What Gifts Are You Spreading?

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As I continue to meet more and more justice advocates, I find myself picking their brains and asking this crucial question: “how do you take a step back, re-center, and recharge in light of everything going on in our world today?” I hear, over and over again, that many find refuge and refreshment in nature and meet God in the beauty of creation.

I too find spiritual fulfillment and a direct avenue to God through my experiences of nature. Recently, I have been struck by the intricacy and beauty of Pando. Pando looks like 40,000 individual aspen trees growing in Utah, but it’s actually believed to be the largest organism on Earth. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Pando started from a single seed and spreads by sending up new shoots from one single root system. This incredible organism spans over 106 acres and is nearly 13 million pounds.

Pando is Latin for “I spread,” and that’s exactly what this organism has continued to do for the last 80,000-1 million years making it among the oldest known living organisms.

Nature can bring us closer to God, and Pando can serve as an example of how we are all linked. We are connected with the migrant, with those in poverty, with the victim of human trafficking, with those marginalized and harmed by racism, and with the Earth. At the same time, we can also see that we are connected to those with whom we disagree, with the estranged relative, with the politician who abuses power, with those who resort to violence. We are all connected through God. We are a “we.” Just as Pando continues to grow and spread, we too can continue to progress, to grow, to spread, and to share our gifts with all to whom we are connected. We can spread love, patience, kindness, peace, healing, understanding, compassion, energy, hope, forgiveness… We can continue to water our roots of peace, inspiring others to build a foundation rooted in peace and justice.

What will you spread today?

The Global Catholic Climate Movement is working with partners to sponsor the Season of Creation from September 1 – October 4. Click here for a toolkit and a prayer for our Earth during this Season of Creation.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Changing the World One Word at a Time

Blog by Sr. Margaret Mary Kennedy

September 8th we celebrate International Literacy Day. It is a day to remember the giftedness of all those who give their time and talents in order to teach others. It is also a day to honor the courage and dedication of those men and women who step out of their own comfort zone to learn a new language and way of communication in a new and foreign country.

Literacy by definition is:” the capacity to read and write in a language that can be understood”. This is an educational definition.

This past year the Springs Learning Center celebrated 15 years of Literacy training for men and women in the New Haven area. During this end of the year celebration, many of the students got up to speak and voiced what their new learning meant to them.

“I am now not afraid to go shopping”. “People listen to me know and I can voice my needs.” “I am learning English and it is hard, but I am doing it!” “I can now get a better job because I speak English better. “ “This program is changing my life.”

I am sure that these quotes are voiced by many students in other Learning Centers we sponsor across the country. Reflecting on the comments, my definition of Literacy has changed. The capacity to read, write, and speak seem to be only the basics of teaching literacy. It is more than an educational gift. It is a life giving gift of empowering others to communicate and become the new voices in our changing world.

Yes, our world IS changing. It is growing larger and all men and women are called to embrace these changes and welcome others into full participation for a better world. As St. Catherine is quoted, “Preach the Truth as if you had a thousand voices. It is silence that kills the world.” We are called to enable the truth to be heard in those thousand voices of the students that we meet weekly.

As Peacemakers, we are also justice seekers and Justice can only be achieved when all voices and ideas are heard. Illiteracy breads powerlessness. When people are unable to communicate they become victims of the society they are trying to join I have heard people who are immigrants tell me that “people think I am stupid, ignorant because they do not understand me, but I am not.” How sad to hear this statement from those whose only goal in life is to provide a better life for their families and themselves. When we teach even one person, we are adding to the thousand voices that need to be heard in order to break down the walls of fear and division.

As Americans, sadly, many have not felt the need to learn to become fluent in another language. I admire anyone who is bilingual and most of all I am in awe of my 5 ESL students who have learned so much English this year and are eager to continue. I must confess that I never did learn another language fluently, and the older one gets it IS harder! BUT one of my “fun” practices throughout the years has been to learn to say: “Hello and Thank you” in as many foreign languages as possible. After all these are the best words to know!! So far I am up to 7 and counting. This month and during International Literacy Day, this might be a good practice, and it’s fun!

To all of you tutors – know you are amazing!! To all learners – keep it up! You are also amazing. Together, we can change the world one word at a time!! PEACE.

Posted in Just Reflecting

“I am not Smarter than a Second Grader”- Religious Life through Binoculars

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Which lens do you use to look at religious life at this time? Before we discuss this question, let me share with you the story of “I am not Smarter than a Second Grader.”

Two months ago, I ordered a binocular toy online for my eight-year-old nephew so he could explore nature. I checked it before giving it to him. I was so frustrated because the image seen through the binoculars was smaller than the real one.

“Why don’t you give the binoculars to ……” Mom suggested when my nephew came.

“Mom, it does not work” I replied.

“Just give it to him. He may find out how to make it work”

With her strong insistence and my nephew’s excitement, I gave it to him with doubt.

“Wow, it’s so big. Beautiful!”

I could not believe what he said. “How come that happened?”

The design of the lenses caused me to look from the objective lens instead of the eyepiece lenses, making the images I was viewing to become smaller. Since I was so attached to my observation, I did not try the other way but made a hasty conclusion. My nephew was more flexible to try both ways for the best outcome. How can we learn from children like my nephew to be flexibile so possibilities can happen? In this aspect, I have to admit that “I am not smarter than a second grader!”

Let’s apply this story of the binoculars to a view of religious life. Which lens from a pair of binoculars have you used to look at religious life at this time? If looking from the objective lens, you may conclude that religious life has no future and that it is boring because not many young people are entering and most of the sisters are elders. From the eyepiece lens, you will realize that although vowed-member has diminished, the core of religious life has been transformed daily, filled with love, grace, joy, and insight. This core calls us to be bold, more contemplative, more flexible, and more attentive to the signs of our times. It helps us to have faith-fulfilled confidence in our journey in the hands of God’s Providence. If you view religious life this way, you will be more open and have more courage about inviting young women to join us.

To young women, if you feel you are being called live in religious life, do not be afraid. Are you willing to talk with us (oppeace.org) and allow your call about religious life to be transformed?  Then, contact one of our Vocation Ministers.

Posted in God Calling?, News