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January Mission for Peace

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Our Mission for Peace event (January 13-15, 2023) took place via zoom and in person at two locations- Connecticut and Columbus. Our two Houses of Welcome Communities – in New Haven, CT and Columbus, OH offered great hospitality to the participants- four discerners stayed in New Haven, CT, and one stayed at the house in Columbus.  Another participant from Oregon joined us via zoom. Participants had opportunities to interact with local sisters, and through zoom, to connect with participants and sisters from other locations. Sisters in formation and sisters from various regions (Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, and Connecticut) were also involved during the weekend. Throughout the weekend, there were many joyful moments, much laughter, and deep conversation.

We structured the weekend around four of our Chapter Commitments. Every six years, after prayer and study, the Dominican Sisters of Peace commit themselves to a specific direction and focus.

On Friday, we focused on Love Impels Us to Treasure and Reverence Earth and on  Laudato si’ Implementation via a natural walking meditation. On Saturday morning, we focused on Love Impels Us to Foster & Create Cultures of Inclusion with some volunteer activities. In the afternoon, for Love Impels Us to Prophetic Preaching of the Gospel Message, we watched the presentation, “Mission Experience at the Texas Border.” Joining us for this were Sr. Imelda Schmidt and Sr. Mary Vuong, who volunteered at the Southern border with the immigrants. For the commitment, Love Impels Us to Foster Lives of Prayer and Contemplation, participants were encouraged to have personal prayer time and to reflect on the presentations and actions taken so far this weekend.

In the evening, we had three short sessions (~30 min per session). For each, two sisters zoomed in to share their experiences and answer questions. These sessions included: care for creation (Sr. Jane Balanger and candidate Terri Schell), peace and social justice (Sr. Gemma Dolls and Sr. Annie Killian) and what it’s like to be in formation (Sr. Cathy Buchanan, Sr. Tram Bui and candidate Shingai Chigwedere). Many other sisters – both those in the local communities and those in formation, were also involved.  We wrapped up the program with a ritual of blessing and commissioning on Sunday morning.

Besides the general sessions via zoom, we had various activities at the local level. In Columbus, we went to Shepherd’s Corner Ecology and the Motherhouse for Mass, and lunches and to volunteer with Sr. Caroline Castellini and Sr. Denise Bourgeois, who also taught us how to knit hats and pompoms. At the House of Welcome, we prayed with the community. Saturday dinner, we had a special treat with Vietnamese dishes prepared by the community and Sr. Tram Bui.

In Connecticut, the participants at our House of Welcome, gathered in the community room to watch the Zoom sessions.  In between times, we enjoyed time for walking meditation, casual conversation in the kitchen, and even watched a documentary on Dorothy Day.  We helped to prepare PBJ sandwiches and pack bag lunches for the homeless at a local drop-in center.  On Saturday evening, sisters living close by joined us for dinner and good conversation.  Sr. Phuong Vu shared the Italian dishes she learned to prepare from one of the tutors at our Springs Learning Center. Throughout the weekend we gathered with the local community for prayer and to attend Mass at St. Stanislaus Church.

One participant in Oregon joined us via zoom.  She may have been at a distance but, we felt her close to us in spirit as she entered into all of the activities both virtual and those she did in her own hometown.  She had her own time to meditate and take her own nature walk.  The volunteer activities involved picking up trash on the road and paying more attention to those in her neighborhood.

When asked what they liked about the program, one participant wrote; “this program was both casual and informative – good vibes and people… what a treat to engage deeply with our community.”  Another said she liked the morning and evening prayer times with the local community because it helped her “to connect with God during the day and night.”

When asked what they wanted to share about this program with others, one participant replied; “this program is a wonderful way to get to know sisters and experience what it’s like to live in religious community.”  When asked how this program helped her discernment, one person said; “It helps me to recognize which parts of the communal life I am naturally most and least inclined towards, respectively.”

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