Laudare! (Praise!), Benedicere! (Bless!) Praedicare! (Preach)
For those who intend to visit the Mother House of the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena in Barataria, an architectural treat awaits you. It was with great care that the architects sought to transform the old school into a majestic yet non-imposing Mother House. The old school bell remains not only as a reminder of a not too distant past but also as a herald of the future.
The stained glass windows of the main chapel tell a story of their own: the Dove representing the search for and the promotion of peace; the Torch a symbol of St Dominic who served as a champion for spreading the Gospel; the Dominican Shield reminding us that members of the Dominican Order ought to be like arrows of light piercing the darkness; the Bread and Cup intimate our Eucharistic faith – the very source and summit of our existence; and the Clasped Hands reflect our life of prayer and desire for union with God. The last window is inscribed with the motto of our Congregation – Veritas (Truth), which is the cornerstone of our lives and it is what we seek to proclaim.
The new building will be multi-functional. The north wing will house the Prioress General and her Councillors and the south wing will house a supporting community, both of which will be connected by a small chapel on the upper level. The lower level consists of a Heritage Room, conference room, administrative offices, chapel and a space for short-term convalescing sisters.
The physical renovation is only one of the many changes that the Dominican Sisters have experienced in the last two years as we seek to navigate the waters of faith and the desire to make God’s word and his message relevant to the lives of all to whom we minister in our various apostolates.
It is with great hope that we now look towards the future, filled with the zeal of our Father Dominic, the fire of our Mother St Catherine and the abounding courage of our foundress Mother St Dominic of the Cross – who responded valiantly to the call from Trinidad to send sisters to care for the lepers. We, too, now respond to the challenges of this age: rapid technological advances and the advent of social media networks, the lack of respect for life, and a decline in moral and spiritual values accompanied by a breakdown in trust in the Church, in Government and in the family.
The words of the closing blessing are especially significant as the prayer was for the Mother House and, by extension, us to stand as an “eloquent witness” to the people of God. It is with renewed vigour that we seek to be architects of hope, fired by the Holy Spirit to provide places and spaces where people can come and encounter God made manifest in the beauty of His Creation and in each other. – Sr Renée K Hall
This article first appeared in the Catholic News of Sunday September 4, 2011