Community and Belonging

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

What does it mean to be part of a community?  Why is community important?  How do we foster community?  These questions have been swirling around in my mind lately.

Being part of a community helps me to feel connected to others and satisfies the need to belong to a group that cares about and supports each other.  We can be affiliated with many groups—family, friends, neighborhoods, work, church, clubs, and other groups.  In my own life, there are groups or communities where I feel valued and respected and happy to be with the group.  Then, there are other groups where I have felt alone or disconnected from others. Perhaps you have had similar experiences.

Think about some of the communities that you are associated with.  What do you enjoy about belonging to a community?  What characteristics make you want to continue to be part of the community?  Or, what characteristics do you feel hinder community?

As a Dominican Associate, I belong to a faith-sharing group that meets monthly to pray, to discuss a range of topics, depending on the facilitator’s interests, and that checks in with each other to offer support and compassion with whatever issues may be of concern.  Our group is called Companions on the Journey and we’ve been together for about five years.  Our community of men and women has shared moments of joy and sorrow as we’ve companioned each other through good and difficult times. We’ve wrestled, at times too, with how to sustain community amongst ourselves, periodically evaluating where we are as a group, sharing and listening to each other’s viewpoints, which I think keeps us together.  I hope you have had positive experiences with a community where you feel welcomed and accepted and where you feel you can share and are listened to.

Community is important to our self-worth and the self-worth of others and to our sense of belonging.  There are many simple ways we can build community—a friendly hello, a smile, or asking questions about how another person is doing and really listening to them.  Other ways we can foster or deepen community are by celebrating achievements, joys, or sorrows of others.  We can convey caring and compassion in our communities also simply by being present to another, offering a welcoming space for sharing life’s concerns.

A quote that I like about community is from Dorothy Day, a social activist who co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement to address social justice issues, in which she states “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”  Let us go forth in love and peace to build healthy communities where everyone feels they belong.

If you feel God is calling you to our community as a vowed religious, please contact one of our Vocation Ministers to begin the conversation.

Posted in God Calling?, News

And the Walls Come Tumbling

Janet Schlichting, OP

I was in western Massachusetts this past week, visiting my brother and his wife for family time and the expected splash of the wondrous fall color. They had not had rain for a month; the trees weren’t producing the color that is the pride of the Northeast states. And as we traveled, what I did notice was the presence of stone walls. Old walls, still holding after more than a century of wind and water.  If there is one crop that never fails it is the rocky soil of New England. My brother has reaped enough sizeable rocks on his property to circle seven garden spots and line a woodland trail.

I remember Robert Frost’s famous poem “Mending Wall” in which he wryly details the spring ritual with his neighbor on the other side of the wall, each picking up stones on his side and replacing them where they had slipped or fallen.  He begins ”Something there is that does not love a wall.”

Bonds, not boundaries

God, Jesus, Spirit—the Trinitarian authors and sharers of a bond of peace and love that cannot be sundered. There is in God no wall, no desire for a wall, no need for a wall. For us Christians, it is a constant learning that God is one huge “Something”who does not love a wall.  How could the unconfined Creator of the universe, the Incarnate one who kept breaking boundaries and, the ever-free and unpredictable Spirit of transformation at loose in the world, have anything to do with walls?

In one sense, God dwells but does not settle.  And Jesus offers us the Way. The Spirit is the Wind. God’s ever expanding, welcoming holiness is a gift for every age and every people of the world. It moves and circles and enfolds ceaselessly. In another sense, God sees no need for walls, to keep people in, or keep people out, but delights in that daring divine invitation, “Y’all come!”

 “Good walls make good neighbors?”

That’s what Frost’s neighbor heard from his father. Not so. A wall is a human construct, not born of our desire to be good neighbors, but of our fears and our stony hearts. The barbed wire keeps being strung. Today we witness nations like ours pulling into themselves, seeking purification,  “ the nation we used to be,” fed by hatred, justified by  claims that “THEY”—those from outside our borders–are to blame for our social unrest, rampant crime, and loss of jobs.

Whether or not we have joined those voices, we in our best efforts to be faithful still have our limits. Being human, and dwelling in human communities, we have set up, consciously or not, barriers to offer protection from whatever threats we believe might make fearsome demands on us or push us out of our present comforts. Too many churches over the ages have claimed theirs as the only truth, kept their sheep within the fold–and the goats outside—with strict limits and penalties and ultimately, the threat of death or hell.

Come One, Come All

But the God of Christ Jesus calls us from that Banquet To Come and challenges us to grow beyond our limits, to join the waves of people from north, south, east and west streaming toward Jerusalem,  where God through the prophet Zechariah has pledged “I  will be an encircling wall of fire, and I will be the glory in her midst.”

Robert Frost muses that wall-builders should “Know what you are walling in and what you are walling out.”

We know. We learn. By God’s grace we grow in holy Shalom, wholeness and hospitality. Good fences are those being dismantled by good neighbors.

Posted in News

Let’s Justify Peace, Not Death

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

Many recognize the pain, destruction, and loss of life caused by war. Numerous are fearful about the death and devastation that could be caused by North Korea’s possession of a nuclear weapon. We rally to end violence, end hatred, end bigotry in order to save lives. Our world is hurting, damaged, divided. There is already so much death and killing around us and across the globe, why do we continue to “justify” killing in our criminal justice system?

Two months ago I wrote a blog about the death penalty, and since then five more men have been executed on death row. In that same time, Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project came out with a report specifically on prisoners on Ohio’s execution list and how they are impaired and traumatized. Click here for the report (please note, the report contains graphic information).

The Fair Punishment Project examined 26 men on Ohio’s death row and found that they “are among the most impaired and traumatized among us – a pattern replicated across America’s death rows.” These individuals have been affected by childhood trauma, physical and sexual abuse, and often suffer from a mental illness or intellectual disability. Some were under the age of 21 when they committed the crime that led to their sentence, yet scholars argue a brain at such a young age is still underdeveloped.

The Eight Amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment, specifically for those most vulnerable in capital punishment cases such as the mentally ill, and the Gospel gives a clear directive to love rather than retaliate: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44). When will our world know peace? When will we come together to work toward conversion and rehabilitation rather than an eye for an eye?

The Catholic Church believes that the death penalty is an unnecessary and systemically flawed form of punishment. Please pray for an end to the death penalty, for the families of the victims, for those involved in carrying out the executions, and for those on death row. May our prayers and our actions toward peace continue to challenge the status quo and encourage others to live lives of peace rooted in the Gospel.

Today is the World Day Against the Death Penalty. For more information about the death penalty, see this fact sheet. Please pray for those scheduled to be executed this year. Click here for a list.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Spread a Little Sunshine

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I have a confession to make: I watch reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.”

I am disclosing that because I woke up Sunday morning with an earworm (you know, when a song or tune gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out).

Well, the melody in my head was sung by Andy and Barney, characters on the situation comedy:

“Spread a little sunshine every day.

Spread a little sunshine every day.

Help someone along life’s way.

Spread a little sunshine every day!”

Crazy, right?

I thought so at first. And then I tried to figure out why Andy and Barney kept singing in my head.

I concluded that my earworm was triggered by all of the stories that have been shared over the past couple of months about people who have given of themselves to help others in devastating situations. I consider those people bright spots in darkness – people who spread a little sunshine to help others along life’s way.

People like Victoria White, a university admissions counselor, who lifted the spirits of Hurricane Harvey evacuees at a Texas shelter by singing gospel music about hope and perseverance and who encouraged her fans to serve people impacted by the storm.

People like Sister Margaret Ann, a Carmelite nun and 30-year education veteran, who used a chainsaw to clear branches from a fallen tree that blocked a road in Florida, after Hurricane Irma hit. She said she was following the example of what she teaches her students: “Do what you can to help.”

People like the random, unnamed guy who gave the shirt off his back to be used as a makeshift tourniquet on a teenage girl who was wounded in the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

People like Lin-Manuel Miranda, a playwright and the creator of the hit musical “Hamilton,” who enlisted salsa legends and pop artists to collaborate on a benefit song for hurricane-battered Puerto Rico. Proceeds from the track — “Almost Like Praying” — will go toward the Hispanic Federation’s hurricane relief fund for Puerto Rico.

During a television interview, Miranda said of the song title, “Thoughts and prayers are great, but thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

My translation: Continue to keep those in need in your thoughts and prayers, but don’t stop there.

Do Something!

Give of yourself – your time, talent and/or treasure — to spread a little sunshine everyday by helping someone along life’s way.

In case you want to hear Andy and Barney:

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Sister JoAnn Lamantia, OP

Sr. JoAnn Lamantia, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace JoAnn (Alexia) Lamantia, OP (76) died at the Mohun Health Care Center on September 26, 2017. She was born in 1941 to Elizabeth (Berarducci) and Philip Lamantia in Toronto, OH. She entered Dominican life in 1959 at the convent of St. Mary of the Springs, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and was devoted to her consecrated life for 55 years.

Sr. JoAnn held a Bachelor of Science in Education from Ohio Dominican University, and a Master of Science in Education, specializing in Reading, from Marygrove College in Michigan. She continued her studies in Microcomputing Technology at Columbus State in Columbus OH.

Sr. JoAnn shared her love of learning and of her Lord as a teacher for more than 30 years, teaching elementary school in Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. She took special joy in instilling in her pupils a love of reading, and in preparing them to receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. Sister Anne Kilbride who taught with JoAnn at St. Jane de Chantal in Chicago, described her as a “Pied Piper, leading her second graders around the playground.”

As her teaching ministry drew to a close, she continued to provide child care at Holy Family in Wheeling, WV. Upon her return to Columbus, OH, she served as a receptionist at Windsong Village, and later as a tutor at the Salesian Center and the Dominican Learning Center. Of her work with these adult learners, Sr. JoAnn said, “It is truly a wonderful experience getting to know these people, and their gratitude to the Sisters is boundless. It is humbling to see how very grateful they are.”

Sr. JoAnn was also devoted to her family. As the eldest of 6 siblings, she thought and prayed for her family daily. In her reflection at Sr. JoAnn’s funeral, Sr. Joan Franks, OP, said “I would recognize her family, as well as their children, from pictures. She was always sharing her love for them.”

Sr. JoAnn Lamantia was preceded in death by her parents, Phillip and Elizabeth (Berarducci) Lamantia, and her brother, Phillip Jr. She is survived by her brothers Anthony, Paul, and James; her sister, Elizabeth Miser, and many beloved nieces and nephews.

A Vigil of Remembrance was held on Thursday, September 28 at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel in Columbus, OH. The Mass of Christian Burial Sister was held on Friday, September 29, and Sr.  JoAnn was interred at St. Joseph Cemetery in Columbus.

Memorial gifts in Sr. JoAnn’s memory may be submitted securely online or sent to:

Dominican Sisters of Peace
Office of Mission Advancement
2320 Airport Drive
Columbus, OH 43219

Posted in Obituaries