S. Barbara Schwarz, OP Honored February 22, 2024

Interview by Alessandra Laucella (AL)
with Sister Barbara Schwarz (SRB)
about Upcoming Dominican Youth Movement Gala Award

S. Barbara Schwarz, OP

AL: Well, first of all, congratulations. This is
going to be for our February newsletter. We’re
going to do a little segment in place of our
Preacher Spotlight. For the first question please
introduce yourself and tell us about your
background including how and why you decided
to become a sister.

SRB: I grew up in Seaford, Long Island. I’ve been a sister of Saint Dominic since 1972 and I celebrated my Golden Jubilee last year. I taught for 13 years in Catholic junior high and high schools. I was director of religious education for 14 years. I have an MA in scripture. I went to Molloy College. I have an MA in Scripture from Providence College. I have a certificate from healing in the expressive arts from Salve Regina University. I thought initially that religious life would be boring as anything and I said no way but then I constantly felt this call, and as I got to know Dominicans and I got to know the sense of truth, joy and hope, I felt called. And so, I entered after I graduated from Molloy; people who entered before that, many of them, entered from high school. I was like, I want to have a life; so, I went to college, then entered. AL: Was there any one person specifically who inspired you to join, or just the sisters in general?
SRB: The sisters in general; mostly because I had the sense from them that they were real, that they had real lives, they had real life experiences, that they had fun, and they knew how to live life. Not so much that it was doing things by rote as being, and being who you are.
AL: I know you kind of touched on this before when you were giving a little background about yourself, but do you want to get a little bit more into the conferences, how you’ve been involved in the conferences over the years?
SRB: Yeah, I was in the High School Conference when it started out in Chicago and that’s where I met Sister Nancy Murray, and I met a number of people throughout the United States, mentors and young people. I, at that point in the beginning, I just did the mandala conferences, the mandala workshops; but then I moved on with that to do eventually the keynote speeches for the day of the arts, and that was both for the High School Conference and eventually for the College Conference. They really got the
Dominican charism and that the charism works, and the preaching happens in all different ways by who they are; and who we’re called to be.
AL: And do you think that the Dominican charism is what drew you to the order?
SRB: We at that time had not articulated the congregations, had not yet articulated the Dominican charism as clearly as it is articulated today. It was how I experienced it; so, it was my experience of the charism as opposed to knowing. To preach, community, scriptures.
AL: So, it’s more of a baptism by fire than a pamphlet, so to speak. Well, you just felt it.

SRB: Right, I just experienced it.
AL: How do you see your art as being part of your preaching ministry?
SRB: It’s a major part. My art is preaching. I’ve also done some different plaques that I’ve done for families, for marriages, for new babies, for women, for other groups of people; and the fact is hundreds and hundreds of them are out in people’s homes. I have people tell me they read that marriage blessing every day as a reminder to them of what their marriage is about. My art opens me up, opens me up to listen deeply, to reflect on that in how I do my art, and to just to see that my preaching can happen in words, in poetry, it can happen in a homily; and I do all of those things and at different points.
AL: How can young people or young adults preach through their art?
SRB: They can do that in many ways. They do it, first of all, in their bedrooms. Think about what art you had on your walls and how at one point where you said that doesn’t fit me anymore and you needed something new; that preaches to anybody who comes into the room. They can preach with their art and with the mandalas that I’ve done with them. Your art speaks to you and to me by what we put up and what we create.
AL: I like the analogy with the room, I never thought of it that way but you’re right. Yeah, it’s all self-expression really.
SRB: Your clothes. What colors? Can’t you tell the mood somebody’s in by what they’re wearing?
AL: That’s so interesting.
SRB: Aren’t there things that you wear when you’re going to clean? Or when you’re going out? What you wear is another form.
AL: That’s why I’ve always loved clothes because it’s really self-expression, or jewelry or anything like that because I think before you even know someone, it kind of tells you a little bit about the kind of person they are.
SRB: And that’s part of it. That is a form of art.
AL: I love that, that’s really cool. I’ve never thought of it like that like that. I know you before you were talking about, how you can preach through other things. So, it’s interesting to me that technically art you’re, still preaching through a little thing like your bedroom.
AL: When did you realize that you were artistically gifted?
SRB: Well, when I was a kid, I used to make things, but they weren’t considered by my family as art. But as I got older and I started to do things, especially when I was in my early 30s, when I was doing stuff. And so, I started doing more and more art and discovering that I had a gift of it. Eventually I made a calendar of some of my artwork and poetry for my 25th anniversary as a sister and then people started to say to me you really have a gift, and you have to use it. I was given the opportunity to start my preaching through the arts and in doing that, I went to several workshops. After the encephalitis I started to do more and more art and then eventually it became my ministry.
AL: This may be kind of a harder question. Maybe it’s easy. Can you think of the most gratifying part of being a sister of Saint Dominic? Is there one thing that sticks out to you, or there’s just too many?
SRB: I’m a preacher. I’m a preacher and the Sisters of Saint Dominic are preachers. The master General said about the order that it doesn’t matter if you’re in bed sick or where you are. A Dominican preaches through who they are and that’s who we’re called to be. It’s not necessarily teaching, it’s not necessarily creating; it’s not, it’s by who we are. That’s who we’re called to be, and we preach through that, by how we respond by how we are open to, and what we do with others.
AL: What inspires you? Is there a central force? Something that kind of just inspires you to keep going.
SRB: There are different things. What inspires me is watching the birds in the tree out through the window. It’s the color of the sky, it’s the movement of a tree or a flower; it’s sometimes playing with color. It can be from a little kid. It’s looking at watching a snowflake fall. Holding a baby. Paying attention to life. There’s been other sisters who taught me just by living. and asking me questions about my life. People in prayer and the way they pray, and what they want to pray about. All that can be inspiring.
AL: That was great. Thank you so much for sharing all of this today. Congratulations again Sister Barbara!

On Thursday, March 21, 2024, Dominican Youth Movement USA will celebrate their mission of connecting youth and young adults to the tradition of Dominican Preaching and fostering their call to preach at our 3rd Annual Gala: Kindling Creativity in Preachers of Peace. The funds raised from this event will allow them to continue providing quality opportunities for youth and young adults to help them recognize the creativity inside of them so that they can proclaim the peace of the Gospel. This year they will be honoring Sr. Barbara Schwarz, OP and her years of service to young adults.

Click here to buy tickets to the Gala.

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