U.S. Dominicans Preach through Technology, Sr. Barbara Kelley, OP. Our holy Father, Saint Dominic, was in many ways a man of his times. He preached the Word of God through the media available to him: walking from town to town, praying, and spending a pivotal evening in a tavern, preaching the Gospel face to face to an innkeeper who believed the heresies of his day. Saint Dominic’s sons and daughters in the 21st Century United States preach in the “taverns” of our own time and culture: not only face to face, in parishes, classrooms, hospitals and prisons, but through websites, Facebook, Twitter, Ustream and You-Tube videos.
“The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael [California] have found technology an important medium for preaching,” said Sister Pat Farrell, OP. “We preach on our website by sharing reflections and publishing events that highlight our involvement in critical social issues and needs of our day.” The San Rafael Dominicans receive even more traffic through their Facebook page. “We have also found that preaching through the creation of videos is a powerful tool that touches the heart,” Sister Pat added.
Sister Mary Ann Nelson, OP, Vocation Director for the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, writes a vocations blog called Catherine’s Café. The Sinsinawa Dominicans also reach out through Ustream, archiving events such as funerals, professions and receptions.
The Dominican Sisters of Adrian also use Ustream to broadcast and archive events such as their weekly Evensong for Peace and various rituals of their women in formation. In addition, the congregation has used technology to draw their Sisters and Associates together. Months before delegates gathered in Adrian for General Chapter 2010, the Chapter was formally convened in the Motherhouse chapel, and the one-hour ceremony was streamed to Sisters gathered at other sites scattered throughout the country.
The U.S. Western Province, the Province of the Most Holy Name, focuses their website on promoting vocations to the province and sharing news about the province, said Father Vincent Benoit, OP, webmaster. Other postings include homilies by the Friars, a calendar of Dominican feast days, information about local talks and lectures by Dominicans, and special ministries of the province.
Most are quick to point out that, while they might post actual homilies, reflections and events on their social media, the most important way that they preach is through the lives of their Sisters and Friars. “I feel…that the best way to convey the Sisters’ commitment to preaching is to give examples of it in their lives,” said Johanna Warren, Electronic Communications Coordinator for the Dominican Sisters of Racine, Wisconsin. “The home page of the website has a newsfeed that is constantly updated with Sisters’ missions and activities.”
Johanna Warren also takes seriously the need to educate the Racine Dominican Sisters about the use of communications technology. “As my job revolves around the Sisters’ online presence, I have created and conducted social media classes for the Sisters and Associates,” she said. “To date, approximately 40 sisters have come through my three-part Facebook class, and I am happy to see quite a few of them are using the outlet.”
While reaching out to a wider audience, the U.S. Dominicans don’t leave their Sisters behind in the use of modern communications technology. At any one time, 14 Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters write postings for a special blog, “The Daily Grind.” Sister Mary Ann changes the group every six months, and so far has involved about 100 Sisters – some in their 90s – in writing about their daily lives. “They tell about their lives as Sisters, and some are really preaching, writing what they think about,” Sister Mary Ann said. She added that Tricia Buxton, their Communications Director, has been teaching the Sisters how to make use of Facebook.
While modern social media can easily be misused, U.S. Dominicans have, for the most part, put them to good use: to preach God’s Word to the world, unite their Sisters and Associates, and reach out to potential members. We can only guess that, were Saint Dominic alive again today, we could “friend” him on Facebook and keep up with an ongoing blog of his inspirational homilies.