Sunday Assembly Unites the Sisters with the Greater Community

Over the buzz of conversation and laughter the sound of soulful chimes quietly calls everyone to settle. Those gathered are here for our Sunday Liturgy. All agree that the community connections set the stage for the experience of communal worship. The chimes are enough – simple and unadorned – to signal that our Sunday Eucharist at Dominican Chapel on the Marywood Campus is about to begin.

“The chimes call us to what we are really there for. To pray together,” Janet Brown, OP, said. As Liturgical Life Director for the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids, she coordinates liturgical services for the Marywood Campus. “Because we are so open to one another in our conversations before Mass, we find that our hearts also are open to prayer.”

Since fall 1985 the Dominican Sisters have invited others to join them in their Sunday worship on the Marywood campus. The group that gathers for Sunday Eucharist, a mix of Sisters and laity, has come to be known as “the Sunday Assembly,” and they experience this communal worship with deep delight. “We are so happy that we’ve opened the doors to people from the larger community,” Sister Janet commented.

Our priest celebrants at Sunday Eucharist add their gifts to create a very meaningful Celebration of the Eucharist.

“Our chapels are holy places,” she continued. “Although we cherish our contemplative space, we are grateful for the opportunity to praise God with our Sunday Assembly. We are not only a gift to them – they are a gift to us. All come as we are, with our sorrows and our joys, and we are given the support and strength we need to live out the rest of the week.”

Sunday Assembly allows the Congregation to blend worship, prayer, and contemplative moments with the Dominican value of hospitality. The importance is not lost on participants. “It is a privilege to be invited in,” frequent Sunday Assembly participant Sandy Rademaker said. “They don’t make us feel like guests as much as we are one of them.”

That sense of entering a holy place resonates with frequent Sunday Assembly participant, Jim Rademaker, who is Sandy’s husband. He finds that sense of holiness envelopes him in a very personal way each Sunday. “Everyone wants to have a home. You have a home that you live in and another where you worship,” he said. “When you come to Mass at Marywood, you feel the enthusiasm people have for being in this place.”

“I love walking in and seeing all those people and just feeling a part of it. I feel such a sense of joy and peace,” Sandy added. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I want to be there, it is not an obligation, it is a joy.”

Liturgy as a Springboard for Life

One way that the Sunday Assembly participants have devised to “be the Eucharist to each other” outside of the celebration of Mass is to share a meal and camaraderie periodically with others from the worshipping community. Learning more about each person along the way, including the Sisters who participate in this “Dinner for Eight,” deepens the experience of worship at the Sunday table of the Eucharist. “Dinner for Eight is so much fun! But there are serious conversations too. We talk about what has happened at Mass, or what was preached.
It is about everyone’s lives,” Sister Janet Brown said. “Just a sharing of lives at table.”