and hope.
We heard excellent lectures on the themes of each day:
– The gospel and humanity
– Preaching: encountering others
– Sent to serve
The message we heard from almost every speech and witness was: the starting point of your preaching is the other in listening, seeing the other. Think and contemplate on what you have heard and seen, not only with your mind and words, but with your whole being in relationship with the other. Pray intensely and then go out to preach. We as preachers must be transformed and reconciled to the other as Jesus was. Don’t judge but be patient, ask the other what he/she desires, is looking for. And above all: name the grace and goodness you see in the world.
Besides the talks, the witnesses, and the workshops there were many, many interesting and heart-warming meetings, as there was also theatre, music and dance. A group, for instance, from Switzerland gave a very up-to-date performance on the idea of giving their church as a present to another. In that performance we saw meetings, discussions and protests in a theatrical way, according to the growing situation of many parishes in Western Europe with diminishing believers. After showing historical situations around the Inquisition, Bartolomé de las Casas and Catherine of Siena, the message was clear: not church buildings nor money must be the point of discussion, but the healing of the people and the preaching of the Gospel. This was a confronting mirror for all of us.
Saturday 21 January was the official closing day of the 8th centenary Jubilee. In the morning we had conclusion and a very inspiring speech by the Master of the Order, Bruno Cadoré. He encouraged all branches of the Order all over the world. Specifically for Lay Dominicans he pleaded for a bigger place in the Church and the Order. And his last words were, freely translated: ‘Remain studying, remain contemplating and praying. Be open to what is happening around you, politically and socially too.’
In the afternoon we went to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, where Pope Francis celebrated Mass together with the whole Dominican family, present in Rome. Outside the church there was a big, big queue of all those who wanted to enter the church passing through the security checks. The Pope spoke heart-warming words for the Order and its mission as preachers in the Church and the world. After the Mass we were invited for a reception in the courtyard of St. John Lateran, after which almost everybody prepared to travel home.
Leny Beemer- de Vos, president ECLDF