Storms of Life

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Seeing pictures of endless miles of flooding, of people displaced from their homes from the devastation wrecked by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I am reminded of both the fragility and preciousness of life.  Such images of toppled homes and cars show us the fragile nature of things and when we see strangers helping each other and the disabled and elderly given appropriate care and concern, the goodness of humankind shines forth and we witness the preciousness of life.

Being safely tucked away from the hardships of these storms, I wonder how I would cope with such conditions. How would I handle staying in a shelter with so many other people with no quiet space or privacy?  Even having mundane routines disrupted can be unsettling; or, not having the comforts of home, where I can sit in my favorite recliner and watch sports, use my laptop to check emails, or sew my quilt designs is disconcerting. What if my home was demolished?  How would I start over again and rebuild my life?  I have the privilege of asking these questions from the comfort of my office, but so many are struggling to answer these real-life questions as they find themselves in the eye of a life storm reaching highs and lows perhaps stronger than a physical storm.

To lose all your possessions, some holding special memories of a person or event, would be difficult to bear.  Of course, we know that material things can be replaced and that our hearts can heal from the storms of life, but the path to get to new ground is not without obstacles and challenges.

All of us experience storms in our life and how we weather these storms reveals much about how we respond to change.  Change is not easy, whether it happens by choice or by uncontrollable circumstances. How do we respond to change?  Do we embrace or resist change when it comes knocking on our door?  Do we give up on what change can teach us or do we give over our controlling nature to God to transform us?  Are we able to ride the tidal wave of uncertainty to see where it will lead us and what will unfold before us?  Change certainly tests our faith, our beliefs, our values and calls us to ponder anew what is important.

As a people of faith, we entrust that God will provide for all our needs, maybe not in the ways we might see fit, but in ways that are fitting for us. When we are attuned to God’s ways, we can see the angels in our lives who offer help, encouragement, and hope.  As a people of faith, we believe that God can make good things happen from seemingly impossible situations.  Faith teaches us to believe in possibilities and to entrust our life to a loving, compassionate God who desires the best for each of us.

Let us pray to be open to change and to being transformed for the better when we encounter the inevitable storms of life.  Perhaps you are being called to a change in lifestyle of living a consecrated life, serving God’s people.  Why not talk with one of our Vocation Ministers about how you feel led to follow this call.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Misery

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP

Houston had been swamped by Hurricane Harvey, her recovery a gargantuan task.  Irma was approaching in all her ferocity. North of her, U.S. meteorologists and their technology were predicting her wrath and her path, and thousands were kept informed by the weather channels. Plans were made for protection, evacuation, resources and responders. But a Haitian woman, in a desperately poor country in the eye of the storm, having been pounded again and again by earthquakes, cholera,  Hurricane Matthew last Fall and no money or infrastructure for recovery,  summed things up  in these words: “I guess we are worried, but we are already living in another hurricane, Hurricane Misery.”

Spin the globe. Stop it anywhere and put down your finger. Chances are, you will land on misery. A huge hurricane of Misery in its pervasive circling of our world. Human misery, ecological misery, you and I know too much of its geography and its causes, and while not exactly indifferent or complicit, we are at a remove that leaves us feeling shameful at our own good fortune, and inadequate in our response.

We hurt for them, we pray for them, we donate cash, for we are unable to take them casseroles or shovel mud. We cannot physically comfort or cradle them, or speak whatever the right words would be to honor their losses and renew their hope.

We know our call and our charism, and seek to be witnesses to the truth and voices for reform, and ambassadors for peace. We also are aware of our physical limitations and the fluctuations of our energies that wear away at our vigilance, our resolve, our hope in God’s faithfulness and promise, and even our daily civility to one another.

I suggest that here is our mandate: Joy. It seems to reason the most unlikely of responses– both counterintuitive and certainly countercultural. But Joy is not born of innocence or comfort. It is not a feeling of happiness, a veneer of pleasantry, or the result of life dwelling on the sunny side of the street. This Joy is the fruit of the Spirit of Hope working in and through us, the gift that blossoms from other gifts–humility (an amused toleration of our own creaturehood) and growing Wisdom, who played before God at the dawn of creation. This Joy is the “most infallible sign of the presence of God,”(Leon Bloy) and we do it together by giving it away. Right here at home.

This mandate to be joyful and to share that joy is not about denying harsh reality, but taking a stance against fear and despair, as sign that God loves passionately and is at work in the world with a promise rooted in the cross and resurrection of Jesus and renewed constantly in the Spirit among us.

This week, along with the aftermath of hurricanes, we remembered 9-11, and will observe the liturgies of the Triumph of the Cross and the sorrows of Mary, a massive meeting of agony and ecstacy, which can only be held together in the unfathomable heart of God. And we assent in becoming, in Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words, ”a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around us.”

Posted in News

Reclaiming the Freedom to Marry

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As a young professional, I have arrived at the point in my life when many of my friends are getting married and starting their families. It’s a beautiful and exciting time to see so much joy and life blossom. As I work to plan my own wedding, I find myself stepping back to think of the young girls who perhaps dreamed of getting married one day with the beautiful dress, the union of families, and the celebration but instead are forced or coerced into marriage at much too young an age.

Child marriage strips young girls of not just dreams of a perfect wedding, but also often denies them further educational experience, threatens their health and wellbeing, sometimes locks them in a life full of violence and abuse, and leaves them with the idea that girls are inferior to boys. According to Girls Not Brides, each year, “15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute. 1 every 2 seconds.”

Child marriage further propels gender inequality and poverty. In developing countries, tradition intertwined with generational poverty can persuade a family to marry their daughter off sooner to alleviate economic hardships. Surprisingly, child marriage is also prevalent in the United States. According to the Tahirih Justice Center, “researchers estimated that over 9.4 million U.S. women had married at age 16 or younger, and that nearly 1.7 million had married at age 15 or younger.” (For more information and statistics, click here). The majority of these child marriages are between a young girl and an adult man.

In a world where we view marriage as a beautiful commitment and covenant between two individuals, it’s important to remember that child marriage can be dangerous and unjust. Child marriage often leads to family instability, reduced educational opportunities, linkages to human trafficking, and high rates of intimate partner abuse and violence.

In the United States, most states have set the minimum age for marriage at 18, but there are numerous exceptions to the rule that make it possible for girls as young as 12 or 13 to be married to an adult man. Click here for a report about child marriage and an analysis of state laws. As we work to foster God’s web of life, let us continue advocating for girls so they can reach their full potential with justice, freedom, and dignity.

Are you concerned or moved by this issue? Consider calling your legislators to discuss this issue with them and ask how they are working to ensure girls are protected and treated with dignity and equality.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What would you bring?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

As I write this blog, I’m watching the rain turning our backyard into a swamp.  The rain is soft but steady and the water quickly gathers into a small pond.  I know that a rainfall like Harvey would flood our basement and house very quickly requiring us to evacuate.  After watching so much coverage of Harvey victims with their garbage bags holding their possessions, I got to wondering what I would pack if I had to evacuate quickly.  What precious items would be in my black bag?

The first thing that came to mind was the copy of my vows that I signed at my first and final professions. They define so much who I am today.  Then I thought of the small collection of pictures I culled out for use at my funeral- reminders of family, my Dominican Collaborative Novitiate crowd,  my good friends.  (I just stuck them in the envelope with my vows.)  I’d take two crosses hanging on my wall – one a resurrection cross given to me by a dear friend and the other that I received at my profession.  Another much loved mentor gave me a wooden statue of Dominic that she received at her profession in 1952. I couldn’t let anything happen to a Dominic who is as old as me.  I’d add a watercolor painted by another close friend.  Finally I’d stick some earrings that were my mother’s and my dad’s wedding ring into my stash.

As I reflected on why I’d take these items first I realized that they all remind me of relationships and events that have shaped in some way who I am… sisters, family, and friends. They are very valuable to me and would be lost forever if destroyed.  That would you take with you?  What memories and relationships do you hold dear?  My heart aches for all those who lost precious keepsakes in this recent flood and I pray that when the disaster is over, they can begin to gather some new mementoes.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

How willing are you to change your mind? Your heart?

Blog by Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP

I’m always a bit fascinated about what causes us to change our minds?  We finally try the food that we’ve never thought we would like only to discover we like it after all.  We avoid certain speakers or writers, because we wonder what good can come from that person, only to discover that we have something in common with the person.   We avoid activities or events or travel because of the large crowds or distances, later to learn that the activity or place becomes one of our favorites.

So, when I saw an article in the Akron Beacon Journal, “Why some people don’t change their minds?” I was caught.  Writer, Cass R Sunstein, begins with a quiz, “How attractive do you think you are on a scale of 1 to 10?”  He goes on to note that if you choose say a 5 and someone tells you they think you are a 7, you might actually raise your own estimation of yourself.  However, if someone tells you that you are, in their estimation, only a 3, you may be less likely to believe them and less likely to change your own estimation of yourself.  His point is that people are often more willing to change their opinions after receiving good news than after receiving bad news.

You can read more of the article at the link below, but the connection to my life as a Dominican Sister of Peace is the often challenging call, invitation, commitment we made with one another in the prologue to our Chapter Commitments, when we said we would be “Radically open to ongoing conversion into the peace of Christ…”  (  I sometimes think I am a very open-minded person, but I’m aware of many times when I don’t want to see or hear news or ideas with which I strongly disagree.  I’m aware that asking curious questions is often a way to process through a bias, if I can stay focused long enough to ask the questions without getting defensive.

Sunstein also noted two other common aspects of those willing to change their minds – they are willing to hear from a variety of perspectives, and secondly, they are more likely to accept bad news if they receive the news from someone they trust or like.  Maybe this is how we help each other as Dominicans by listening to perspectives from many people and by asking our friends to walk with us and listen to us as we hear bad news?

As Dominicans we were founded on Dominic’s commitment to searching for the truth within each and every person.  We are called to this search, and as we do so, may we listen, search for the value beneath an opinion that doesn’t match our own, and support each other in hearing both the good and the not-so-good news, so that we can fully become women and men of Christ’s peace built on love, justice, compassion, and mercy.   We need God’s grace, our willingness, and each other to live our lives radically open to ongoing conversion….

If you are interested in learning more about Dominican life and about the upcoming Come and See weekend, please click here.  or here to contact one of our vocation ministers.

Click here to read Cass R. Sunstein’s article, “There’s a Glimmer of Good News about Fake News.”

Posted in God Calling?, News