Still Slavery

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Every time I think about human trafficking, I have to shake my head.  How can it be possible that in 2018, there are men, women, and children who are treated like property?  The latest number I’ve seen is that almost 25 million people are sold for sex or labor. While most of us think of trafficking as sex trafficking, 81% of individuals are exploited for labor or state-imposed forced labor. Since this is a global problem, the U.N. has named July 30th as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

Consider the story of Emmanuel and Isaac in Ghana.  Emmanuel and Isaac’s mother struggled to care for them and keep them safe. When she could no longer afford to feed her boys, she sold them to a man who put them to work on a fishing boat. This man was abusive, often hitting Emmanuel and Isaac with the boat paddle. Emmanuel and Isaac would often split one meal a day between them. The brothers were able to escape when their trafficker heard authorities were arresting people who had kids working on the boats. Emmanuel and Isaac now live with a neighbor who sends them to school.

Or Raul…  When Raul was in high school in the Dominican Republic, he jumped at the opportunity to go to the United States to continue his education. A family friend offered to be his sponsor and hire Raul in his restaurant while Raul attended school. Shortly after Raul arrived in the United States and began attending the local high school, his sponsor pulled him out of classes and forced him to work in his restaurant full-time for less than $1 an hour. The sponsor withheld Raul’s passport, threatened him, and sexually abused him. Raul was forced to live in filthy conditions in the restaurant. After an anonymous call to the national hotline, law enforcement officials raided the restaurant and arrested Raul’s sponsor.

Not surprising, the majority of victims trafficked are women and girls -70% – and shockingly, the average cost of a slave globally is $90.00. According to a September 2017 report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation, human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers. So this is big money. It will need all our vigilance to overthrow it.  On Monday, July 30, join others around the world to pray and act for victims of trafficking.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Liberation – One Heart at a Time

Blog by Associate Mary T. O’Connor

A close friend I will call Claire once confided something she had never told anyone. Claire is white, and grew up in a beautiful loving, supportive family. I had the good fortune to know her parents.

Claire enjoyed a very close bond with her maternal grandmother, who had always lived with them in the house on Maplewood Lane. He grandmother was her biggest support and celebrated every success. They were eating lunch together at home on the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Like many middle class white families in the sixties, north or south, they had a ‘domestic servant’ I’ll call Althea.

My friend heard her grandmother say to Althea, “It’s a shame that Dr. King was killed.  But perhaps it’s for the best. Things were getting out of hand. Don’t you think so, Althea?’

Althea responded “Yes, ma’am”.

My friend was bereft at the memory. She passed through the gate out of innocence in that moment with the horrible and irreversible revelation of genuine evil – in her own grandmother. She needed to cry it out, and I was happy to be a sympathetic witness and loving friend. I received her sorrow and gratitude that she could expose the pain to me.

Mixed in the sorrow was her own guilt for remaining silent at the table and for burying the memory of that day until now. She wept deeply. I guided her to the couch after she was spent and went to get us some water.

Though this conversation happened thirty years ago, it is as clear as the water I carried back to her. Though I did not have the language or the understanding of what I was praying about as I sat down, I see now it was the Holy Spirit showing up in my lived experience that gave me the grace to speak that day. I did not know Althea and would not presume to understand her life.  But I knew quite a bit about accommodation. I knew what it was to nod in accord with the ignorance and projected fears of majority culture.

“Claire, how long did you know Althea by then?”

“My whole life”, she said in a fresh burst of tears.

“So she knew your grandmother probably since before you were born?  


“Think about that.   It was completely awful, what your Grandmother said – and then to put  Althea on the spot. But put yourself in Althea’s shoes.   Althea was used to your grandmother’s opinions.  Those terrible words did not have the power over her that  it had on you.  Who knows, maybe she was not even listening?  Maybe all she heard was “Don’t you think so. Althea?” and of course Althea would say “Yes Ma’am”’ 

But even if she did hear your grandmother’s whole comment, she was used to it. She would not have expected anything other than that.”

What does all that mean, thirty years later

I am no psychologist, but if we live long enough and stay curious and willing, some wisdom will stick.  Claire’s pain was profound and completely legitimate. Honoring that pain with love and compassion was a gift.  But her guilt for remaining silent as an eleven-year-old in shock was false. Her suffering for what Althea felt was fiction.

I am not saying that she did not feel the guilt and suffering, but it was completely misplaced, and not because she was a child when it happened. We white American adults do it all the time.  She was doing something we (white Americans, of which I am definitely one) do within the context of unconscious bias.

She was “taking care” of Althea. She was assuming something about Althea that was not true.

For over thirty years, she was living under the shadow of a false narrative.

Liberation of our hearts and souls is truly an inside job, and it’s a necessary step to recognize and speak those false narratives.  But that is our work – meaning White Christian Americans.  And it’s just the first step.

We are so used to running the show, controlling the story, steering the ship, whatever you want to call it – that we cannot see how tightly we grip the wheel.  Yes, telling the stories of our recognition of personal racism, bias, stereotyping is completely necessary – but don’t ask the oppressed group for their time and energy to absorb your mea culpa.

We have asked enough already.  We have to let go of the control, to recognize that just because we are on the long global winning streak of the most goodies, we are not writing the story.

If you have recognized the darkness in you, help your Aunt Millie see it, your beloved grandmother see it, help anyone who looks like you  – with love and kindness.  Think about praying for the President instead of denying he is your president in order to look good.

The work of liberation is one heart at a time, starting with our own.


Posted in Associate Blog, News

Dominican Sister of Peace Sister Catherine (Kay) Burland, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace Sister Catherine (Kay) Burland, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace Sister Catherine Burland, OP, 84, died at Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH, on Thursday, July 12, 2018.  She was born in 1934 in New Haven, CT, the older of Helen Kenny and Francis Burland’s two daughters.

Sr. Kay joined the Congregation of St. Mary of the Springs, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, in 1953. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the College of St. Mary of the Springs, now Ohio Dominican University.

Sr. Kay taught elementary school in New York, Michigan, and Ohio for twelve years, sharing her love of learning with children in their earliest years of school.

In 1968, Sr. Kay was the victim of a tragic shooting. This injury caused her severe pain and other afflictions that affected her for the rest of her life, but she continued to support her Congregation and the people of God to the best of her ability. She served as a Volunteer and in Support Services at the Columbus Motherhouse and St. George Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, as a librarian at St. Brendan School in Braddock, PA, and as a volunteer at the Dominican Learning Center and St. Stephen’s Community House.

She continued her volunteer work after moving to Mohun Hall in Columbus in 1982. Her favorite ministry during this time was serving as sacristan at the Motherhouse and Mohun Health Care Center.  In her diligent and loving care of the vestments and sacred vessels of the Mass, she said she felt closer to God.

In a written memorial to her beloved aunt, her niece, Katie Renwaldt, admired Sr. Kay’s sense of style. Sr. Kay believed that tending to her appearance was one way to help reflect the beauty of God’s creation, and she showed a real sense of style. She was loved deeply by her family and returned that love joyfully.

Father Mike DeTemple, Chaplain at the Mohun Health Care Center, compared Sr. Kay’s service to her Congregation to the miracle of the loaves and fishes. “We can take what we have – however little it may seem and give thanks for God for it. Then we can distribute what we have to others and there will always be enough. I think this is what Kay did in her life.  Despite her own adversity and the pain she suffered for much of her life, she was always looking for ways to serve others.”

Sr. Kay Burland was preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Helen Kenny Burland. She is survived by her sister, Frances Renwaldt and her nieces, Helen and Katie.

A Vigil of Remembrance was held on Wednesday, July 18, at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse in Columbus, OH. The funeral liturgy was held at the Columbus Motherhouse on Thursday, July 19, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery.

To download a printable copy of this memorial, please click here.

Memorial gifts in Sr. Kay’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

Joining the Dance for the First Time

Blog by Public Relations Specialist Dee Holleran, who spent more time taking video than dancing at the Assembly.

As a “newer” member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace Communications staff and a relatively new convert to Catholicism (I entered the Church in 2010), I was asked more than a few questions about my reaction to last weekend’s Assembly.

The word that most describes my feelings after my first Dominican Sisters of Peace Assembly is not “different,” or “refreshing,” or even “spirited.” From the view of my own religious and life background, the word I would apply to the ceremonies and the discussions would be “inclusive.”

A little background – I grew up Pentecostal in rural West Virginia. Dancing in the spirit, delivering prophecy, speaking in tongues – these “charismatic” events were a regular part of our worship service. Seeing people dance as part of a Church service is rare for me now, but not unknown in my faith history.

Scripture study, however, was often less study and more memorization (my dad was a champion at “Bible Baseball,” where the leader read the beginning of a scriptural passage and the players complete the verse), without much analysis and application to the problems of everyday society.  The book of Revelations was a study focus at least once a year, and I grew up terrified of being left behind in the rapture we expected at any time.

I often compare the faith of my youth to the faith that I chose as a woman in my forties. And I find comparing those two faiths very much like comparing our recent Assembly to a Pentecostal tent service.

The application of Scripture within the two events is vastly different.  In a standard tent meeting, Scripture was literally quoted chapter and verse, stated as black and white regulations to be followed in fear of a vengeful God.

As a Catholic, and most notably, through the eyes and minds of our Sisters, I have learned to view Scripture more like the law in the hands of a well-educated and thoughtful jurist – a jurist who views everything through the lens of Christ’s love. Our discussion Friday, where Sisters and Associates of different races, cultures and even sexual identities, were given equal weight in a discussion of multicultural living, was eye-opening and, to me, the definition of loving inclusion.

The thoughtful application of current events to our charism presented in the opening ceremony moved my heart. We acknowledged to God that our world is broken – we looked to the Saints for ways to repair it – and we pledged to each other to make that happen. It was sad and hopeful, all at the same time.

And the dancing! Oh the dancing! As I said earlier, dancing in the spirit was a relatively common sight for me growing up, but it was completely different than what I experienced as part of our Assembly. In addition, to me, the dancing was a metaphor for the openness that was evident throughout those four days.

In the past, when I have watched a fellow worshipper dance in the spirit, it was a joyful but very personal experience, as though God were speaking to just one person and the rest of us were to observe. But as a participant in our Assembly, it seemed to me that dance was performed as a glorious gift to God, planned in such a way that, like so many other parts of Mass, everyone could take part in the offering of joy.

As Ana and Margaret danced into their profession ceremony, I watched Margaret’s brother dance on the edge of the aisle, offering his happiness to the occasion.

Sisters, associates, family and clergy twirled scarves and napkins to celebrate our new Sisters – and Ana’s brother literally boogied through the procession with his flowing banner. Others followed behind, maybe clapping, maybe just walking, but all with a look of joy and thanksgiving.

For every offering made – preaching, teaching, Eucharist – everyone was given the opportunity to participate in her or his own way. Whether we danced in the aisles, swayed in our chairs, clapped our hands or simply smiled, we were all part of the dance. And I was happy to be one of the dancers.



Posted in News, Weekly Word

Five Practices

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Have you ever attended a family dinner where you wondered if you and your siblings grew up in the same household – your view on the issues were so different from each other?

Or visited with friends and wondered if you both belonged to the same Catholic church because your understanding of living the gospel was so different?

If so, you might understand this comment by Jesus that “a prophet is not without honor expect in his native place and among his own kin.” (Mark 6:4)  Being a prophet is tough work.  Speaking on God’s behalf is not easy.

The nation – our world –  needs prophets more than ever today.  Each of us is called to speak on God’s behalf on the injustice that’s prevalent today.  So, how do we do it?    I would like to suggest five practices will help us with our prophecy work.

  1. Stay civil even when we are on opposite sides of an issue. Think of all the times Jesus was treated disrespectfully. He was asked to leave town… criticized for healing people…. called names.  During all these situations and others, he stayed civil.  He might have totally disagreed but he stayed respectful. We are called to be courageous but also civil in our prophetic work whether in person or on social media.
  2. Listen carefully. One of Stephen Covey’s habits for highly successful people is “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” It’s hard to have any dialogue when one person refuses to listen to another.  Jesus listened carefully and patiently to the couple traveling to Emmaus. Once they shared their experience, he was able to share his and open up their eyes and hearts.  I image our own Father Dominic with the innkeeper.  Surely, he listened to the inn keeper’s point of view before presenting his own.  He respected the innkeeper enough to listen to him which encouraged the innkeeper’s willingness to be open as well.  We may not agree with someone but we must listen to them if we ever want them to listen.
  3. Don’t buy into stereotypes. Stereotypes build walls and keep us from connecting with other. Look at how Jesus is stereotyped in Mark 6:3.   He’s not Jesus, the wonder worker, he’s the carpenter…. Mary’s son…..a normal Joe from the town.  He can’t possibly do all these miraculous things. And because they couldn’t see past their vision of what someone like Jesus is supposed to be,  he is not able to be truly what he was… a healer… a teacher… a prophet.
  4. Give up gossip. Gossip saps our energy and we prophets need energy to do our work.  Total waste of energy.  Jesus’ own experience with gossip in Mark 6:1-6 leads to his not being able to do much healing.  The crowd’s gossip sowed seeds of disbelief that drained his energy.
  5. Have mercy. One of Pope Francis’ famous lines is “Who am I to judge.”  It’s really hard not to judge people who seem to have such misguided opinions.  Of course, they think the same about us! But if we walk into a conversation judging the other, we will never be able to connect with them.  Being prophetic is speaking in God’s voice and our God is a merciful God.

So even though we may feel totally unprepared or, like Jesus, feel rejected in our own homes or with friends for preaching the truth of Jesus’ inclusion, openness and healing, we can’t give up.

God is sending us out as prophets to people who seem to be on the opposite side of justice issues than we are… who seem to see Jesus in a totally different way than we do. Come on… let’s support each other as prophets in a world desperate for God’s love.  God’s spirit will be with us.


(Adapted from a preaching on July 8, 2018)

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog