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Mission for Peace Program

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

For five days, from June 22 to June 26, 2022 we joyfully opened our doors and welcomed in five participants (two discerners, one candidate and two novices) to our Mission for Peace Immersion program.  This five-day event took place in Wichita and Great Bend, KS, and gave the participants an experience of ministering with and praying with us as they continue to discern their call to religious life.

On Wednesday morning, we began exploring Wichita by visiting the Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All Indian museum.  In the afternoon, Sr. June Fitzgerald introduced us to the practice of theological reflection which we can use to reflect on our experience of service and prayer this week.  We also made one-decade rosary bracelets which incorporate various messages in the beads about peace, such as “build peace,” “share peace,” “pray 4 peace,” or “I love peace.” We ate and prayed with the sisters of our Wichita community: Sr. Lillian Gehlen, Sr. Kathy Goetz, and Sr. Margaret Uche.  Sr. Charlotte Brungardt from Winfield, KS, also joined us today.

On Thursday, after Mass and breakfast, we volunteered at the Lords Diner, preparing meals to combat hunger among our unhoused and poor neighbors. Donning our aprons, we dove into the many activities needed to keep the center running.  From removing the meat from more than two dozen large turkeys, to draining peaches for dessert, sorting donated sandwiches and arranging flowers to make their dining room tables more inviting. The hours went quickly.  After lunch we packed our van and drove to the Great Bend Motherhouse for the next leg of our journey.  The sisters warmly welcomed us.  After dinner, Sr. Martina Stegman gave us a full tour of the Motherhouse and surrounding campus.

Friday morning, Sr. Francine Schwarzenberger and Sr. Rebecca Otter taught us how to make cinnamon rolls to raise funds to support our mission in Nigeria and the poor in western Kansas. Sisters, Associates, and friends joined us in this activity. We mixed dough, rolled and baked, frosted and packed more than 700 yummy cinnamon rolls. In the afternoon, Sr. Francine shared the history of and current reality of the mission in Nigeria where Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger has served for more than 40 years. She also shared the history of the Great Bend congregation. Our day ended with Adoration in a contemplative atmosphere.

On Saturday, we helped sell cinnamon rolls before heading to Heartland Farm. At the farm, Sr. Jane Belanger led us in Morning Prayer in the beautifully renovated silo.  We did farm work, including vine trimming, cleaning, weeding, feeding and cleaning up after the alpacas and chickens.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh veggies from the garden and fresh bread baked by Sr. Imelda Schmidt.  Afterwards, we watched a video about Laudato’ Si and the vision and mission of Heartland Farm.  We then did some fiber crafts such as weaving and braiding and had some free time to hike, walk the labyrinth, and visit the gift shop.  Before saying goodbye, we gathered again in the Silo for sharing and prayer.  Back at the Motherhouse, we closed the day with Taizé style compline.

Sunday was a day of reflection for us.  This gave us time to reflect on and pray with our experiences of the week.  After private prayer in the morning, we gathered in the afternoon for group sharing and a missioning ceremony in the chapel.  The sisters blessed the participants by singing the Dominican Blessing over them.  Then, we visited with the sisters in the infirmary. After dinner, we returned to Wichita for the night.

Throughout the week, we had a good balance of prayer, community, ministry, and time for personal reflection and rest.  Participants and sisters enjoyed sharing stories, morning and evening prayers, meals, and Masses.

The Mission for Peace is not merely a time for volunteering and spending time with sisters. Rather, it is an opportunity to build relationships, to share and break the bread of life together, and to learn how to recognize our call from God through others and the signs of time.  Once we get in touch with God within us, through faith, community and nature, then we can breathe in and out with “PEACE.”

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