Yes. It’s a privilege to be here. In recent years it has become customary for the Master to invite some nuns to be at the General Chapter. I’m here with Sr Sarina, who is the prioress of Matris Domini monastery in Bergamo, Italy. We represent the Dominican nuns throughout the world.
Unlike other orders of nuns we do not have a mother foundress but look to St Dominic himself as our sole Master. He was teacher of the first Dominican nuns, who were founded in Prouille ten years before the confirmation of the Order [in 1206]. He founded other communities in Madrid, and Rome. He later entrusted these nuns to the care of the friars, and for the past 800 years there has always been this close bond between the friars and the nuns.
The brothers provide us with spiritual and intellectual formation, and many of them who work with the poor and broken people of the world keep us in touch with the needs of the world, and this helps us to pray more deeply.
What are your impressions so far?
To be honest I was very nervous at the thought of coming, but once I arrived and met some of the brothers I felt very welcome and my fears were laid to rest. Meeting people from different parts of the world opens me up to the wider vision of the Order. It’s also very interesting to participate in Commission work and in the plenary sessions.
I’ve been very impressed with the liturgy. Each liturgy is so well prepared, and celebrated in such a dignified manner. It has been a special joy to be here at the election of fr Bruno because some years ago he spent three weeks in our monastery.
Who do you represent, and what perspective do you bring to the General Chapter?
I represent the enclosed nuns, of which there are about 3000. For the past 6 years I have been a member of the International Commission for Dominican Nuns; my term of office is about to end. The International Commission is composed of 11 nuns who meet once a year with the Promoter for the Nuns, who is presently fr Brian Pierce. The monasteries are divided into 11 regions, and each sister is responsible for creating a network of communication between the monasteries, and the Promoter for the Nuns, who is our link with the Master.
Like the friars, we nuns make profession to the Master. Like the friars our lives are centred on the Word of God, but while the friars fulfil their vocation through preaching, we the nuns live our lives for the most part within the confines of our monasteries, devoting ourselves entirely to the praise and worship of God. Our lives are centred on the Word of God, listening to the Word in lectio divina and silent prayer, celebrating the Word in the liturgy, and putting the word into practice in our daily community life. The aim of all our observances is that the Word of God may dwell abundantly in the monastery. Our whole way of life is ordered to preserving the continual remembrance of God. Our life is also one of intercession remembering Dominic’s compassion. We too carry in our hearts the pain and brokenness of our human family, so that our coming apart from the world does not cut us off but rather opens our minds to the greatness of God’s love who sent his Son so that the whole world might be saved through him.
In my own monastery of Drogheda [in Ireland], we’ve have always had very close bonds with our Dominican friars. Our way of life, although hidden, is a form of preaching. By the very fact that a monastery exists, it is a sign of the reality of God. Our chapel door is always open to people who wish to come and join us for the liturgy and Eucharistic adoration throughout the day. People also continually come to ask for our prayers, and tell us their needs.
What challenges do you think the Dominican nuns face today?
What strikes me is that the challenge for us as Dominican nuns in a secularized society is to live more deeply our contemplative life so as to become a beacon of hope, and a sign of the reality of the living God. We must continually remind ourselves that we fulfil our vocation to be missionary by going deeper into our hearts, and there, in our own brokenness and poverty we encounter the brokenness of our own world, and implore God’s mercy upon us.
We must be careful not to be active apostles in the enclosure. The needs are so great around us that there is the temptation of becoming over involved. There is such a lack of faith around us that we too will be called to experience some of that darkness of our world, and the struggle to stay constant in faith is our greatest contribution for it allows us to share in the Passion of Christ, who for our sakes emptied himself in order to bring us into his own relationship with the Father. God is so great that he deserves to be praised and worshipped for his own sake, which is at the heart of our vocation.