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About Dominican Center

About Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College

Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College embodies the Grand Rapids ~ Dominican Sisters’ expression of welcome and invitation to share in the essential elements of Dominican Life: prayer, study, community, and ministry. Dominican Center is a ministry of hope. We affirm the need for collaboration and community so all may flourish.


Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College intentionally cultivates an environment of stillness — a space where you can listen, a place where you can simply be. We invite those who want to encounter one another through authentic experiences of prayer, reflection, and study, and to take part in relationship and community building.

A Heart Center For All Faiths and Walks of Life

Our spirituality center was established by the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids to provide a place where people from all faiths and walks of life can learn from others who walked before them — as well as walk with others on the journey today.

When You Change, Everything Changes

Would you like to deepen your understanding of Jesus’ teachings — and the messages of other prophets of goodwill? Through their words and experiences, open your heart to more deeply understand and live out concepts of love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness in the context of society today. Our transformative programs and retreats are a place to begin to understand the interconnectedness of all things.

Grounded in the Charism of the Dominican Order of Preacher

Known as the Order of Preachers, Dominicans follow in the footsteps of patrons St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena who spoke and lived the Word of God. They are among many women and men whose ideas, values, beliefs, and manner of living during their time and place in history changed humanity. These spiritual giants courageously questioned systemic thinking and behaviors, and in doing so, transformed their societies to be more just and loving.

Our Mission

Our mission is to foster transformation of persons, communities, and organizations, through prayer, learning, and collaboration in an inclusive hospitable environment.

Staff Directory

Mindy Hills

Director of Dominican Center, DMin, Spiritual Director, Dominican Associate, and Retreat Leader

Diane Zerfas, OP

Spirituality Program Coordinator

Kit Fessenden

Administrative Assistant

Kimberley Mulder

Program Assistant, Spiritual Director

Anna Bonnema

Member, Spiritual Formation Team

Esther Yff-Prins

Spiritual Director, Centering Prayer Facilitator

Andy Rebollar

Spiritual Director, Referral Coordinator

Amanda Dobson

Spiritual Director

The History of Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College

Dominican Center was originally home to Marywood Academy, a day and boarding school of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids. Though the academy saw its last students in 1975, a Montessori school flourished at Marywood until 1983. But as often happens, the ending of one good thing becomes an exciting and promising beginning of another venture.

Always committed to openness in encountering the Holy in each other and all people, the Sisters were intentional in seeking a way to fulfill this pledge and make spirituality in community available to a wider population. With a direction statement from the Congregation to tend to the Holy in others, the Sisters were moved to consider what a spirituality center could look like on the Marywood Campus.

Built on a Foundation of Faith

The charism of the Dominican Order of Preachers is to preach the good news of Jesus Christ through a joyful spirit and an informed faith. Rooted in this charism and tenets of Dominican Life — prayer, study, service, and community — the Sisters set about thoughtfully creating a spirituality and conference center. This new center was to make a difference in the world by welcoming others to witness the power of Spirit through experiential prayer, shared study, service, and community building.

When Dominican Center opened its doors in 1993, with so many gifts to share, the Sisters invited people of all faith traditions and walks of life to sit alongside the Sisters in worship, a tradition that still stands today.

Dominican Center guests were, and are, welcomed to take part in prayer and worship at Dominican Center and in the chapels at Marywood. The Sisters’ invitation also extends to the campus’s tranquil gardens and grounds.

A Legacy of Learning

When the center opened its doors, the Sisters were inspired to pass along their Dominican passion for study and learning. The Sisters explored ways to adapt this passion to the experience of adult learners and spiritual seekers.

To support the Leadership, Liturgy, and Bodyworks learning tracks that were developed, building renovation was undertaken including conference spaces under the chapel in the main wing of Marywood, additional spaces, and a bookstore to support the center’s programs.

The conference and dining spaces attracted area thought-leaders for business lunches; strategic planning sessions for area churches were facilitated. Dominican Center also opened up its meeting and conference rooms to non-profit organizations and corporations as well as to those seeking venues for special events.

The chapel team offered programs on prayer and liturgical seasons. For the bodywork track, the ministry connected with St. Dominic’s tradition of prayer with the body. Yoga, therapeutic massage, and Feldenkrais programs were added to the schedule.

Seeking Spirituality and Formation

In 1997, Dominican Center developed and launched a year-long, multi-track Spiritual Formation program where participants were invited to explore their own spiritual lives. Studying beside the mystics and Christian spiritual giants, the underlying theme of the program was, and still is today, one of discernment: “How do I hear and respond to Spirit in my life?”

Participants with a desire to further deepen their spiritual journeys sought out the growing Spiritual Companioning program and the Spiritual Direction Practicum, a two-year program that attunes the listening ear to those around them. The first year of the program focuses on personal transformation, and the second highlights social transformation. Learners of all faiths from around the country began seeking out Dominican Center formation programs.

Group and individual retreats also became part of Dominican Center offerings, making it possible for people to journey into silence and find God at their center. Individual-directed and private retreats and days away were made available using the overnight rooms at Dominican Center.

Throughout the years, the Sisters have developed varied learning tracks and programs. Always collaborative, Dominican Center has a history of partnering with organizations, churches, colleges and universities, and authors, artists, and activists to deliver transformative, spiritual, thought-provoking, and often life-changing programs, exhibits, presentations, and community conversations.

Alive With the Work of Attending to the Holy

Since the beginning, when visitors came to Dominican Center, the Sisters aspired to have each and every one feel a deepening connection to community, family life, and business relationships, and through these experiences, an expanded sense of themselves as belonging to the family of God.

In welcoming others to Dominican Center, the Sisters not only opened their home to the community, but also volunteered as hospitality ministers. Because of their deep sense of love and of stewardship for the building and grounds that they so intentionally share, the Sisters humbly and warmly welcome all to this place where they have worshiped and studied, expanded their Congregation and personal ministries, stood for justice, hosted the community, and tended to the Holy.

News & Information

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