Fall 2010 Issue
Focused on the Future
By Rebecca Dellagloria
Five hundred years ago, a group of Dominican friars came to the Americas, bringing with them their devotion to the principles of equality and fairness. And in June, their spiritual descendants came together at Barry University to share their experiences and discuss the path of Dominican higher education going forward.
The 11th Biennial Colloquium of U.S. Dominican Colleges and Universities, held June 17-20, drew attendees from 17 Dominican colleges and universities from around the country to gather in the spirit of friendship and collaboration.
The conference covered a broad spectrum of Dominican philosophy and how to put it into action, with workshops on subjects as diverse as social justice, building opportunities at member schools and whether future generations of the order will remember “the fire of our preaching” 500 years from now.
“The Colloquium was very successful, I believe, in terms of the energy and enthusiasm that emanated from the participants as well as the conversations that took place among the folks from the various Dominican colleges and universities, and also in terms of the spirit of oneness that seemed to grow as the conference went on,’’ said Barry President Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD. “I think people got a sense of the strength and inherent power that resides in the U.S. Dominican colleges and universities.”
During an early morning session on the opening day, keynote speaker Sister Margaret Ormond, OP, priorist of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, Ohio, discussed how educators can bring the lessons of the past to the current conversation. Citing the example set by Montesinos, the Dominican friar, who in the 1500s, became the first member of the clergy to speak out about the innate rights of the indigenous people of the Americas, she emphasized the responsibility that all Dominicans have to rise up against injustice in their communities.
“I would like to suggest that these 16th century Dominicans have a lot to say to us Dominican educators, today more than ever,’’ Ormond said. “As members of this Colloquium and universities, we are charged to preach the gospel and do justice.”
For Dr. Mary Crosby ’64, MS ’66 now a professor at Dominican University of California, attending the Colloquium was coming full circle.
Her thesis, “Putting the Fanjeaux Experience into Practice,” was one of the highlights of the conference. Crosby, director of the Multiple Subject Program at Dominican’s School of Education, spoke of her experience in the French town, known as the birthplace of the Dominican order.
Every summer, Dominicans from universities across the country travel to Fanjeaux for study, reflection, and exploration of how their schools can draw upon and apply Dominican ideals, including study, contemplation and community.
“We connect with people from the other 13 or so universities in the U.S.,” said Crosby, who had the chance to travel to Fanjeaux several years ago. “We attended seminars in the mornings; we took field trips in the afternoon, learning about the place where Saint Dominic established his first order of sisters.”
Crosby, who attended undergraduate and graduate school at Barry University on a full scholarship, said returning to the Miami Shores campus for the Colloquium was like a welcome homecoming. She found the experience enlightening.
“The focus of the Colloquium was of a historical nature. I thought it was interesting to learn some more of the history that I was not so familiar with. … And there was a big emphasis on that – the Dominicans leaving and going to the [Caribbean] islands,’’ she said. “I just thought it was fascinating. I spent my time studying St. Dominic in the 1200s. This was a few hundred years after that.”
Ormond said she hoped the Colloquium would inspire Dominican educators to take a look at how they teach and ask themselves such fundamental questions as, “How can we contribute our time and travel and treasure to those who don’t have access to education?”
She saw the Colloquium, with its eye to the past, as the perfect platform to pose such questions to a rapt and attentive crowd.
“I want to engage the past so that we can transform the future,’’ Ormond said. “Education is the best way to effect transformational change in our world. The more we can collaborate in our globalized world, the better we’ll be able to do that.”
To that end, Sister Linda said, the conference served as a jumping-off point for educators from different colleges and universities to come together to brainstorm on how to bring the spirit of collaboration to fruition once the Colloquium concluded. One idea that Barry may initiate is offering a joint alternative spring break program with several other colleges and universities instead of individual institutions offering their own programs.
Sister Linda said the benefits are twofold: giving students a chance to interact with other students from around the country and providing a sense of strength through their numbers.
“The take-home message [of the Colloquium] is the growing realization of the inherent potential that we have as a collective, as a group of U.S. Dominican colleges and universities to make an impact, to make a collective impact,’’ she said.
Going forward, Crosby noted, there will continue to be strength in the Dominican experience, so long “as there continue to be Dominicans at these universities.”
“It is definitely evident that [Dominican leaders] want this collaboration to continue. And they’ve been talking about having the Colloquium continue in this format,’’ Crosby said. “And I surely hope that it will.’’
Rebecca Dellagloria is a Miami-based writer and community news reporter for Forum Publishing Group.