The idea of companionship is commonplace for the Sisters vowed in the Order of Preachers. They preach each day with their very presence.
The Order of Preachers was founded 800 years ago by Saint Dominic. Preaching is the act of sharing the Word of God. As members of the Order of Preachers, we are always mindful that we preach with our very presence. We are called to witness to God’s redeeming Word in all we say and do.
Joyce Williams, OP, chaplain at St. Louis University Hospital, shared that helping people avoid feeling alone in a crisis is what she does every day at the hospital. She considers this her ministry of presence.
“For me as a chaplain in a level one trauma and surgical center, that could mean supporting a patient and possibly the family of a patient when one is suffering from injury or illness. Being present sometimes means listening, giving feedback, encouraging, challenging, and praying,” she said.
“Being with others means being in their space and it is holy ground. They are the ones extending the hospitality,” Sister Joyce continued. “Witnessing the strength and faith of others during life changing events is a powerful experience. I often feel like I am witnessing grace.”
“When you talk with someone, you show that they are important to you. When we do that we are living out the Gospel. We are showing God’s compassion, kindness, and interest,” Jarrett DeWyse, OP, said.
As the director of housing development for Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids, Sister Jarrett notes that she is more often paving the way for creation of new housing than working hand-in-hand with those seeking a safe place to live. Even so, she knows that they are on the same path. “I acknowledge them and they acknowledge me,” Sister Jarrett said. “We take part in one another’s life journey, if only for a moment or a day.”
Megan McElroy, OP, describes accompaniment as something that is not always expressed in words. “By our very person, the Word of God comes to life as Dominicans. It is so much a part of us,” she said. “With any luck, what people encounter when they see us is the Word of God, Jesus the Christ. When we welcome others, it need not necessarily be verbally, but in our attitude, our openness, our joy. Hopefully, who they encounter in the welcome is Jesus.”
As one of the directors for canonical Dominican novices from across the country, Sister Megan finds herself in the position of accompanying future sisters on their journey.
“I am aware that everything I do and say is being watched and listened to by the novices, and that becomes a way of companioning each woman,” she said.
“I don’t have to be perfect along the way, but I do have to be faithful. That means I continue to discern the questions of religious life and say ‘yes’ to this calling,” Sister Megan continued. “It is a matter of constantly being open to who God is calling me to be. My own witness of ongoing discernment gives the novices the freedom to realize that becoming Dominican is a lifelong venture. They don’t have to feel like they have to have it all figured out in this one year of novitiate.”
“The fact that I love this Dominican life is a witness; they see that in me,” Sister Megan said.