An Open Letter to the President

Blog by Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP

Catherine Arnold, OP
Dominican Sisters of Peace: Sisters and Associates in Mission
1314 W Market St
Akron, OH  44313

September 20, 2017

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump,

Would you like to be known as the US President who accomplishes for our country and for the world what has never been accomplished?  As the President who helps facilitate peace with  the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) after more than a half century of hostility?

If so, do what you can to peacefully resolve the current situation with North Korea without the use of violence.  The current Ken Burns and Lynn Novick documentary on the Vietnam War gives us all the evidence we need to do all we can to prevent further loss of life and destruction of Earth in every part of the world.  No Republican, no Democrat, or Independent, no one from South Korea, Japan, Guam, North Korea, China, or the United States wants to see their sons or daughters, wives or husbands, brothers or sisters killed in a battle with North Korea.  Think of the gift you would give the world.

1)   Please consider inviting to Washington all the best thinkers on active nonviolent social change, along with our military leaders, plus experts and persons from North Korea and Asian cultures, and ask them to create a variety of strategies that lead to peaceful resolutions in which no one loses face.  Often non-violent social change is accomplished by the oppressed standing firmly against the oppressor.  In this case, the leaders and people of North Korea might think of themselves as the oppressed.  Whether they or we are the oppressed, we would all benefit greatly from a nonviolent resolution.  Nonviolence has been shown to bring about the longest lasting resolutions to conflict and in establishing working democracies.  Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan.

2)   Consider inviting every university or college that has majors in the study of peace and nonviolent social change to engage this dilemma in their classes and in think tanks. Have them submit their ideas to the task force.  Have a contest!

3)   In addition, what contributions could the business world bring to this discussion?  Not the business world of creating more weapons, likely leading to more violence, but the business world of creating opportunities for meaningful employment and an improved quality of life for people in North Korea and around the world.

As a country, we developed nuclear weapons and put a man on the moon. If our best minds can accomplish such tasks, let us put our best minds together to resolve peacefully a win-win for the US, North Korea, the Earth, and all peoples of the world.  Let us create viable and long lasting strategies without using weapons of any kind, especially nuclear weapons.  I encourage you to see what creative possible ideas will arise, and put them into action.

With successful use of non-violent strategies, you could be remembered in history as an innovative President in whom people could be grateful and proud.


Sister Catherine Arnold, OP

Posted in God Calling?

It’s All About the Biscuits

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

I looked back to some of my previous blogs and saw that I wrote a lot on prayer, the need for silence and simplicity when we pray. I think I might have been trying to tell myself something. Do I really pray from my heart?

I want to share a prayer that someone sent to me, maybe some of you saw it, but it is worth passing along. It is a prayer given by a farmer at a parish breakfast. Here it is:

“Dear Lord, I hate buttermilk.

Lord, I hate lard.

And, O Lord, you know I do not much care for raw flour.

But, Lord, when you mix them all together and bake ‘em up,

I do love those fresh biscuits!


So Lord, when things come up we don’t like, when life gets hard,

when we just don’t understand what you are saying to us,

we just need to relax and wait ‘til you are done fixin’

and probably it will be something better than biscuits.”

Not a lot of fancy words there, my friends, but a solid and deeply resounding reminder that every day we are given experiences and have encounters that draw on our souls to respond. Prayer is the best expression of that response. So look around you, see the needs, the successes, the tragedies, the triumphs, the sadness and the joy, and that is where your prayers are needed.  Have faith and you will get better than biscuits.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Sr. Mary Vuong Preaches Peace to Jamaican Children

“Just when the caterpillar thought that the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

Sr. Mary Vuong, OP, (kneeling, in pink) and a young Jamaican AIDS patient, share a high-five after a session of physical therapy.

I use this phrase in my email signature because, in my own work as an occupational therapist, I get to be part of such amazing transformations every day. As a Dominican Sister of Peace, I use my skills and God’s help to help people regain mobility, build their strength, and reach their full potential.

I was recently blessed with the opportunity to spend 5 days in Jamaica visiting young residents at orphanages run by Mustard Seed.  Many of the residents – children, teens and young adults – suffer from a combination of illnesses including HIV, mental retardation, Downs Syndrome and physical disabilities including muscle contractions, limited limb mobility, blindness, and deafness. Accompanied by my friend, Tram Bui, a physical therapist, we spent 5 days meeting with the children and their caregivers to try to help them improve their quality of life and quality of care.

We began our trip at Martha’s House, where we met with 10 kids with HIV. Each of these young people has joint deformities in their limbs and/or trunks. It’s heartbreaking to see these young people, who hold so much promise, confined to wheelchairs or having to overcome so many challenges in order to walk.  We were there to help the caregivers learn new skills and techniques to reduce the children’s physical limitations or build their strengths and maintain their own physical health.

We spent our first day meeting with each of the kids to determine their needs, then talking to their caregivers about the challenges they faced in caring for them.

In some cases, the obstacles were severe – Sean, who is blind, and Kadian, who is both blind and deaf are both so sensitive to new stimulation that they scream and cry anytime that they are touched, which makes physical therapy, or even basic hygiene care,  very difficult. We provided sensory tape, a vibrating pillow, and various texture samples to give the children an opportunity to experience and learn to tolerate new stimuli, and were grateful to see positive results by the second day of our visit.

Whenever possible, we tried to find ways to make the individualized therapy for each young person not just effective and progressive, but fun. Torrie, a very determined young girl, was unable to sit up on her own because of weakened muscles in her core.  Her exercises with us involved reaching for treats she likes and giving me “high fives” to incorporate some of the core strengthening exercises in ways she enjoyed. We were able to use similar exercises to help other children like Durandra and Rackeem. It was wonderful to see them encouraging each other, especially when a task was hard and the child wanted to give up.

The second goal of our visit was to help train the caregivers so that through their work with the kids, the kids will be able to move more normally, and the caregivers themselves will avoid injury and fatigue during their workday. Some of the children require total assistance to get out of their wheelchairs, because of their physical challenges and characteristics of their custom wheelchairs, those transfers can be very hard for the caregivers.  We worked with the caregivers on techniques to protect themselves and the children during transfers. Other new skills included massage and trigger point release methods that can help them prevent or heal injuries that can occur during work.

Outdated or out-grown equipment was a common problem. We did not have the funds to replace wheelchairs and other therapeutic supplies, but we did fill our bags with cushions, bed pads, splints, foam and other materials for “creative remodeling.” By slicing up the foam we were able to fashion new seat cushions for Kadian, the deaf and blind young lady mentioned earlier. The cushion made her wheelchair more comfortable, and the bed pad provided a safer way for her caregivers to move her on her bed without pulling on her arms and legs.

We were able to replace the old and torn wheelchair that had served as a shower chair in the facility. The shower chair, which can be rolled directly into the shower, is specially designed so the caregivers can give the kids better, more hygienic showers. We also supplied a handheld shower hose, grab bars and non-skid tub mats to make the shower space safer.

It was rewarding to hear the dedicated caregivers talk about how happy they were to have new knowledge we were able to share, and how excited they were to see the differences the new techniques would make for the kids. The responses from the children, however, were the most rewarding.  We were humbled to see kids be able to stand more appropriately for the first time despite the deformities in their legs and to see how proud they were at their accomplishment.   It was fun to hear the children say that they enjoyed the therapy even though it was hard for them, and sometimes painful because it was fun and they knew they were getting stronger.  In the evaluation, all of the children and their caregivers asked us to come back again.

I was constantly struck by the children and caregivers’ joy and care for one another, in spite of their hardships.  There is so much more that I wish we could do for these children. Many of them need new wheelchairs or splints, and most of them would benefit greatly from more therapy. I feel very blessed that, through the generosity of the Conrad Hilton Fund and the Dominican Sisters of Peace, we were able to help them develop new ways of managing and even overcoming some of their challenges.

Posted in News

Sr. Margaret Ormond, OP, Honored with Award of Merit by Breukelein Institute

Fr. Dennis Corrado, Provost of the Brooklyn Oratory, with the winners of this years’ Breukelein’s Gaudium Awards: Award of Merit Winner Sister Margaret Ormond, OP – President, Dominican Academy and Gaudium Award Winners Caroline Woo, Recent President of Catholic Relief Services, Dean, Notre Dame University, Executive VP, Purdue University; Bebe Neuwirth – celebrated Tony and Emmy award-winning actress, dancer, singer in television and theatre; Garry Trudeau – Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Doonesbury, Tanner, Alpha House; Farrell Evans – Sports Illustrated/ESPN golf journalist, Co-Founder, The Bridge Golf Foundation, Harlem, New York.

On Monday, September 18, 2017, Sr. Margaret Ormond, OP, was presented with the Breukelein Institute’s Award of Merit.  The award was given at the Breukelein’s annual Gaudium Awards Dinner held at the Yale Club.

Sr. Margaret is the President of the Dominican Academy, a Catholic college preparatory school for girls founded and supported by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and located in Manhattan, NY. Her work at the Dominican Academy, as well as her numerous other ministries around the world, was recognized with this honor,

In his presentation speech, The Very Rev. Dennis Corrado, Provost of the Brooklyn Oratory congregation, said “If it is true that fidelity is the greatest proof of love, then Sr. Margaret Ormond is an unchallenged example of that. A Sister of Saint Dominic for over 50 years, she has literally served others globally: Asia, Africa, Europe and here at home. Inspiring and assisting women, young women to be educated, independent and caring.  In her quiet, refined way, she has lived out what her founder St. Dominic advised: Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword, with humility rather than fancy clothes.”

“I was truly humbled to receive the Award of Merit,” Sr. Margaret said. “The Oratorian Priests and Brothers show such a greatness of spirit – they reach out continually to the poor and needy and invite others to join them. I am honored to share in their mission.”

Sr. Margaret is a native of Brooklyn, NY, and entered the Dominican Order in 1962. She spent most of her ministerial life in Connecticut, Ohio, and Illinois, where she worked in education, formation, and preaching with Parable and leadership.

Sr. Margaret has ministered as a consultant on Leadership Among African Religious, and facilitated Dominican congresses in the Philippines, El Salvador, South Africa, Kenya, Peru and Hungary. In 1998 she became the first International Coordinator of Dominican Sisters International (DSI). She was named the first Prioress of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of Peace in 2009. She has also served on the boards of Ohio Dominican College and the Sieben Foundation.

Sr. Margaret holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Ohio Dominican University. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and licentiate of sacred theology from Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Posted in News

Genocide: Never Again?

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

We are too familiar with the current immigration crisis in the United States where families are being torn apart, mothers deported while their children remain, and families risking their lives to cross the border to flee violence. Yet this crisis is not ours alone; it is happening on a global scale as violence and humanitarian crises continue to push families out of their homelands.

Following violence in Rakhine between security forces and a militant group, Rohingya refugees have been fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 25th. The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority who live in Myanmar’s far western Rakhine State, are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government who consider them illegal immigrants. As they flee to Bangladesh to avoid violence and persecution, they face pushback from the Bangladesh government who don’t want to open their doors. According to the BBC, more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August.

The Myanmar military have claimed their operations in Rakhine are to root out militants and that they are not targeting civilians. However, the stories of reporters, refugees, and witnesses clearly say otherwise. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called this campaign by the Myanmar military ethnic cleansing. (Read a UN report on the violent military campaign). These actions, including executions, mass rape, and widespread burning of villages while residents are still in their homes, are crimes against humanity. The human rights abuses against the Rohingya must stop, and humanitarian aid must be provided.

Some international leaders fear this will be the next genocide, following Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, and Kosovo. A friend recently shared with me a TED Talk about the current refugee crisis. In it, the presenter said “the biggest question in the 21st century concerns our duties to strangers… the world is more connected than ever before, yet the great danger is that we’re consumed by our divisions.” Our diversity should not divide us, and the world should not turn a blind eye on attacks against innocent civilians including women and children. The Rohingya need to be seen and heard and need to be protected.

How can we help? From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns:

The Elijah Interfaith Institute in Australia offers a prayer for the Rohingya.

Tell Congress to end U.S. military engagement with Myanmar.

A provision in the U.S. Senate’s current draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would increase U.S. military engagement with Myanmar. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor a bipartisan amendment (SA 607) to strike this language and to suspend all U.S. financial aid to Myanmar’s military. Read the letter 125 faith leaders sent to Congress.

The UK government suspended its financial aid to Myanmar’s military on September 19. Please click here to tell Congress that the United States should do the same.

For more information, see this article.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog