The seven strong faithful women stand with prayerful open arms prepared to welcome and share the glory of God with everyone who enters the chapel at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, New York. The women in the mural are Rose of Lima, Jane of Aza, Catherine of Siena, Our Lady of Grace, Catherine de Ricci, Mary Magdalen, and Maria Goretti.
This mural in the quiet chapel space communicates that this is indeed a place "where women come to pray, seek spiritual guidance, and always are welcomed by the love and warmth of Dominican hospitality." The paradigm shift that Lucy Eaton Smith initiated in 1880 - to serve the spiritual needs of women - remains a reality today in this retreat center. Now women joined with husbands, brothers and children, attend retreats, days of recollection, Breakfast with the Saints, Chicken Soup for Body & Soul, The Saints & Stories of Advent, and Associate Gatherings.
Nineteen Associates and two Associate Candidates, led by Sr. Barbara Ebner,OP, Sr. Aimee Ryan,OP, and Associate Ceil Amendolia, OPA, gathered to pray, exchange ideas, and ask questions of Sr. Amy McFrederick,OP, and Associate Conni Dubick, OPA. Margaret Maniaci, presenter for a preceding workshop and the first St. Catherine de' Ricci Associate, Srs. Carol Davis and Sue Zemgulis, OP, also joined the group offering their insights and gifts of presence and music. Ceil introduced Associates Joan Hoffman, Kathy Smith, and Ginny McCabe, OPA, members of the Associates Team who plan and guide Associates activities on site. As the Associates told their sincere and deep stories of commitment and dedication to Dominican life, the anticipation of welcoming these de' Ricci Associates to the Dominicans of Peace grew among us.
In addition to the autumn beauty of upper New York State, the annual Carrot Festival at the Jewish Synagogue next door to the Retreat Center happened to fall on the same weekend of our visit. Sr. Ethel Detz, OP, an Adrian Dominican and Program Director for the Center, set up an information table there, while Sr. Amy and some other Sisters visited vendors with a smile and Dominican greeting! Sr. Amy and Conni agreed that it was a thoroughly enjoyable visit in this place of "solitude on the highway."