S. Mary Pat’s remarks from Community day

Molloy College Community Day 9-8-15

Please note:
The following was written to be spoken, not to be in a newsletter or in another publication.  Delivery of a speech is very different from a reading an article. Thus there are incomplete sentences, or fragments, etc. based on my intended formal/informal delivery style.

"From Generation to Generation..."

  • Well, well, well...  If I had a crystal ball could I have foreseen this?
  • A little over 2 years and 3 months ago, I was sitting where you are. Life is full of surprises and mysterious happenings!
  • Happy Anniversary everyone!  How astonishingly superb, and superbly fantastic that Molloy is coming of age and getting respected all over the place for the jewel it is!
  • Molloy College celebrates 60 years of education in the tradition of the 800 year old Dominican Order! Yes, 60 is a small number when compared to 800 but ...no small number when it comes to birthday candles on a cake, even though, no one in this theater can attest to a 60 birthday reality!
  • Anyway, congratulations to all who have been a long or short part of these 60 years in whatever way.  Let's put our hands together for us!
  • A good number of you are very familiar with this annual Community Day here at Molloy, the opening day of an academic year, a day where you kind of sit back and wait to see what Drew or Valerie and the Leadership Team have cooked up to set the tone for the year.  The theme this year is fairly easy to guess as one doesn't let 60 years go by unnoticed...and that's what brings me back!  It is usually a Board of trustees meeting, or a gala, or a retirement party, or the yearly commencement.  This time it is the confluence of 2 significant anniversaries: Our 60 as a Dominican College and our 800 as the Dominican Order!

Sixty years for Molloy College, founded by the Amityville Dominican Sisters in 1955; 60 years of fostering education in the tradition of the Dominican Order!

S. Mary PatCongratulations and salutations to all who have been a long or a short part of the 60 years in whatever way. 

A few have made the 60 year journey from the beginning and willingly tell the stories in all their simplicity and complexity.  Molloy and the Dominican way of Life are in their blood and bones.

This 2015-16 academic year also will mark a 20 year tradition of Molloy sending students, faculty and administrators to Fanjeaux, a small town in southern France, where the Dominican Order had its humble beginnings, for a 3-week immersion in the history, life and mission of the Dominican Order.  To date 40 people from Molloy have gone, including Drew and a number of students to soak up this 800 year heritage.

As most of you know they meet up with representatives from many of the other 18 colleges, universities and studia founded in the Dominican tradition in the United States.  This means largely founded by congregations of Dominican women religious, like the Amityville Dominicans who founded Molloy, or also by one of the Provinces of Dominican men like Providence College, founded by the Province of St. Joseph, to which Fr. Jordan belongs.                   

So now I want to get some of you out of your comfortable seats.  Therefore, I ask you to be a sport and please stand and remain standing for a moment if you have been one of those who went to Fanjeaux for this experience sometime in the last 20 years. Come on, help them stand...you know who they are.

I especially want to acknowledge the three who went to Fanjeaux most recently this spring ... Anne Tumbarello from the Faculty Center and Nursing; Lorraine Emegebo, also from Nursing and Mary Scanio from the Office of Advancement. (I asked Ann T if she would be willing to tell you what she told me in one sentence when I bumped into her the other day. She graciously said yes...) (Anne T speaks).

That is quite a testimony! Anne and Lorraine and Mary are the ones who have most recently inhaled the 800 year history, charism and spirit of St. Dominic de Guzman, they will have to be your point persons for the year ahead because it is so fresh an experience for them.

Many of the others who stood might be dusting off their Fanjeaux file folders to review some aspects of what they learned and what they did over those weeks.

I do know that as a college community you spent a good portion of the last academic year examining and discussing various aspects of the overall culture of the College in your 2020 visioning process for what will be your 65th anniversary as a college.  One part of that process focused on the centrality and importance of the mission which flows from values inherent in the Dominican Order from its inception in 1206 to its affirmation by Pope Honorius 10 years later in 1216, which is what we are starting to acknowledge and celebrate...his affirmation of Dominic's vision for an Order of Preachers, in whatever form that might take: whether it be formal, as from a pulpit or teaching or informal, as in how we live our lives.  The values inherent in the mission are those of study, prayer/spirituality, community and service/mission, which you know as the four pillars of Dominican life and mission. 

Each one of these values is loaded in and of itself, and you probably are starting to further examine them in light of how the College continues to shape its culture "from generation to generation."  As you, no doubt, know, a generation is considered to be approximately 25 years.  With that as a backdrop, in the year 2020, Molloy will be more than half way through its 3rd generation.

-How many generations before the founding values of an institution

 disappear or lose their motivating power, impact or

importance?  The word on the street is... 3 generations, IF little to

 nothing is done to keep those values alive.
There are 32 generations in 800 years of existence.  Each Dominican entity and each branch of the Dominican Order celebrates its milestones within its particular slant on the tradition of the Order as a whole.  However, let it be known that in those 800 years everyone wasn't just flying around with halos and wings becoming Dominican Saints....there have been good times and not so good times; times of great fervor and vigor as well as times of strife, persecution and oppression.  After all, Dominicans can't look at their history and not notice a little, little, tiny, tiny thing like, the INQUISITION!  Yes, that was us!  That being said, over the centuries there has been unforgettable zeal and vision for preaching the Word of God as witnessed in the lives of Dominicans "from generation to generation": in well-known women and men such as Three Doctors of the Church: Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great and Catherine of Siena; great preachers like Vincent Ferrer; courageous missionaries; biblical scholars, like Schillebeeckx; and mystics such as Margaret of Hungary and Meister Eckhart; human rights activists like Montesinos; reformers like Savonarola; artists such as Fra Angelico; humble and compassionate souls like Martin de Porres...to name but a few of the more well-known followers of Dominic over the generations.

The first 100 years the Order attracted nearly 10, 000 members from all countries of Europe and then it started to move to other continents around the world so that now we are widespread and worldwide doing all sorts of service including but not limited to the one that you in this theater have uppermost in your minds today: Dominican higher education at Molloy College!

We are the third generation of bearers of the tradition.  There will be a fourth generation, which is only 15 years away, if the transmission of the tradition now and in the immediate years to come is dynamic.  Archivists and historians can help us unlock the past and help us shape how education in the Dominican tradition might evolve now and in the future... for "God's mercy is from generation to generation" (Luke 1:50).  However, if we make our livelihood working in a place in the middle of its third generation and built on solid values, how are we continuing to transmit those core values consistently and tangibly?

A Belgian historian has said quite simply that "If you don't feel rooted in your past, then you have no real present" (Léo Moulin, O.P.).  In order to function in society, it is indeed necessary to have a sense of one's own identity.  It has been said that "history is the expression of a collective memory, and contributes to the creation of a collective identity" (Beaumont, O.P.).  So to be on any journey we need to know where we have come from in order for that to help us see where we are going; to have a benchmark of some kind; to have something to compare it to; to examine how it resonates with treasured values in order for one to not compromise one's integrity. To be ignorant of our history as a person, a family, an institution, a community, a college is to be ignorant of the full story of who we are (adapted from Fr. Marie-Bernard Nielly, O.P.)

Those who have been here a good portion of the 60 years...do you have a collective memory about Molloy as an institution providing an education in the tradition of the Dominican Order?  I am sure some of you do; I am also pretty sure a good number do not.

The process for transmitting tradition has four overlapping parts:

  1. Telling the story
  2. Explaining the story
  3. Communicating information about the story and the people in it for the sake of clarity and comprehension.
  4. Owning and witnessing to the story by living the same values (Beaumont, O.P.). 

From almost the middle of this 3 generation we know we need to refer to and be familiar with many of the Dominican saints and others who have been part of the 800 years but, we also need to talk about and draw inspiration from many of those we knew personally in the second generation and part of the third ...In other words-- the last 25 or so years, not before that, in the interest of time.  (Start to show PP slides of the following deceased individuals). These are not in any particular order and when you see them, your own memories will take over the narration:

Mary Aleksunas-Russo -ENG

Frank Ford-ENG

Joan Ford - Com Arts (a tad over 25 years but who could put Frank

 without Joan?)

Evelyn Selesky-MUS

Kathleen Waters, OP-EDU

Mary Verity McNicholas, OP-ENG

Rima Sokoloff-Dance/PHY-EDU

Kay Kilkelly- Nurs/Fac Pres

John Madigan, OP-BUS/Chaplain

Carol Clifford-NUR

Janet Fitzgerald, OP- Pres/PHI

Patricia Morris, OP-VPAA/FR

Allen Rausch-EDU

Patti Sullivan-LIB

Loretta Koechel, OP-CHE

Helen Therese Nyberg, OP-CHE

Rochelle Sager-LIB

Justine Jones, OP-BIO

Agnes Butler, OP-BUS

Janice Buettner, OP

Rev. Thomas Catania-ENG/THE

If you have been here for a few years and haven't heard about any or maybe but one or two of those ancestors whose spirits are all around us because they have emptied back out into the universe... why is that?  Why don't we know their stories?  Every one of them was some part of the immediate past generation or current generation...not further back than that.  

Timothy Radcliff, OP, past Master of the Order said that "study is not learning how to be clever but how to listen...This receptivity, this opening of the ear which marks all real study is deeply linked to prayer."

True prayer requires that we be silent, and wait.  Both study and prayer demand an emptiness for what might be revealed.  Study makes mendicants or beggars of students and faculty alike.  If this is your very first official day at Molloy, then welcome to the mendicant Order of Preachers. Dominic sent his followers to the universities which were just emerging in the 13th century....why?.... to take advantage of this new form of education.  He was criticized for that because it was so new and different.  Dominic was described by some as a man who was "tranquilly audacious."

(Gertz Dept store story---Probably only a small contingent in this room would remember the sister sitting outside of Gertz Dept store in Jamaica, Queens with her little begging basket and tiny bell or the one sitting at the bottom of the subway steps at Parsons Blvd.  They were Amityville Dominicans! They were what helped build Molloy College, one penny and one brick at a time.)

Today, the future of many ministerial endeavors of the sisters, and notably higher education with Molloy College in mind is in the purview of wonderful lay scholars like each of you.  Dominic was sensitive to, as well as critically reflective of the values of the past and the promise of the future emerging in the experiments of his time.  It has been said that "God is forever dancing ahead of creation, pulling it into ever more and more fullness of life" (Wiesemann-Mills, O.P.)  What is the dance of God calling us to, calling Molloy College to at this point in time?  What greater fullness of life are we waiting in the silence to be revealed to us?  Where is the cutting edge of truth today?  How does an 800th and a 60th anniversary fit into this picture?

You, our lay partners in ministry and each of us vowed Dominican women and men by virtue of our own particular set of circumstances find ourselves serving in classrooms, offices and Board rooms of an institution established by Dominicans.  We "are called to know the history, preserve the legacy, nurture the culture, and engage the intellectual and spiritual heritage for generations of students to come" (Vision in Service of Truth, 2012).  As a collective body here at Molloy "you bring your gifts of leadership, wisdom, knowledge and faith" to this place of higher education that was initially and primarily staffed by Amityville Dominican Sisters in 1955.  The circumstances are very different now in this 60th anniversary and 800th Jubilee year. This year on staff there are five Amityville Dominican Sisters and one Dominican Priest, three associate adjuncts and a few former Dominicans.  Yes, God is out there dancing ahead of the Amityville Dominicans, too, calling us to some unknown, mysterious fullness that will look very different from the past and present.  But when you study the 800 years, you'll see Dominicans have been at crossroads before and waited in contemplative silence and prayer for God's new choreography to be revealed.  Today, Sept 8, you, and this Jubilee year are part of the revelation.  

The circumstances of most of the Dominican Colleges and Universities in the U.S. today are similar.  They each remain inspired by the Catholic faith and the Dominican tradition of their founding groups and have worked to offer a curricula that integrates liberal arts, professional programs, extra-curricular offerings, and campus services that help create an environment for students to make a living as well as a life, a life that will make a difference in this world.  (Vision...)

I have read and heard that you are poised to examine what you are about here at Molloy and how the values of the Order, not only can inspire innovation and future research that is responding to the needs of the times and the cutting edges of truth but, also more deeply embedding those values into our own lives as we  strive to create a space that invites study to morph into prayer and prayer to morph into a community of truly caring, compassionate people in service to those in need here on campus as well as more locally and globally.

With the fantastic gifts of those already serving here, there is room for everyone to be part of this effort, this Jubilee spirit...not just the five or so vowed Dominicans on staff but all of us for whom Molloy holds a special spot in our hearts and for whom it has become part of the fabric of our lives.
What a springboard to use as a jumping off point for an academic year: a 60th anniversary and an 800th Jubilee!  There's much to be studied and much to be discussed.  A Jubilee or an anniversary time, whether it be honoring the memory of an event, a commitment, a religious profession, a marriage...besides being a time for celebration, it is also a time of taking stock, of personal and collective renewal; a time of grace and blessing and forgiveness; a time of renewing our 'yes' to a future full of hope and mystery. 
The campus has already begun to look celebratory with its banners gracing the landscape and that gives me a sense that here must be a committee lurking in the background to guide these efforts. "Banners," some of you are saying?  Yes, for the "non-sensates" in the room there are lovely banners around campus acknowledging this special year for Molloy and for the Dominican Order.

You may also have heard that there is a special academic symposium in the spring in honor of these two events entitled: The Order of Preachers--Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. So mark your calendars for April 15, 2016.  It sounds far enough away to possibly have the day free or be able to free it up?

So, finally, some rhetorical questions:

Who really was this 13th century Spaniard, Dominic, anyway....this

"tranquilly audacious" person and what shaped his world and  inspired his calling?

What was he and what were some of his followers up against in the

13 century?

How did universities becomes integral to the lives of Dominicans?

How can we better draw inspiration from Molloy's mission with the

Four pillars of Dominican values embedded in it so nicely?

How can they inform what we do:

When we prioritize and plan?

When we do our academic affairs?

When we examine our finances, our academic programs and policies, our campus concerns?

Our division development? Leadership Team & Board of Trustees development?

And our student government, student body, staff, administrators and faculty development?

How can we see that the work of building this type of environment is central to us today in this tricky 3rd generation, as well as to shaping Molloy's fourth generation, a mere 15 years away?

These questions and others might be discussed and researched over these next months and years.  Scholarship related to the Dominican Tradition and to its interdisciplinary nature is ripe for some of us to engage in and it could be a perfect niche in which some Molloy faculty and student researchers might find a home.

"Generation upon generation" of Dominicans down through eight centuries, 32 generations, have been known to have a thirst, a passion for truth. They have expressed it in preaching and teaching, responding to cries for justice over the years, and many other ways God danced them into the future, as well as how they lived their lives.  Therefore, Dominican pedagogy is basically the union of study and contemplation in the service of truth.

So, where are we as we contemplate another academic year with all of its anticipated promise and pain? Well, here is a great quote that levels the playing field for me in the everyday arena of life:

Anne Willits, a Dominican from Wisconsin, has said that she and most others, if we are honest with ourselves are at one and the same time "both deeply disillusioned and radically optimistic."

And it has been said that the courage of the future, (Il coraggio del futuro,) the courage of the future consists, first of all in the ability to see things with new eyes...things, people, events, academic years with new eyes. (Couesnongle, OP)

So with that reality check, happy 60th, a blessed 800th! Go in peace and celebrate the moment because that is the only thing of which we really can be sure.

Thank you.

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