In the 1980s there were informal international multi-lingual gatherings of Dominican Sisters with the Master of the Order at Santa Sabina in conjunction with the Union of International Superiors General (UISG) in Rome. The idea of a worldwide network of Dominican Sisters and Nuns also surfaced in Latin America in 1991 and Sr. Veronica Rafferty wrote about it in “Informazioni Domenicane Internazionali” (IDI). Such a union was also discussed by sisters attending the Congress of the Mission of the Order in Mexico in 1991 and again at the General Chapter of the Order in Mexico in 1992. A year later thirty-three English-speaking Dominican sisters met in Rome to discuss “Dominican Women and Men: Partners in Evangelization.” They issued an invitation to others to join them and planned a multi-lingual international gathering. Father Timothy Radcliffe, Master of the Order, offered them the facilities at Santa Sabina and the support of the Curia. In May 1995, at the Generalate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, approximately 80 General Prioresses voted to form Dominican Sisters International (DSI) with the mission to connect Dominican Congegations of Sisters of Apostolic Life worldwide, in an effort to create avenues for collaboration among them and other members of the Dominican Family for the sake of the preaching missionof the Order.
The goals of the Movement were defined and a Coordinating Council, comprised of the following Sisters, was elected: Veronica Rafferty (Argentina), Margaret Ormond (USA), Rosario de Meer (Spain), Joan Carville (Australia) and Marie Vincent (France). The goals of the Movement were as follows:
- To support one another in living out the Dominican Charism and claim their identity as women preachers
- To facilitate commmunication and networking among Dominicans at regional and international levels
- To foster collaborative initiatives among members of the Dominican family
- To foster a more compassionate world order through the promotion of peace and justice, integrity of creation and human rights, especially those of women.
For the next three years, this Council, assisted by other sisters, worked tirelessly to give shape to the newly formed Movement despite many challenges (differences in language and culture, megre financial resources, and insufficient time to devote to the Movement). They remained convinced that the set goals for DSI needed to be implemented for the sake of the mission.
These successes led to the convening of the 2nd General Assembly in 1998 and by that time 88 congregations from 32 countries had become members of the movement. In 1999 Sr. Margaret Ormond was appoointed the 1st International Coordinator of DSI. The successive Assemblies built upon the laid foundation and developed networks and collaborative alliances with Dominican Sisters in DSI’s five continental groupings (Africa, Aisa Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America). As the sisters began to know one another and the contexts of their missions better, they undertook various projects together in response to some felt needs in the areas of formation (both initial and ongoing), justice and peace and the pooling of financial resources to provide more adequate instructional and spiritual infrastructure for sisters in Africa, Vietnam and Eastern Europe where many young vocations needed nurturing. Special attention was also paid to the missions of Dominican Sisters in the poorest areas of the world where educational resources are few and sometimes unavailable.
DSI has has since grown to a membership of approximately 150 Congregations in 109 countries of all five continents. In its 20th year of existence it has had seven -General Assemblies and three International Coordinators (Sr. Margaret Ormond 1999-2007) Sr. M. Fabiola Velasquez Maya (2007-2013 and Sr. Marie Therese Clement (2013-present). DSI continues to work at its goals of strengthening its family ties so as to best realise its mission to preach despite the diverse challenges that its member Congregations grapple in their respective territories.