Sr. June Engelbrecht offers comfort in New Orleans

A butterfly perches on its release envelope at a memorial service at North Oaks Hospice. Sister June Engelbrecht serves as a bereavement counselor at the facility.

“Is that Maw Maw,” Kingston Hilliard asked as Lacey Norwood, a program assistant with North Oaks Hospice, knelt to give him a better view of the painted lady butterfly perched on top of its release envelope. Much to his delight, the butterfly seemed to linger before fluttering away.

The butterfly release culminated a memorial service, hosted on Aug. 18 by North Oaks Hospice, to remember 89 former patients.

Hospice is a special kind of care given in the home that provides support in a sensitive manner for patients with life-limiting illnesses. The North Oaks team focuses on the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the patient and emphasizes the importance of the patient’s quality of life.

“People around the world see butterflies as a symbol of endurance, change, hope and life,” explains North Oaks Hospice Manager Courtney Ridgedell.

Held in the E. Brent Dufreche Conference Center on the North Oaks Medical Center campus, the annual event is a special time for families to come together through song, prayer, scripture, remembrance and fellowship, according to Sr. June Engelbrecht, bereavement counselor with North Oaks Hospice.

Along with the butterfly release, soloist Darick Selders sang “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away,” and Chaplain Tyrus Wells and Bereavement Counselor Sr. June Engelbrecht of North Oaks Hospice read from Psalm 23 and Ecclesiastes respectively. Engelbrecht also offered words of encouragement by reading from the children’s book, Waterbugs and Dragonflies, which was written by Doris Stickney to explain the transformative state of death and dying to young children. Another highlight was the reading of each patient’s name and presentation of a framed photograph to each family of their loved one by North Oaks Hospice Nurses Trenice Coleman and Jane Frederick and Certified Nurse Assistants Carolyn Haynes and Elaine Varnado.

For the family of Margaret Dantzler, the ceremony was a time to celebrate the life of their matriarch. Those in attendance included: one of her three daughters, Betty Jones; two of her six grandchildren, Ikea Jones Hilliard and A’Trey-U Jones with Berlashiya Ruffin; and three of her thirteen great-grandchildren, Heiress Hilliard, Kingston Hilliard and Adalee Jones.

She loved that her grandson, A’Trey-U Jones, was a defensive tackle on the Louisiana State University football team. She delighted in going to his games and was known for having a room in her home decorated in purple and gold, as well as a liking for dressing in LSU’s colors.

“She was a great caregiver,” Betty Jones affirms. “Now it’s up to us to continue her legacy of caring for others.”

The North Oaks Hospice team enjoyed sharing remembrances of the late Margaret Dantzler with her family at the annual Memorial Service held Aug. 18. From left are: (first row) Trenice Coleman, Ikea Jones Hilliard, Heiress Hilliard, Lacey Norwood, Kingston Hilliard, Betty Jones, Ty Wells, June Engelbrecht, (second row) Berlashiya Ruffin, A’Trey-U Jones, Adalee Jones, Jane Frederick, Courtney Ridgedell and Patrice Pellittieri.others.”

After her diagnosis with terminal ovarian cancer, Dantzler chose to receive care at home from North Oaks Hospice. It was a choice made without hesitation, as the family had relied upon North Oaks Hospice twice before. The first time was for Margaret’s mother-in-law, Fannie Dantzler, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s in 2008 at the age of 92; and the second was for Margaret’s husband of 47 years, Shelton Dantzler, who was lost to prostate cancer in 2012 at the age of 67.

“With my grandmother and father, the North Oaks Hospice team served them and us well – from managing not only their physical, spiritual and emotional needs, but also ours,” Betty Jones adds. “There were no ifs, ands or buts about bringing in North Oaks Hospice to care for my mother and see us through her loss.”

Margaret Dantzler was a hospice patient for two months before her passing on Nov. 20, 2017 at the age of 69.

Although Margaret’s passing was more than nine months ago, the North Oaks Hospice team continues to follow her family through the agency’s bereavement program, which provides support for one year following each patient’s passing. Engelbrecht makes routine calls on the family, and group counseling and special events, like the memorial service and memory tree during the holidays, also are offered.


Posted in News

What’s Your Story?

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Stories are an important part of our lives.  Early on, our parents tell us stories about our birth and introduce us to bedtime stories that comfort, teach, and delight us.  Through storytelling, whether oral or written, we learn about the world, we unleash our imaginations, and discover ideas and possibilities for transforming ourselves and our world.

Stories can be inspirational, fictitious, realistic, historical, or biographical.  Stories can be humorous or serious, factual or imaginative, visual or textual.  Stories can connect us or separate us.  Stories also have the power to influence us to take action on matters of conscience or they can leave us feeling powerless about our options to eradicate personal or societal concerns.  Stories may be about the preyed upon or about uplifting endings resulting from those who have been prayed for.

Stories can challenge and enlighten us.  We may hear stories that make us uncomfortable, that expose our prejudices, and that articulate a different point of view from our own way of thinking and feeling.  Or, we may hear stories that give us hope, that invite us to broaden our perspective on an issue or event, that  reveal truths that we’ve hidden from ourselves or others.

Jesus was the consummate storyteller.  He told stories in the form of parables to impart lessons and principles for living a compassionate, purposeful life. He used images and characters from everyday life to communicate his message.  Jesus’ stories focused on empowering people to take action, often on behalf of the marginalized or forgotten ones.  Countless stories are recorded, of course, in the Bible about Jesus, about his life and his teachings so that he and his messages would be remembered.

Everyone has a story to tell.  In my elementary school years, I was always fascinated by stories and wanted to become a writer of children’s stories.  I remember sending for a writer’s kit and submitting a story to an organization that evaluated your potential as a writer.  The feedback I received was positive and though I did not pursue a career as a creative writer, I did work for many years as a technical writer.

What is your story?  What joys and sorrows have shaped your life?  Who are the people, places, and events that elicit cherished or unforgettable memories?  Sharing our stories can be self-affirming, healing, and a way of connecting with and understanding ourselves and others.  Your story is an important piece to the whole story of humankind.  Let your story be told.

If you want to share your story of how God has been present to you and of how God is calling you to consider religious life, our Vocation Ministers are eager to listen and to help you discern this call.

Posted in God Calling?, News

A Lay Person to the Church Leaders: You Have Let Us down!

Column by Carolyn Woo, former president of Catholic Relief Services

The McCarrick breaches and the Pennsylvania DA report of criminal child sexual abuse by the Church drew anger, disgust, sorrow, disappointment, and sadness for the “collateral damage.” I think of the priests who made God’s love real for my husband David and me, bishops who stood up for peace and justice, and the many colleagues who labor daily with sacrifice and joy in difficult ministries.  I want the Church hierarchy to know that collectively it has let us down, diminished our work, and made it that much more difficult to serve. And they did it in God’s name and our names.

My heart breaks when parents asked why they should send their children to Catholic schools.  The question does not seek an answer as it is an expression of their anger and loss of trust. I read in disbelief of  Archbishop Viganò’s claims that constraints placed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict were undone by Pope Francis.  I saw no constraints as I and many others participated in numerous public events of worship and ministry officiated by McCarrick in the Benedict years. To hijack the abuse of children for the purpose of settling personal grievances and further demonizing gay people is a new low.

I have served on a couple of sexual abuse review boards and can vouch for the strict protocols and safeguards implemented to prevent future incidents.  We must continue to be watchful as no mechanisms are perfect.  The PA reports, however, shed light on the flaws of our current approaches. Let me name three.

First, the focus of most efforts is on prevention with the desire to put the past behind us.   Yet the victims cannot just erase the past and undo the consequences of the abuse. The past stays with us in the suffering and ravage lived out everyday by victims.  We must own this past, give an account of what happened, and acknowledge our failure. A church that embraces confession as a way back to God cannot at the same time endorse the protection of deep, dark, deadly secrets against God’s children.

Second, it is very clear to me now that the way we think of victims is transactional in nature with a good dose of caution by lawyers and insurance agents.  We support victims with payments for counseling services and compensate them with monetary settlements to close the case, silent the voice, and remove the person from our conscience.  We did not think of them as family, people under our care and whose lives we plundered.  We have offices to administer the process, but not sufficient pastoral commitment to seek forgiveness and heal the soul.  Now we wonder why victims are still angry, still hurting.

Third, the Catholic Church appears to run on “self-governance.” After forty years of observing and administering organizations, I conclude that self-governance is an oxymoron.  Our pledge to “accountability” and “transparency” is about responsibility to the “other”: the people we are supposed to serve, the stakeholders affected by our actions, the parties that support us. It is their voices, needs, concerns which must drive the scope of and methods for achieving accountability.  Self-governance holds on to the power of the hierarchy to define that agenda.

Governance in the Church is wrapped up with ordination. What are the assumptions and premises which underlie this coupling? It is time to re-examine this embedded practice to build a more faithful Church, a more inclusive community, and an engaged laity capable of living the joy of the Gospel. It is our church: let us rise up for what needs to be done.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Dominican Pilgrimage, July 2018

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller

Who is a pilgrim or what is a pilgrimage? What does a ‘sacred place’ mean?

Most of us like to travel—some to experience something new or different; some to retreat of a place for quiet reflection close to nature; others look to re-acquaint   with family relatives and friends. To my surprise my July pilgrimage: Deepening the Dominican Spirit fulfilled all three desires as I indeed entered into the sacred places of Fanjeaux and its surrounding areas where Dominic walked, ministered and was challenged. Dominic became alive as a compassionate, loving human being whose life’s journey in listening, learning and responding to issues with prayer, dialogue and community resonates to our needs today.

Dictates and military might do not overcome human conviction.  Personal relations combined with dialogue grounded in truth eventually reach into hearts and minds. As we gradually were immersed into the spirit of Dominic in the troubled times into which he was thrust, we saw that in the life of Dominic the truth of reality was always unfolding, expanding in order to understand and respond in compassion to the errors of his time. For Dominic it was human persons who required education, respect and understanding of their issues if errors in perspectives of God and behaviors were to be changed. Our visit to and climb of Mount Monsegur where 500 Cathars took refuge to withstand French military assaults was a vivid testimony to the futility of brutal force to convert the inner strength of human conviction—even if by death by fire on the stake.

Our world is also in transition as we have forgotten our human oneness in diversity.   Individual power and status twists our perspectives of God and life as we seek to dominate this earth. How do we strive to meet the injustices perpetrated through migrations, trafficking, use of fossil fuels, earth’s pollution, ignorance and ideological stubbornness? Words may inspire; living justly in charity and “treasuring voluntary poverty” brings about change. We are all pilgrims in the   spirit of Dominic, seeking ways to bring the people of God to the Good News of God’s ways.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Serving Good Causes Bigger Than Ourselves

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick, OP

Last Thursday, August 30th, about midday, I had a flashback. I saw myself walking into the Dominican Motherhouse in Great Bend, Kansas, with eagerness and not just a little trepidation, to begin my journey into vowed religious life as an Aspirant—about to join 23 others entering  the same day. That was 62 years ago to the day, and nine of these 24 women continue living into the journey today as Dominican Sisters of Peace.

In those days, we began as Aspirants for about 3-4 months, then graduated to Postulants for about 6 months before becoming Novices for 2 years, Temporary Professed for 6 years, then Perpetual Profession until death. At the close of our initial 2-3 year formation process (focused more on prayer, study, and community), vowed life ushered us into living on mission, using our gifts in ministries to which each was called/sent.

Anniversaries, as well as transitions, tend to stir up significant memories, feelings, life reviews. Looking back over the 62 ensuing years, I felt gratitude fill my heart. Recalling how God has led  our community (and me) to ways and places to serve the greater good—far beyond what I could ask or imagine—and to leave behind the narrow confines of our limited self-concepts, all I could say was THANK YOU to God and to my Dominican Community! My life has been so blessed!

So that same day when I came across Senator John McCain’s final statement in which he expressed his thanks to his “fellow Americans, and especially his fellow Arizonans” whom he gratefully served for sixty years, I resonated with his feeling that he was the luckiest man on Earth. Attributing his satisfaction to his loving family and his beloved America, he added:

“To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.”


How true! ‘By serving good causes bigger than ourselves,’ by allowing Love to find full expression in us, we become all that we were created to be. Bearers of God, Images of God, designed for happiness.

Posted in Associate Blog, News