|Leading the Associate Program Along a New Path
January ushered in a new year, as well as a new director of the Associate Program. Deborah Regal, an Adrian Dominican Associate since 1992, took over the ministry from Mary Ellen Youngblood, OP, who served as director for 10 years. Deb will continue to serve as the peace and justice promoter for the Great Lakes Mission Chapter.
Deb is still getting acclimated to her new role, and is learning about the Associates, the history of relationships between Sisters and Associates in ministry and Mission Groups, and the gifts given and received in mentor-Associate prayer and study. "The goals for the Associate Program will be discerned in a process that is informed by and respects these elements in dialogue with all involved, including the Advisory Committee for the Associate Program and Congregation leadership," she said.
The Associate Program boasts many strengths, Deb noted, citing its rich history, the diversity among Associates and the various ways they relate to the Congregation, and the "heart and soul previous directors have poured into nurturing the growth of the program." Another attribute is the thorough formation process for Associates, which includes teachings on Dominican history and charism, spirituality and prayer, the ecclesial person, mission and ministry, and ecology. Deb hopes to update the study guide soon to reflect a greater emphasis on living the Congregation's Vision as Associates.
No program is without its challenges, though, and Deb has identified some areas that need to be addressed. "The diversity of being an Adrian Dominican Associate is a strength that also provides a significant challenge," she said. "Just what exactly IS association? What does it mean to Associates? To members of the Congregation? To co-workers in sponsored institutions? To the larger Dominican family? These questions are recurring ones for me, and I am seeking to discern answers based in the current reality in order to move in the flow of what God is calling the Adrian Dominican Associate program to be."
"It is hard to determine the essence of Adrian Dominican Association when Associates living in different geographic areas rarely communicate among themselves," Deb continued. "How can the Associate relationship be clarified if there is no distinct 'identity' claimed as the character of Adrian Dominican Association? How can issues around drawing healthy boundaries between Sisters and Associates be surfaced and resolved when the Associates have no 'other' Dominican identity separate from relationships with Sisters in mission groups or ministries?"
Deb said she is prepared to spend as much time as necessary answering these questions, and looks to others in the Congregation for guidance and support. "I am profoundly grateful to the wise women (and men) over the years who have shaped and cared for what we now know as the Adrian Dominican Associate Program," Deb said. "It would be wonderful if those who have experienced facets of the program development as Representatives for the Associate Program, Associates, mentors, Sisters, co-workers, and those in Congregation leadership would be willing to engage in conversation and sharing around the questions I have raised. I am open to listening to the wisdom and spirit living within these conversations - e-mail, write or call me any time. Finally, I ask for the prayers of Associates, Sisters, co-workers and friends as I seek to lead the Associate Program along the paths God has opened to us."
Welcome New Associates
The Adrian Dominican Associate Program continues to grow, as 19 women were accepted as Associates during November, December and January.