An interview with Daphne Skretvedt by Sister Rose Miriam Schulte, OP
SRM: Daphne, how do you see the Spirit calling the Dominican Sisters forth at this time?
DS: I have come to know you as courageous, prophetic women. I’ve witnessed your fearless and persistent ways in serving real people in real-time. I believe this acute sensitivity to addressing the social needs of the times will continue to serve you well.
SRM: Speak more about us as “prophetic,” please.
DS: My husband and I are associates and charter members of the Springfield Dominican Antiracism Team (SDART). As a woman of color in a biracial marriage I marveled that years ago you took a communal stance toward becoming an anti-racist institution and invited partners of color to journey with you. That was a huge risk!
It was prophetic in that you chose to dismantle racism in your community before this systemic social evil became a rallying cry in the larger society. And you have been an example in choosing to work in a mutually respectful and transparent way with People of Color.
SRM: How can this prophetic role thrust us forward?
DS: As a former U.N. social worker I’ve watched you plant the seeds of justice in a variety of milieus. You are blessed with a number of women singularly committed to works such as immigration, ministry among Hispanic and Native Americans, literacy/citizenship, hospitality for women, and care of Earth, to name just a few. Quite uniquely, however, you do not allow these passions to germinate only in the hearts of a few. As a community you have united these seemingly disparate seeds into communal direction-setting.
SRM: What possible obstacles do you see to our embracing the future to which we are called?
DS: Do not underestimate the power of fear. Fear is a natural and even healthy response to real impending danger. Left to its own devices, however, fear can raise the level of anxiety within the group and become debilitating. I recall several years ago when the idea of accountability to People of Color first came up in SDART there was resistance by the sisters and the matter was tabled. But now, several years later, SDART has formulated an accountability guide for implementation in the community and your sponsored institutions.
SRM: And the antidote to fear?
DS: Trust—in God’s providential care, in one another, in your past . . . and in those with whom you choose to partner. You have a history of collaborating both within and outside of the Dominican Family. That is itself a prophetic gesture on your part in that it calls into question the societal penchant for authoritarian, hierarchical, or individualized behaviors.
SRM: Are you aware of any current trends among us that better prepare us for moving forward?
DS: I recently learned of your movement toward transfer of the sponsorship of St. Dominic’s Health System in Jackson. Miss. I am also aware that your high schools have been in various collaborative ventures with other Dominican sponsored high schools for some time with the possibility of looking at some new form of sponsorship. Difficult as these considerations might be, I believe the Spirit is at work in you . . . divesting yourselves of the responsibility for institutions will give you a new freedom in allocating your resources—both finances and personnel.
SRM: Is there anything further you’d like to say to us as we prepare for our General Chapter?
DS: Expect the Spirit to carry your works well beyond what you envision. In my years in SDART I have been a part of many conversations around the primary goal: the Dominican Sisters of Springfield becoming an anti-racist institution. Almost in spite of yourselves, however, you have provided the impetus within the Springfield civic community toward anti-racism work.
Daphne Skretvedt and her husband Merlin are Dominican Associates. Sister Rose Miriam Schulte, a former prioress general of the congregation, is a family counselor for Catholic Charities in Alton, Ill.