Every year the novices of the Province visit each of our communities (except the one in Alaska, due to time and resources). These visits are mostly divided up into two trips – a northern tour and a southern tour. The primary purpose of these tours is to help us discern if God is calling us to this way of life after seeing it lived out in this province. The secondary purpose of these tours is for us to share our vocation stories with the communities in the different cities we visit.
We just completed our southern tour which brought us through Eagle Rock, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Mexicali, San Diego, Riverside, and Thomas Aquinas College. The tour brought us many varied experiences. We learned how to drive a forklift in Las Vegas, watched a Vietnamese dragon dance in Phoenix during the Lunar New Year, and distributed ashes to the faithful in Mexicali, Mexico
I saw how the diversity of the needs in our province prompts a creative response from our brothers. For instance, Fr. John Paul Forté, O.P., and Fr. Dominic DeLay, O.P., have recorded two CD’s which feature faith music from remarkably different historical periods. Fr. Dominic also makes movies where religion is a major factor shaping the characters’ development.
The tour also made me see that there is a need for our ministry in the western United States. One ministry site that exemplifies this idea is the St. Thérèse Center in Las Vegas, an outreach organization for those affected by HIV, run by Fr. Joseph O’Brien, O.P. The day that we visited the St. Thérèse Center, I went to different grocery stores to pick up food, along with Arthur, one of the employees. Along the way, I heard his life story.
Arthur got into drugs in Chicago and contracted HIV from a dirty needle while in jail. He despaired and was waiting to die. Eventually he came to Las Vegas and discovered the St. Thérèse Center, which gave him hope to live with the disease. He is now a changed man. He listens to a Christian radio station and inspires others to live their lives for God. He sees his work at the St. Thérèse Center as a way of giving back to the community that supports HIV-positive people.
Three of Arthur’s sisters got into drugs and died because of related causes. They remind me what likely would have been Arthur’s fate had he not found support from the St. Thérèse Center and Dominicans like Fr. Joseph.
These are just a few illustrations of the meaningful work I saw our friars doing around the Province in responding to the spiritual and physical needs of God’s people. What a blessing to follow in the footsteps of the brothers, and our founder, Saint Dominic.
–Br. Scott Norgaard
P.S. Check out more photos from the tour here.