On February 14, we began another Lent. This is a very important time also for our Institute. We are once again entering a special time of conversion. On Ash Wednesday, each of us attended Holy Mass in our church, we did not meet each other, but we remained in the Community.
This year, Lent begins immediately after the day of consecrated life, and during the Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday, the thought occurred to me that our consecration is also strongly connected with Lent and the time of conversion. As consecrated persons, we participate in the Sacrifice of Jesus every day and can immerse the whole world in His blood, which gives salvation. With this in mind, I go into Lent to immerse myself and all people in God's Love and to bring to others the fruits of the Eucharist, in which I have the privilege of participating daily.
Admission of a new member in Great Britain
On Saturday 3rd February 2024, I formally entered a period of first contact with the Dominican Secular Institute of Orleans. Our friendly local Jesuit community very kindly allowed the ceremony to take place during a Mass at St Dominic's priory, their home (Newcastle sadly has no Dominican community at the moment - let's pray for more vocations to the Order of Preachers!). I felt deeply honoured to take this first step in what I hope will be a lifelong commitment to Christ, our Divine Bridegroom. Curiously enough, I have long held a devotion to Christ as the incarnation of Holy Wisdom, and have understood my philosophical vocation as a call to be, literally, a lover of Wisdom Himself. How surprised and overjoyed I was to learn that that the Old Testament reading for the day was from 1 Kings 3, where Solomon asks God for Wisdom! Please pray for me as I continue to discern the Lord's will for my life.
February 2nd - 28th Day of Consecrated Life
You wanted no sacrifice or cereal offering, but you gavea body (...). Then I said: Here I am, I am coming in the scroll of the book it is written of me, to do your will, God (Hebrews 10:5-7).
February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is our feast day. We celebrate our offering to God with gratitude. Offering fully, until the end of our earthly life and for eternity. Each of us is whole for God - and whole for the world, living in it according to the evangelical counsels.
Today I would like to remind all of us of our vocation to bear witness and to live the vow of chastity. Let Saint John Paul II speak to us:
In our world, where it often seems that the signs of God's presence have been lost from sight, a convincing prophetic witness on the part of consecrated persons is increasingly necessary. In the first place this should entail the affirmation of the primacy of God and of eternal life, as evidenced in the following and imitation of the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, who was completely consecrated to the glory of God and to the love of his brethren. (…) Consecrated persons are being asked to bear witness everywhere with the boldness of a prophet who is unafraid of risking even his life.
The reply of the consecrated life [to a hedonistic culture which separates sexuality from all objective moral norms] is above all in the joyful living of perfect chastity, as a witness to the power of God's love manifested in the weakness of the human condition. The consecrated person attests that what many have believed impossible becomes, with the Lord's grace, possible and truly liberating. Yes, in Christ it is possible to love God with all one's heart, putting him above every other love, and thus to love every creature with the freedom of God! (…) The consecrated life must present to today's world examples of chastity lived by men and women who show balance, self-mastery, an enterprising spirit, and psychological and affective maturity. Thanks to this witness, human love is offered a stable point of reference: the pure love which consecrated persons draw from the contemplation of Trinitarian love, revealed to us in Christ. Precisely because they are immersed in this mystery, consecrated persons feel themselves capable of a radical and universal love, which gives them the strength for the self-mastery and discipline necessary in order not to fall under the domination of the senses and instincts. Consecrated chastity thus appears as a joyful and liberating experience. (St. John Paul II, Vita consecrata, 85 and 88).
For the world in which we live, consecrated chastity is a challenge and a sign of opposition. The world does not believe that without having a sexual life and experiencing everything that comes with it, you can be a happy, fulfilled and sincerely devoted person to other people. Unfortunately, this thinking also permeates the Church. In the midst of universal confusion and ambiguity, when Jesus' ">>Yes<< if you means yes, >>No<< if you means no" is so missing (Mt 5:37), our vocation as consecrated women is not only to testify to the value of our lives, but to stand by God's Truth through our way of thinking, building pure, unambiguous relationships with others, the words we speak and our actions. God's Truth is Jesus, the Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, not changing opinions and views, even theological ones.
Our world is becoming more divided and dangerous. We look with pain at the events in the Holy Land, in Ukraine (the 707th day of the war), at the bleeding Haiti, at the disturbance in the Congo, at the multiple crises in Western Europe and the dangerous political conflict in Poland. All these phenomena also have a dimension of spiritual struggle. Let us not be afraid to undertake it with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our fidelity to God and His Truth also means adhering to the traditional teaching of the Church: the protection of human life and family are the most important criteria for all the choices we make in political and social life.
God chose each of us for himself. God chooses you, trusts you, gives you a mission to fulfill for the Church and the world. You can fulfill his mission in any conditions, even in sickness, among all human hardships and limitations, and in old age.
I wish you an increasingly deeper and more cordial relationship with Jesus, so that His Life becomes your life more and more fully.
Agnieszka (General Moderator)
February 2, 2024 in Vietnam
On February 2, 2024, all consecrated persons, priests, men and women religious and members of the secular institutes of the Archdiocese of Saigon came to the Pastoral Center to pray, learn and wish a good New Year to Cardinal Bishop Joseph and the Assistant Bishop.
The meeting began with the Holy Mass, after a common prayer, the gathered people expressed their best wishes to the bishop. There was time to get to know each other and build relationships. It was a wonderful day according to the members of our Institute present at the meeting.
“Têt Nguyên dan” is the Vietnamese New Year celebration, literally “celebration of the first day of the year.” In Vietnam, it is the most important holiday of the year.
The symbol of the Vietnamese New Year is the Dragon.
Meeting in the Polish Province - January 27th
The first day of the retreat in 2024 held a special significance. It commenced in the usual manner, with breviary prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Following that, there was the Eucharist and a conference delivered by Father Kamil Strójwąs OCD.
Father shared his reflections with us after reading the seventh sermon of St. John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890), which was based on the analysis of the First Letter of St. John the Apostle. An exceptional 19th-century theologian, philosopher, and preacher, even as an Anglican priest, Newman spoke about the identity of a Christian in the world as if he lived in the 21st century. During the conference, Father Kamil presented his "discovery," leading to several conclusions:
1) The timeless convergence of the world, where the "Spirit of Antichrist" battles the "Spirit of Truth," is astonishing.
2) We preach the Gospel in a manner reminiscent of how the world disseminates its falsehoods.
3) The world doesn't provide reasoned arguments; it simply imposes itself, and religion "does not fit" into its framework because it appeals to our imagination.
4) The world defeats us when it overcomes our faith.
The second part of the meeting assumed a festive and communal character: singing carols, selecting people for whom each of us will pray throughout the year, exchanging gifts, and enjoying a joyful "time for others," which involved being together with endless conversations.
“Lord, it's good for us to be here” resonated in the hearts of all those present, unfortunately somewhat reduced in number due to infections and other obstacles. However, smartphones with the capability to record and share photos and conference highlights became a source of praise.
Retreat in Birmingham UK
On 20th November six of us gathered at the convent of St Paul’s Selly Park for our annual retreat. The topic was the Prophets, the six people were Janet, the Moderator of the English group Cini, about to take her final vows at the end of the retreat, Veronica a friend of the group and a Trustee of their endowment fund. There were also three Polish members, as the English group is now a part of the Polish province, Ola who speaks good English and translates from Polish to English, Kasia who is a wonderful musician and trained us as a choir in the music for Cini’s profession and finally Agnieszka, our International Moderator to receive Cini’s vows.
The retreat House and the church in the house are beautiful and we had our own meeting room and private chapel. Every day we looked at the Prophets and shared our favourite readings from them, messages of suffering and disasters but also of great hope as the Israelites learnt to live under God’s rule. Father Richard Ounsworth OP, a scripture scholar, joined us for a day and reinforced the message of the Prophets as they looked forward to the Day of the Lord, beginning with the coming of Jesus the Great Prophet and the Word of the Lord.
Cini’s profession mass was beautiful and greatly enhanced by the presence of her uncle Jose, a priest of the Syro- Malabar Rite in the UK, from India, Father Roy, the spiritual director of Shalom World, a global Catholic media company for which Cini works and from Texas Santo Thomas, the CEO of that group who had travelled such distances to support Cini in her Final Vows. The whole mass was livestreamed and watched in India, in America and Poland as well as being recorded for future reference. Our retreat ended with a Sunday lunch with the sisters in their beautiful dining room and we were so grateful for their warm welcome and hospitality throughout the week. We have booked in for next year!
CR: Meet the Dominican family
On November 11, 2023, we are invited as usual to the Dominican Sisters of Rosa Lima to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and at the same time express our congratulations to the Dominican Sisters of Rosa Lima on the occasion of the 50th Jubilee of its foundation.
Father Provincial Thomas Aquinas of the Dominicans, introduced us to more than 20 Dominican Congregations in Vietnam, as the Dominican Secular Institute of Orléans, as well to many brothers and sisters from the lay Dominican fraternities.
Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop (Op), celebrated Mass with a number of Dominican fathers. In his homily Mgr Paul spoke of the solemnity of the liturgy, by highlighting three dimensions: the religious, the sacred and the ecclesiological. It was a memorable mass, which everyone attended with enthusiasm, solemnity, and warm brotherly love in the large family of the children of Saint Dominic. During the mass, there were 3 prayers, for 2 Congregations and a prayer for our Institute, Marie Paul Thuy represented them by singing. It was also a timely opportunity because after the mass, many sisters and brothers inquired about our Secular Dominican Institute of Orléans.
After mass, we took a souvenir photo together. The atmosphere of the day was very exciting, warm, full of joy and laughter All those who meet one another are very happy, surrounded, everywhere as they are by the children of Saint Dominic. Then everyone shared the fraternal meal. While going to get food, Mgr Paul approaches Marie Paul, shakes her hand and asks her: Which community do you belong to?- We are Dominican Secular Institutes of Orléans. He said, “Congratulations, sister!” The annual meeting of the Vietnamese Dominican Family is over, but it still leaves me with a lasting joy: the joy of being a child of Saint Dominic, and even more joyfully, it is an opportunity for others to know our Institute. Let us hope that in the near future our Institute will be truly strong thanks to the support of the Holy Spirit and his love. Each of us, sisters, will be this passionate fire, a witness in life to being a follower of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected!
Election of Group Moderator in Ivory Coast
On Saturday, October 21, 2023, we met at the Ivory Coast community house for our monthly meeting; after Morning Prayer there was an exchange of messages from everyone. Brother Didier AKONWONKPAN OP, who accompanied the group in the synod movement, delivered a conference on the topic: "The Church as a place of solidarity and fraternity leading to communion." The brother's presentation encouraged us to reflect and see how we felt and showed our
solidarity and brotherhood on a daily basis. Here are some key thoughts:
• The brother made us understand that all our actions must be directed towards communion, and the source of our communion is the sacrament of baptism.
• Solidarity is a form of support, not help, it fits into the four principles of the Church and obliges us to develop the love hidden within us.
• Fraternity is demanding, it leads us to transcend ourselves, to allow others to come closer to us. Brotherhood leads us to Christ.
• Crossing the bridge means sharing a common path; this requires of us a missionary spirit, to be brothers and sisters first in humanity and then in Christ; even if we are not friends.
• Do we know the history of our Institute well?
• Do we open and read our Constitutions?
After the presentation and a short period of meditation and discussion, the five perpetual professed members and brother withdrew to elect a new group leader for Ivory Coast.
September 14 is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and at the same time our patronal feast, a special day for our Institute as a whole, but also for each of us individually. In Vietnam and Poland, on the weekend of September 16-17, we met to celebrate together.
Retreat in Ivory Coast
From Tuesday, July 26 to Monday, July 31, 2023, the annual retreat of members of the Ivory Coast Group of the Dominican Secular Institute in Orleans took place in Bouaké, in the Good News Monastery of the Benedictine Sisters; this retreat was led by Louis Marie BAMBU OP. The common theme for all members of the Institute around the world was "The Roman Canon and the Gospel of St. Mark".
In addition to the members of the Institute, there were present two young women, who wanted to devote their lives to serving the Church through secular consecration. This time of silence and contemplation was favorable for everyone; everyone had enough time to rest and be with Jesus present in His Word and the Holy Sacrament on the altar.
During the Sunday ceremony on July 30, 2023, two members renewed their commitment to follow Christ at the Institute; and one officially started formation; let us thank God for all the graces and blessings towards our family, may His Most Holy Name be always glorified and blessed with the testimony of our lives, and may He in His great goodness grant us new and holy vocations to the Institute.
„New wine, new wineskins.”
On July 30, an Inter-Institute meeting was held in Vietnam. We were happy that we can meet and share our wealth with others. There were over 100 people from 10 institutes. Everything went well in an atmosphere of joy, brotherhood and peace.
The theme of the meeting was: „New wine, new wineskins.”
The conclusions we have reached: We must become new wineskins. It’s not just about religions, but also about way of being. There is no determinism, as it says in the parable of the Sower, there is good earth that receives and multiplies God’s gifts, and stones on which everything withers. This encourages us to want to be good land. Likewise, we can choose to work at not remaining old wineskins, but always being new. You need to work on the flexibility of your mind, your ability to accept what’s new and change your habits. We must allow the spirit to work within us, be available and fresh to welcome life, otherwise we are doomed to breakdown. When Jesus says that we must not pour new wine into old wineskins, it does not mean that we are willing to let this new wine go to waste if we are old wineskins. The new wine is the wine of life and that is why we are to be new wineskins to welcome the Kingdom of God through the eyes of a child... Not through the eyes of a man who thinks he knows everything and has nothing more to discover.
HOLIDAY EVENTS IN POLAND
On July 23-29, a retreat was held in the Polish Province. It was a time of stopping and bending over the Word of God and the Eucharist, as well as deepening one's relationship with the Lord. At that time we received the sad news of the unexpected death of one of our members in Congo, we were very moved by this fact and our entire community prayed for her.
At the end of the retreat, one of the members took her perpetual vows, one started the probation period and one renewed her profession for another year. The ceremony was even more joyful, because it was also attended by two women from the French Province, who came to the meeting of the General Council, which began immediately after the end of the retreat and deliberated for 3 days, addressing the most important and urgent matters related to the functioning of the Institute around the world.
Then the General Moderator, her two Assistants and several members of the Polish Province went to rest together. During these days, we tried to build a community, have fun, develop our interests, and also show our guests from France and Ivory Coast a bit of Polish history (anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, monuments of Warsaw and Cracow) and places of worship that are particularly important for our nation (Łagiewniki, Częstochowa...). We also paid a lot of attention to the person of John Paul II - we visited the museum in Wadowice, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, the Sanctuary of John Paul II the Great in Cracow. As it turned out, one of the Assistants, when she worked as a stewardess, flew with him on a plane during a pilgrimage to African countries, which she told us with great pleasure. We also spent the Feast of St. Father Dominic - we went to the solemn Eucharist in Cracow at the Dominicans and spent time enjoying being in the community.
MEETING OF THE UK BRANCH OF THE DSIO JUNE 22 nd -25 th 2023
This last week six of us from the Dominican Secular Institute met at St Mary’s in Birmingham for some days of study as we do from time to time. St Mary’s convent is run by the Sisters of Mercy who have been able to offer wonderful hospitality including wonderful food, to both day and residential groups in their beautiful Pugin house in Handsworth, built at the same time as he was working on St Chad’s Cathedral mid-nineteenth century.
Our topics for study were St Paul and his letter to the Romans and we were fortunate to have two very rich talks on the first day by Father Richard Ounsworth OP who lectures in Scripture
at Blackfriars, Oxford. On the second day we looked at different aspects of prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church including liturgical prayer, Contemplation, and bringing prayer into our everyday life. We really found helpful and inspiring the method of each person in turn in the group sharing their own experience. In this way we learnt from one another.
It was so good and life-giving to be together in this way if only for a few days. It was particularly enjoyable as we were from two counties, Poland and England, with the Polish members enjoying time in the City Centre and a visit to the shrine of Cardinal St John Henry Newman at the Oratory in Edgbaston on the way to the airport. Our next meeting will be in November for our retreat when one of us will make final vows and we hope very much to have the same people gathering for that week.
THE ELECTIVE AND THE DELIBERATIVE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
The Elective and Deliberative General Assembly of our Institute was held from 5 to 10 August this year. Delegates from all over the world gathered in Angers to elect the new General Moderator, her Assistants and the General Councillors. Already during the deliberations, all those present shared the climate of love and fraternity experienced there. One could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit both during the election and in the discussions about the most important issues for the Institute at the present time.
A Pole, Agnieszka Kuryś, was elected as the new General Moderator for the first time, and her predecessor, French-born Annick Masson, became her First Assistant. Marie Evelyne Irel from the Ivory Coast was elected as Second Assistant. The General Council was completed by two Polish women, Renata and Dorota. We remember each of them in our prayers and wish them many gifts of the Holy Spirit for the coming six years.
During the following days, we reflected on how to draw on the spiritual wealth that St Dominic left us. We analysed how to speak to God about people and to people about God in today's world and how to witness to God's presence in the world and in the Community, at the common table with St Dominic.
During the conference, given by Fr Philippe Jeannin, who accompanied us and ministered throughout the congregation, we heard, among other things, that to be at table with St Dominic is to be both Martha and Mary. Martha to prepare the table and Mary listening to the other person. And this is what our whole life should be...