A week ago it seemed all our paths to the first gathering of Ohio Pennsylvania Associate Leaders (OPAL) at Villa Maria, PA, were blocked. Colette Parker, OPA, and I (Co-directors of Associates of Dominican Sisters of Peace) were glad this new regional group of the North American Conference of Associates and Religious, was closer to us—near Youngstown, Ohio, just across the Pennsylvania border—giving us an alternative to the Tri-State regional (Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio) which meets in Cincinnati. Since Colette lives in Warren, OH not far from Villa Maria, and Conni Dubick, OPA, President of NACAR, lives a few blocks north of me in Akron, Conni offered to pick me up, we could drive together, and we’d meet Colette there.. But easier said than done!
We had failed to notice that the Akron Marathon—whose blue line had been painted on several streets marking its path for weeks already—was scheduled to begin that same Saturday at 7 a.m., ending at 1 or 2 p.m. Conni’s street was blocked off, as was every street between her home and mine. Cathy Arnold, OP, hearing of our dilemma joined me in consulting area maps and Google, while Conni talked to patrolmen and neighbors in hopes of finding another way for her to get to my home or I could get to hers. No way.
Conni could only get out of her street by going north, away from the marathon, but also away from me. Just as we were about to give up, Cathy thought of still another way: she and I could avoid the marathon by going the opposite direction to take the highways around the city and meet Conni at an agreed upon site near a highway exit. Bingo! Great idea. We agreed to meet at the parking lot of the International Institute in 15 minutes. I’d switch cars, and we’d be on our way. So we each set out.
Neither Cathy nor I being natives of Akron, we activated her phone GPS whose voice gave clear directions for the shortest way to that parking lot. But the GPS was guiding us right to the streets blocked off for the marathon, so instead of following it we took the highway route. As we went our way, we noticed that each time Cathy didn’t follow the voiced directions, the GPS immediately showed still another way using our latest position (without announcing “recalculating”). It reminded us how God, having given us free will—is guiding, redirecting us, accepting and cooperating with our choices, ever interacting with us to turn all things to our good.
Thanks to Cathy, Conni and I did meet at the designated parking lot, traveled together, and arrived on time for our OPAL meeting where we met up with Colette.
A Learning and A Reflection
All our roads were blocked except those that went the opposite way of our goal. Considering them led us to a longer, but effective way. When direct routes to fulfill our hopes and dreams are blocked, a longer and circuitous way may be God’s direction, helping us avoid troublesome roadblocks.
On September 28, Nancy Sylvester IHM wrote in Global Sisters Report: “Since the turn of the last century, there has been an exponential increase in the amount of news we hear or read from every corner of the globe. In turn, there is an increasing sense of disempowerment or impotency in the face of such suffering and pain because we don’t know what we can do….In the face of such knowledge where does our compassion find expression? How can I feel that I am making a difference?…the destruction on the Americas wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the Mexico earthquakes. So many people hurt, injured or dead. Thousands more displaced, their houses ruined, businesses gone. Cities and countries facing weeks or months without power and the astronomical cost of rebuilding their infrastructure.”
She continued: “women religious are in a unique positon to respond. We have sisters in many if not most of the countries of our world. They are in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, as well as Iraq, South Korea, Venezuela and other countries worldwide. They live in Florida and Texas. They are not strangers. They, and the people with whom they work, are our neighbors.”
Men and women in increasing numbers around the world are answering the call to live the mission and charism of Religious Congregations as Lay Associates. Might this relationship make possible STILL OTHER WAYS for us to make a difference in our hurting world? How could we use our highly networked web of relationships to find still another way to make a greater impact together to help heal, to rebuild?