In June, Muslims around the world observed the end of Ramadan, their month of fasting, with the holy day of Eid al-Fitr. In Columbus, a local hate group advertised that they were going to gather outside one of the mosques on this day and hassle the congregants as they went to worship. Soon, a request went out for people to make a barrier of love around the mosque, to separate the Muslim congregants from those who would hinder their right to worship.
We gathered at noon on a very hot, sunny day. I quickly found some Sisters and Associates. We waved at the Muslims as they came in, the Muslims brought us water, and the other group stayed across the street with some nasty signs. After a very hot hour, we went home.
A few days later, I was having lunch with a Muslim student of mine. She was saddened by the vitriolic language that she kept hearing. After talking about the news, I told her that there is hope, and I described the barrier of love. She was so touched to hear that these people came out in the heat so that Muslims could go to worship. She got tears in her eyes, and then she said, “Please tell them that I will pray for them always.”
May the prayers of this student combine with ours to make a world of peace.
On a recent Sunday morning, I was inspired before I even got out of bed.
After awakening and turning off the do not disturb feature on my cellphone, my phone vibrated immediately. When I checked it, I found a message from one of my cousins – she was sharing a music video.
I thought “why not?” and touched the play button. I am glad that I did!
What a message: Another Chance.
As I Iistened to the lyrics, I found myself lifting my hands in praise and thanking God for another chance – another day to make a difference in my part of the world. As I listened for a second time, I was on my feet, swaying and moving to the beat (or what some would call “getting my praise on”).
The song reminded me that even when I stumble, struggle, fall, or fail to do the right thing, I am blessed with God’s grace. It reminded me that God loves me, with all of my imperfections.
Each day that we wake up, we have another chance to do good, another chance to share our gifts, another chance to live a life of purpose.
Percy Gray Jr. and Joshua’s Troop (who rendered the upbeat, moving, joyful, uplifting song, “Another Chance,” with the help of DNell and Gerald Moore) reinforced for me the power of praise – how it invites God’s presence; how it refreshes and renews our spirits; how it puts our focus on God; how it accentuates the positive; how it is a proclamation of our faith in God; how it fills us with a sense of love and security; how it prepares us for God’s service.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace has welcomed three sisters to new stages on their journey to Final Profession.
Phuong Thuy Vu has been accepted into the Congregation as a Novice after two years of discernment and study as a Candidate. She will spend two years in the Novitiate, after which time she can request to make Temporary Vows as a Dominican Sister of Peace.
A native of Vietnam, Phuong and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 and Phuong became a naturalized citizen.
“It wasn’t until my first retreat (with the Dominican Sisters) that I truly encountered a personal God for the first time,” Sr. Phuong says. “It was during that retreat that I was finally able to come to terms with my harsh childhood back in Communist Vietnam. I realized that even though my family and I had been through so much, God so blessed us with the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Sister Phuong holds a Bachelor’s Degree in chemical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology and works in customer service and information technology for AT&T in Dallas, TX.
“I can confidently place my life into the hands of God, and trust that he will lead me to the light,” Sr. Phuong says.
Newly-welcomed Sisters Ana Gonzalez and Margaret Uche both made their Temporary Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at the July Assembly. Temporary Vows are a significant step in the journey to becoming a religious Sister, lasting at least three years. Temporary Vows also mark the point at which a Sister is identified as a member of a specific community; both Sr. Ana and Sr. Margaret are now officially Dominican Sisters of Peace.
Sr. Ana is a native of Mexico, having come to the United States when she was just 10 years old. She had her first experience with the Dominican Sisters at the Loyola University of New Orleans, from which she graduated in 2002. After receiving her Master’s Degree in Communication from the University of Texas-El Paso, Sister Ana took a long, hard look at her life.
“I had my master’s degree, was turning 30 and had been working for 10 years and was a workaholic, but felt empty inside,” Sister Ana said. “I felt defined by what I was doing, not who I was. As I searched, the question of entering the religious life began to surface. I hadn’t considered it before but recalled my interaction with talented, educated, dynamic Dominican Sisters of Peace. I could feel something in me being stirred that was blossoming and life-giving.”
Sr. Margaret, a native of Nigeria, studied nursing at the University of Houston. In 2011, she attended a retreat at the Dominican motherhouse in Great Bend, KS, where she met many sisters who had worked in her home country. “My heart knew this was the right choice for me,” she said.
“One of (my relatives at home) told me she said she spoke to a wise man who said I should consider praying about my vocation,” she continues. “I followed that advice, and my mind and heart began to open. As I met the Dominican Sisters of Peace, I became touched by their love and compassion and felt, ‘This is it.”
The two newly-professed Dominican Sisters of Peace will return to their ministries to continue working for the Congregation and for God’s people. Sr. Ana Gonzalez, OP, serves as Coordinator of International Admissions at Albertus Magnus College, a founded ministry of the Congregation. Sr. Margaret Uche, OP, ministers as a home health nurse in Western Kansas.
Sr. Ana and Sr. Margaret will be able to request Perpetual Profession in three years.
We are making rosary bracelets to promote peace. Our Sister Mai-Dung Nguyen had the idea to create these rosaries to share with the people we will meet at the Marian Days Festival in Carthage, Missouri next week. We will use them also in our ongoing vocation outreach ministry.
Each rosary contains a message in 10 letters – just the right number to create a one decade rosary bracelet. The messages are; Build Peace, Live 4 Peace, I Love Peace. etc and are spelled out with small white letter beads. The bracelets include a Cross and a medal of the Blessed Mother.
Many people (sisters, associates, volunteers) have helped create more than 600 of these rosaries. A group of our retired sisters spent several hours inserting them into small bags with a card that suggests how to pray for peace. We don’t know how many hands have touched these bracelets already nor how many more will be touched by them. What we do know is that they have already had an impact on those who’ve touched them.
When helping to make these rosaries, I discovered that it was a contemplative experience – albeit, I must admit that, at first, I was more frustrated (with my clumsy fingers) than contemplative. However, as I strung the beads and reflected on the message, I realized that to build peace doesn’t always involve grand gestures or actions. Peace is more often built one bead, one prayer, one smile and one invitation at a time.
Last week, as six or seven of us Sisters were gathered around a small table in the dormitory, where we were staying for the Assembly, we laughed as much as we prayed while assembling the rosaries, correcting misspellings, and putting the finishing touches on each one. It was an experience of the living communion of saints here on earth. No, we are not all Saints – but we are all on “the narrow way” as one of our Sisters likes to remind us. We spoke about how we build peace and of how we are challenged by those who are more intent to build division and un-peace.
Today as I wear my rosary bracelet, I have been approached by several people asking about my “pretty bracelet.” When I shared the story of this Peace Rosary and the significance of it to me, I realized that in the simple act of wearing it, I was building peace.
How will you build peace today?
Learn how God is calling you to build peace with your life by attending our next Come and See Discernment Retreat in September. For more information about this retreat or to speak to one of our vocation ministers, click here.
A friend of mine called the other day to make arrangements to get together. She told me to meet her on the corner of Nuns and Religious. Any place besides New Orleans and I would have thought she was just joking around. But, sure enough, down here such streets exist along with Ursulines and Dominican.
To the Northerner, New Orleans is another country, seductive and disorienting. To the Southerner is part of the family; a little eccentric; French and very Roman Catholic even in the midst of a very Anglo-Saxon culture.
New Orleans is celebrating its tri-centennial this year, and the connections this city has with all things Catholic are legion. Beginning with the arrival of the Jesuits in 1725, Ursulines in 1727, the Daughters of Charity in 1820, the Dominicans in 1860 (and many others) and continuing to the present with the many religious orders that joined in the recovery efforts after Katrina, the city has maintained a Catholic culture that might be hard to find in a lot of places. The people living in the neighborhood around the Peace Center are always telling us stories about the Sisters who used to live in the area and visit with them before Katrina.
Many saints and blesseds have ministered to the people here: St. Frances Cabrini, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Blessed Henriette Delille. They have left schools and medical facilities in their wake that continue efforts to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Xavier University is a Catholic all Black institution of higher learning founded by Saint Katherine Drexel, and the Peace Center has the honor of working with many students from there who volunteer in our After School program.
Even Mardi Gras has tried to honor the role of the Catholics in this town. In 2017, in honor of their 175th Anniversary, the Sisters of the Holy Family had their own float in one parade. In 2018, in honor of the tri-centennial, the Krewe of Rex provided floats decorated with figures of Blessed Henriette, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the Ursuline Sisters and St. Louis Cathedral.
In his reflection during our celebration of Consecrated Life in the Archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond shared that recently someone had said to him that religious women were a total part of the history of this city. He responded no; they had actually written the history of this city.
Is this a super holy city? Nope. Is it a city filled with evil? Nope. But it is filled with folks who have been helped by Sisters, Brothers, Nuns and Priests for 300 years and more. God is good! All the time!