Spotlight: Kaitlyn Tashjian, OPA

 

Kaitlyn Tashjian, OPA

 

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” That famous quote from St. Catherine of Siena has been a mantra for Kaitlyn Tashjian since she first caught the fire of preaching during her undergraduate years at Caldwell University. Since then, preaching has become central to her everyday life. 

Kaitlyn Tashjian, OPA, is the Director of Guidance and Campus Ministry as well as the Mission Designee at Lacordaire Academy, a Pre-K through 12th grade academy in Montclair, New Jersey, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell. However, her journey in the Dominican charism began in 2008 as a freshman at Caldwell College, now Caldwell University. Kaitlyn, a softball player since she was two years old, found herself yearning for more and searching for a calling after she vacated her spot as the closing pitcher on the Caldwell College softball team. She very quickly got swept up in the Campus Ministry program and found herself at the College Preaching in Action Conference in 2010 at Dominican College. Little did she know that this week in Blauvelt, New York, would change her life. “I finally felt a connectedness to a community and a calling that was unlike anything I had ever felt before. Knowing that I could be part of a large Dominican family and preach through my life and works everyday was eye-opening. I knew this was the calling that I was searching for.” 

Since she was young, Kaitlyn has had a passion for teaching but never did she think that she would be able to weave together her love of the Dominican charism and her profession as a teacher. Kaitlyn worked for three years as a religion teacher and campus minister at Queen of Peace High School in North Arlington, New Jersey, where she was able to preach every day and work with young people as well as serve those most in need. After Queen of Peace was closed by the Archdiocese of Newark, Kaitlyn found herself, once again, looking for a sign of where God was calling her to preach.

Within two weeks of losing her job and feeling lost, Kaitlyn was hired at Lacordaire Academy and the rest is history. “In my interview with the Head of School, Megan Mannato, I told her that I was looking for a home where I could plant my roots and grow as a teacher, as a team member, and as a Dominican. Well, I found everything I was looking for! Through the nudging spirit of St. Dominic and St. Catherine, I am sure, God led me to where I belonged, once again.” Since her start at Lacordaire Academy, Kaitlyn has taken every opportunity to preach the Good News and teach the Dominican way of life to anyone willing to listen. She has taught Social Justice, Scripture, Morality, and World Religions as well as fulfilled the roles of Director of Guidance, Campus Minister and Mission Designee. Creating relatable and nourishing all-academy liturgies, planning retreats for all ages, and offering the academy many different community service opportunities related to the social justice works of the Dominican Sisters are only a few of the ways Kaitlyn has served Lacordaire Academy. “One of the most important ways I feel that I am preaching to our young women in the Upper School is through sharing with them and encouraging them to use their own gift of preaching. Being the advisor to our Dominican Preachers group has allowed me to pass the torch of preaching to these young women. Seeing them behind the pulpit at our all-academy Masses, preaching the Gospel, is a wonderful experience for me and I am blessed to be able to guide these young women in that mission.”

Kaitlyn also looks for ways to incorporate experiences where students in Lacordaire Academy can interact not only with the Caldwell Dominican Sisters, but also the Dominican Calls to Justice. From the kindergarten students dancing and singing to This Little Light of Mine with Dominican Sister class visitors, to the Middle School students stuffing folders with stationery supplies that are sent to immigrants in local detention centers, to the Upper School ladies participating in Earth Day marches around Montclair and interacting with human trafficking survivors while supporting local women’s shelters, Kaitlyn has worked to intermingle the Dominican mission and values into everyday life at Lacordaire. “When I see my students getting energized and passionate about fighting climate change or asking me if they could put together a prayer service to support Black Lives Matter, I know that the spirits of our brother Dominic and sister Catherine are alive and well in these halls. I consider it a blessing to serve alongside my students and the Caldwell Dominican Sisters every day to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized right where they are in our surrounding communities.” 

Kaitlyn officially became an Associate of the Caldwell Dominicans in 2014 alongside her mother, Kathy McFarlane, who is also a graduate of a Dominican-sponsored high school, Saint Dominic Academy, in Jersey City, New Jersey. As an Associate, Kaitlyn has continued to spend her time outside of Lacordaire committed to the Dominican mission in as many ways as possible. She is a member of the Associate Core Team, Universe and Creation Committee, the Commission on Global Issues, and the Human Trafficking Subcommittee. “My work as an Associate brings great fulfillment to my life and allows me to feel as though I am truly living out the Dominican pillars. I embrace the opportunity to study with and learn from the Sisters regarding social justice issues facing our world today. They have taught me how to use my voice to advocate for justice in every form and to stand with my brothers and sisters in Christ to demand that every person’s dignity be respected. I am grateful to be able to organize and participate in retreat days, lectures and events where we can come together as a community in prayer and contemplation to deepen our understanding and love of God. I am forever thankful for the mission of the Dominican Sisters that has come to define who I am as a woman of faith and allowed me to connect with so many other amazing women of faith.”

In 2018, Kaitlyn was blessed to pilgrimage to Fanjeux, France, through the Deepening the Dominican Spirit program, a life-changing experience that only ignited a larger flame within her to preach the Word of God and walk in the ways of St. Dominic every day. “The life that God had planned for me as a Dominican disciple of Christ is one that I could have never imagined. I am beyond grateful to be able to live out my passions of serving those in need, preaching the Word of God, and dwelling in a community of faith-filled believers each and every day. I am boundlessly blessed to partner with the Caldwell Dominican Sisters, the most amazing examples of faith, compassion, and justice, who have led me down the path of realizing what it truly means to be who God meant me to be. I have many more years ahead of me in which I will continue to light the world ablaze with Dominic’s mission and God’s Word.” 

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