Dominicans and Spirituality of Leadership

As a first time superior in a Dominican house, I was excited to see this year’s letter of the Master of the Dominican Order, Fr. Bruno Cadoré. The theme he selected to meditate on was Dominic: Government, Spirituality, and Freedom. What does it mean for an individual friar to obey certain rules and structures religious life requires? How does it shape his freedom? And – highly practical for me – what is the role of superiors in this process?

As you read through this inspiring letter from the Successor of St. Dominic, a fascinating overarching perspective emerges: the institutional structure of the community (superiors, leaders, moderators) serves one purpose, that of “remaining in the Lord’s word.” “If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). For Dominic, government is a guardian of that profound desire that initially brought each friar to the Order, the desire to hear and obey the Lord in a world of constant noise and distraction. Now, once a friar experiences that intimacy with the Living Word, and as it transforms his sense of freedom and responsibility, the Dominican leadership is there to direct his mission of preaching, to streamline sharing of the fruit of the friar’s contemplation. In a word, to send him on a mission to the world!

Remaining in the Lord’s presence and being sent back to the world – I believe that these essential qualities of Dominican leadership apply not only to the communities of friars, but to Dominican parishes and Newman Centers as well. Isn’t it what all of our elaborate mission statements really boil down to? This is also – by extension – the dynamic that defines the role of our parish staff. Our team and the structure we maintain should serve to help the people of St. Catherine’s to abide in the life-changing presence of the Lord, and to moderate the ways we bring its fruit to the world.

Many of you are aware of the transition our staff has been undergoing for the past couple of months. It is my joy to let you know that we have just filled all the key positions. With Julie Bellefeuille as lay campus minister, Sarah Monette as office manager, Prema Chruthoti as DRE, and Keith Pisciotta as facilities manager, we only needed a long-term accountant. Our parishioner Liliana Keyes has been a great help in managing the parish finances as Fr. Carl and I were reorganizing the structure of the Newman staff, and I am very grateful for her service. Now, as of this week, our parish will have a new accountant, Tiffany Martin. Tiffany works for the Diocesan Finance Office and knows well all the ins and outs of church finances. Due to her duties at the chancery she will not hold regular office hours at St. Catherine’s but can always be reached via email ([email protected]). If you prefer to communicate over the phone, you can also leave a message in the parish office and Tiffany will return your call at her earliest convenience. Having said that, let me encourage you to contact first our super efficient office manager, Sarah. In my experience, she can answer some 95% of the questions people come to Newman with.

As we are approaching the new school year, I ask for your prayers for our staff as well as for all ministry leaders. May we together discover the Dominican roots of our mission and the liberating spirituality of government that St. Dominic left for his followers. May we facilitate what Fr. Cadoré writes about: “it is because the exercise of government in the Order is directed towards this sending [forth] that special attention should be given to each person, to his gifts, his creativity, so that the freedom of each one at the service of the common good and mission will be best deployed.”

Fr. Cadoré’s letter can be found here.