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Founders Day Wisdom

November 14, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

This week we welcome the words of Ann Hillman, one of our University Ministers.  This is her preaching from the Founders Day Vespers service, a beautiful Dominican tradition when we celebrate our wonderful history.  Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli did such wonderful work, just look around you!  Read this to hear Ann’s lovely reflection on the blessing of the Sinsinawa Dominicans.

Do you remember the moment you said yes?  The moment when you had finally made a decision and could say say, “Yes, I’ll come to Dominican University?”
It’s interesting to think that despite the variety of paths we have all taken prior to arriving at Dominican, each of our individual “yes”es have brought us together, to this same time and place.
Some of us said “yes” as a senior in high school – weighing the options, counting the scholarships, picturing yourself here on our campus, and then finally deciding, “Yes, this is going to be the place for me.”
For others among us, it may have begun with an open position on the faculty or staff.  Our “yes” was given to the opportunity to use our knowledge and skills in the service of education and our University’s mission.
Even those who might not be employed or enrolled here at Dominican but find themselves drawn to our mission and our culture, you, too, have given a “yes” which enriches this place.
For the Sisters, your “yes” was never intended to be just to this Dominican place, but to the much larger Dominican family.  Has anyone else continued to ponder the insight of Bill Jenkins, professor of theatre arts, which Claire Noonan shared with us at the Caritas Veritas Symposium this year?  Sisters, it is because of your witness to, as Bill said, “making the whole world your family,” that you have helped all of us realize that our “yes” is not just to this place either, but truly to the whole world.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Fr. Samuel’s “yes.”  In 1827, at the age of 21, Samuel Mazzuchelli was a Dominican novice, living in Rome, and preparing for the priesthood at the Dominican center of Santa Sabina.  One day during that year, Reverend Frederic Rese visited Santa Sabina to recruit young men for the missions in America.  Bishop Edward Fenwick in Cincinnati Ohio was waiting to receive anyone willing to bring the Gospel to the far reaches of America’s western frontier.  In essence, he was looking for people like Mary Magdalene…p reachers, disciples, those who were willing to be sent out by God to courageously preach the Good News.  Samuel said yes.

I’ve been wondering if Samuel second guessed this “yes” after he was ordained, when he learned that the parish he was assigned encompassed over 52,000 square miles of wilderness and spanned the distance between Dubuque, Green Bay, and Mackinac Island, Michigan.  I saw a fascinating YouTube video on the University Ministry facebook page this week – maybe you saw it, too.  Some of you here had a hand in making it.  Apparently, you tell me, there was no Dominican shuttle to help him get from Main Campus to the priory, let alone across the entire state of Wisconsin.  Apparently, he had to traverse that 52,000 miles on foot, on horse, or by canoe.

It would be easy to dwell on all of the obstacles Samuel had to overcome as he lived out his calling.  There were harsh conditions, new languages to learn and understand, loneliness, sacrifice.  However, it is said that Fr. Samuel’s memory of his ordination was always focused on a line we heard in this afternoon’s Gospel from John: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Samuel knew that he was sent by God, for a purpose, and so he got to work.
He founded 40 parishes.  I don’t mean he built 40 church buildings, but he was truly a community organizer, bringing people together around a common mission and building communities of faith that shaped the history of an entire region of our nation.
At a time when other missionaries were oppressing and exploiting the native people, Fr. Samuel came and lived among them, opening himself to their customs and way of life.  As others have already said this week, “He was an Interfaith leader before Eboo Patel made it cool.”
When he conducted Sunday prayers on Mackinac Island, the congregation chanted psalms alternately in Latin and Chippewa.  He personally lobbied congress and President Andrew Jackson to put a stop to the injustices occurring over broken treaties and Indian removals.
And of course, Fr. Samuel established the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa –also giving women the opportunity for rigorous, first class education far ahead of its time, first at St. Clara Academy in Sinsinawa, which would become Rosary College in River Forest, and is now our Dominican University.

The life of Fr. Samuel is so full of inspiration and faithful witness – I know that I myself am just beginning to plumb the depths of his biography.  What I do know of it, however, makes me deeply gratefully that he answered God’s call in his life with a “yes.”
In fact, in the last two years that I have been a part of this University, have visited the Mound in Sinsinawa, and the more I’ve learned about Fr. Samuel and this institution which he founded, the more I’m not just grateful, but I’m proud.  I hope I’m not alone.
In an age of big banks, corporate greed, and divisive politics, you’d be hard pressed to find many people who are proud of an institution.  I’m proud because this is a living, breathing place, which is continuing a legacy of relationship, started by Fr. Samuel, continued by the Sinsinawa Sisters, and now belonging to all of us.

Just as Jesus sent Mary Magdalene and just as God called Fr. Samuel, we too are being asked to courageously go out and preach the Good News to a world desperately in need of caritas and veritas.  This week, Founder’s Week, we give great thanks for the example of Fr. Samuel and for the legacy that he built that we all must now continue.  Just as God called Fr. Samuel, the voice of God now calls to us saying: “Go!  I send you!  Please, say yes.”

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