Youth Movement: Toledo Native, SHU Student Willis Sowle Helps Begin Dominican Young Adults Chapter to Campus


Willis Sowle III is part of a youth movement happening on the Siena Heights University campus.

The junior Religious Studies major from Toledo, Ohio, attended a Dominican preaching in action conference in Chicago in May 2012. Soon after that experience, he had a revelation.

“As I began to engage in campus ministry in the fall, it seemed like there was a missing piece in the faith community on campus,” said Sowle, a Central Catholic High School graduate. “I came to realize that we are a Dominican university, and a vast majority of the students and faculty haven't really embraced that idea. (This) led me to the conclusion that we need a student organization that enlightens students to the truth found in Dominican life.”

In October, Sowle helped form a chapter of the Dominican Young Adults on the Siena Heights campus. The DYA has replaced Sojourn, the campus ministry youth group that previously existed. He said the learning about the Dominican tradition and heritage has been a process.

“I began an action plan to educate all of our members, myself included, on Dominican tradition and the opportunities we would be presented with,” he said. “The transition process consisted of four meetings, each week discussing and learning one of the four pillars of the Dominican tradition: prayer, community, study and preaching. These topics were taught to us by (Adrian Dominican) Sisters and professors from around campus.”

At the end of the meeting process, SHU President Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, addressed the new group and gave them her presidential “seal of approval.”

“I think it’s fantastic what Willis and these students have done to highlight and preserve the Dominican tradition on campus,” said President Albert. “Students are part of the future safeguards of that Dominican heritage at Siena Heights.”

Siena Heights University is a Catholic university founded in 1919 and sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Some members of DYA are also part of the Campus Ministry Scholars program, however, it is open to all students on campus.

“Faith is a crucial piece to my experience at SHU,” said Sowle. “As a ‘new’ Catholic who completed the RCIA program just two years prior to my freshman year, I knew that I needed an environment that would provide me opportunities to grow in my faith. Little did I know, however, how big of an impact the school would provide me. I have embraced a myriad of opportunities from retreats, to service, leadership, and a wonderful motherhouse to help my faith life grow and develop.”

He said an early challenge to the group is helping to educate more students on not only what the Dominican tradition is, but how it can apply to them as a SHU student.

“Siena provides opportunities for each and every student to grow and learn further about the tradition,” Sowle said.

He said scheduling some travel experiences around the world and also networking with other college and university DYA chapters are also on his agenda.

“DYA has some big plans in its future,” Sowle said.