Hope Energizes Us in Moments of Fatigue

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The moment I heard the name Philando Castile in a news report several days ago, I felt anguish.

In a matter of seconds, the news story took me on an emotional roller coaster ride from feeling weary to feeling hopeful.

The mention of Philando Castile’s name moved my thoughts immediately to the dashcam video that was released by police in June, four days after a Minnesota police officer was acquitted of fatally shooting Castile during a traffic stop.

You remember Philando Castile, right?

He’s the school nutrition supervisor who was shot and killed while trying to reach for his identification during a traffic stop in July 2016. He, his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter were on their way home from buying groceries.

I admit that I don’t know all of the ins and outs of what happened that day. But I do remember being horrified when I heard about the shooting because it appeared that Philando Castile had done everything he was supposed to do –he was respectful, polite, and cooperative in handing the officer his insurance card – but he still ended up dead.

As I searched myself for the source of my despair, I came to the realization that for me, the Philando Castile story highlights the daunting reality of being black in America – living constantly with the distressing reality that racial and ethnic disparities are pervasive and trying constantly to figure out how not to hate yourself while navigating a society that hates you, just because your skin is brown.

There is nothing ordinary about being black in America. It can sometimes be mentally exhausting to simply navigate through a day.

And then, someone like Pamela Fergus comes along and renews your faith in humankind – gives you the kind of hope you need to keep from feeling hopeless.

Pamela Fergus is a Minneapolis-St. Paul area college professor who was also devastated by the dashcam video of the shooting of Philando Castile. She is the reason Philando Castile’s name was in recent news headlines.

The professor was moved by the compassion of the adored Montessori school cafeteria manager — who paid for the lunches of a countless number of students out of his own pocket and took the time to know each student by name — to set up an online fund-raising campaign called “Philando Feeds the Children.”

A couple of months ago, Pamela Fergus enlisted the help of her students to raise $5,000 to pay off the lunch debt of children at the elementary school where Philando Castile worked.

Within weeks, the campaign had raised $50,000. Now that number is in excess of $90,000 – more than enough to pay off the debt of students in all of the St. Paul, Minnesota public schools.

Pamela Fergus’ effort raised my awareness about the nearly 20 million children who are on the free and reduced lunch program in America.

According to the School Nutrition Association, 76 percent of America’s school districts have children with school lunch debt.

School districts handle lunch debt differently. Some students have their hot lunches taken away and are given an alternative meal (like a cheese sandwich and milk). Others are required to work off their debt or wear wristbands, identifying them as being unable to pay for their lunch. It’s embarrassing that students in America are shamed in such a manner.

But back to Fergus’ campaign.

“Philando Feeds the Children” now has a goal of creating a permanent fund to not only pay off school lunch debt but to educate parents and guardians about assistance programs in a long-term effort to reduce lunch debt.

What a wonderful tribute to the legacy of a man who made a difference in the lives of the children he came into contact with every day.

I am thankful to Pamela Fergus for radiating hope, which gives me the much-needed energy to continue moving toward justice for all.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Protesting On Our Knees

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

Many in American society have expressed opinions verbally or in writing about NFL players “taking a knee” during the National Anthem.  Depending on who you talk with, this posture of protest is either seen as a posture of protest against inequality in this country, or it is seen as showing disrespect for the American flag.   The protest stance of “taking a knee with a hand over the heart” during the National Anthem has been explained again and again by those participating as a respectful way of protesting injustice in the treatment of African Americans in our nation which proclaims the promise of “liberty and justice for all.”  It non-violently and respectfully calls attention to the fact that the goal of equality is not yet realized in American society and that we must continue to work together toward achieving that goal.

There are also many Americans who feel that not standing for the National Anthem disrespects the flag, our country and those who have given their lives to defend it. Some who take this position say they agree with people’s right to protest, but not this particular way of protesting.   Then there are those that ignore or are simply not aware of the real purpose for “taking a knee.” They only see it as gesture of disrespect and showing “ungratefulness” to a country that has “allowed” these players to have so much success.

I wonder about this view of showing “disrespect” by kneeling on one knee during the National Anthem in protest.  Is it also disrespectful to fly a Confederate flag which symbolizes division and an historic act of treason?  Is it disrespectful when an African American person has a higher chance of losing their life in encounters with police?  It is disrespectful when a person has a higher chance of being treated unjustly and being affected by generational poverty because of ethnicity or the color of their skin?  What seems more “disrespectful” to me is the racialized injustice that continues to be tolerated today. It also seems that there is still the need for protests.

The protest movements of the Civil Rights era are now viewed by the majority of Americans as essential to the pursuit of racial equality in the United States.  However, this positive perspective of the Civil Rights protest movement has not always been the case. To quote an informative article on this topic from the Washington Post, “America has a long history of resisting civil rights protesters” before acknowledging that these protests are effective in advancing the cause of racial equality.  You can find the full article here and it would be worth taking the time to read.

Non-violent protesting is a time-tested method to affect change and, at its core, is honoring and respecting every human being.

“Do you feel called to help bring positive change to the world as a religious sister? Why not contact one of our Vocation Ministers.”

Posted in God Calling?, News

Thank God for Guardian Angels

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

On October 2, the Church celebrates the feast of Guardian Angels.  In almost every faith tradition, people seek inspiration from the legions of unnamed, unknown Guardian Angels.

We all need angels, guardians, guides, protectors, messengers of good news, angels who bring us words of compassion and solace. I think of all the first responders, emergency room personnel, disaster relief workers, who showed up in Las Vegas on October 1st to attend to the massive assassination of innocent people. Those who are still responding to needs in Houston, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Too often these days, people need this kind of angel. Think of all the angels who show up when we really need them. In the midst of the horror in Las Vegas, the feast of the Guardian Angels brought back wonderful memories for me of childhood and the prayer:

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide. Amen.

Angel of God, my guardian dear  Who are the angels of God for you?  Who guards you?
Who protects you from over-reacting, from over-work? Who keeps you from taking yourself too seriously?  Who invites you into your own center and who returns you to the source of God within you?   Angels of God, your friends, who (thank God) do not see you as the leader of the free world.  A guardian angel is someone who shares a meal with you, enjoys a walk on the beach with you, and goes to the movies with you.

Guardian Angels send you secret messages of encouragement, share a private joke, offer a pat on the back, give a quick massage, recall a special memory, recommend the perfect book, share a secret dream, and know your favorite food.  Guardian angels leave the light on for you when you come home at night, they look at you knowing you do not have the answers and it’s alright.

Angel of God my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here…
Commits me HERE to live in this time and this place.  Commits me HERE to see all of my sisters and brothers as children of God.  Commits me to live in the knowledge that it does not all depend on me.  Commits me to get up every morning and see the day as blessing, to see the work ahead as privilege and gift.

Ever this day BE at my side…  Be at my side when I need to say the hard thing. Be at my side when I have no idea what to say. Be at my side as anxiety grips the soul of a person in trouble and I have no words to calm her heart. Ever this day, be at my side when I realize that the person who just interrupted me is the reason why I am here and he or she is the source of God’s grace for me today.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard… To light the path that has been set before me, to guard me from the fear of diminishing resources. To lighten my heart and drink the wine of music and beauty and awe at the wonder of the stars. To guard me from myself.

To rule and guide… to rule and guide my desire for quick solutions and impatience with processes beyond my control.

Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide. AMEN.

Today we thank God for the angels among us.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Learning as a Dominican

Blog by Associate Paul Bonitatibus

After completing a thirty-five year career in banking, I have become quite proficient at the art of retirement. I golf (badly), spoil grandchildren (I am good at this!), travel frequently (visited thirty three countries and planning for more), do volunteer work, follow Notre Dame Football (have attended 165 games), and pursue opportunities for lifelong learning.

Have you ever enrolled in a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course? These are classes offered by universities on a variety of subjects and if you opt just for the knowledge rather than a certificate, they are generally free. Two of the more popular MOOC’s are EdX and Coursera. I have taken a Georgia Tech writing class, two classes from Notre Dame – Statistics and the Architecture of Rome, Climate Change from The University of Melbourne, The University of London’s “The Camera Never Lies,” and even the “Music of the Beatles” from the University of Rochester.

These classes have been fun and educational while providing an opportunity to interact with hundreds, even thousands, of others taking the courses worldwide. But, my most recent course, EdX.org’s “Human Rights, The Rights of Refugees” was more than just educational. It was disturbing, thought provoking, and called for action.

My grandparents were immigrants. I was blessed by their love and guidance and saw them every day of the week until I started high school. I often think of them when I hear about walls, quotas, DACA, and camps. What if they were denied access to Ellis Island in the early 1900’s?

How should we as Dominicans address the plight of refugees and immigrants? Let’s do what Dominicans do best.


Open our hearts in prayer and support

Make a difference

Inform others about the issue

Navigate the political landscape

Impact the lives of those in need



Never stop Building Peace

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

Last Friday, the Gospel reading at Mass quoted Jesus saying “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house.” –Luke 11:17

Immediately, the image of a map showing 917 active hate groups across the USA came to my mind. The map by The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was on display last year at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, which was then hosting  This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Era.

The SPLC defines a hate group as “an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.“

I remember standing there horrified and shocked that our country—which I had been taught and had believed was founded on the principles of equality, freedom, and justice for all—could be home to hate groups such as those who exterminated millions of Jews less than a century ago. There were things we were not taught, but are also part of our history—the slaughter of the native peoples of the Americas, the Black Holocaust where millions of black people died in the slave ships bound for the Americas; the internment camps for the Japanese.  So it was a painful realization that my country was not really founded on “justice for all.”

But is this the future we want to hand on to our children? –A future where any class of people is singled out for persecution or extermination? We see it in our own past and present, continuing around the world—humans doing inhuman things to other humans. Divided we fall.

Citizens of the Americas have come from every part of the globe. Our strength and richness flows from the diversity of gifts shared among us—not only ethnic foods, but health care and safety professionals, educators, technology and engineering experts, everyday laborers, service providers, and countless others.  Even our United States Armed Forces are made up of citizens  whose origins range from every continent. United we stand.

As we were praying for our country and our world this morning, Cathy Arnold, OP shared with me a song by Jesse Manibusan that lifted my spirit and inspired me with hope—Hold on to Love. Pat Twohill, OP had shared it on Facebook. It should go viral. Some of his lyrics are:

“When pain and confusion seem endless, hold on to love.

We cultivate healing through kindness; hold on to love….


When terror and fear overwhelm us, hold on to love.

Courage and faith will sustain us;  hold on to love.

When violence seeks to destroy us, hold on to love.

Acts of compassion restore us; hold on to love…


When hatred is used to divide us, hold on to love.

Wisdom and truth reunite us; hold on to love.

When prejudice poses as freedom, hold on to love.

Dignity means all are welcome; hold on to love….”


I invite you to listen to this song, and pass it on. Go to: http://youtu.be/v-5I8ZGklN4

Posted in Associate Blog, News