A Day of Peace at Barefoot Schools in Zambia

After finishing her studies at Ohio Dominican University, Sister Juliet Mwaba returned to Kasama, Zambia, where she ministers at the Barefoot C.C.S..  Among the items that she took back to Zambia was a suitcase full of Peace t-shirts, which she used to help create a wonderful event at the school – a special Peace Day.

The teachers and staff at Barefoot C.C.S. talked to the school’s students about peace and invited the students to create songs and poems to celebrate with dancing and drama.

Teachers and staff evaluated the songs and poems and awarded prizes to those that they judged to be best.

The students were also invited to express, by painting or drawing, how they could create peace in their own situations. This was a special event for the children since they do not have access to paper or paints in their homes in the bush.

Each child also received a Peace shirt and the students wore them proudly.

We are so happy to help spread peace to a new generation in Zambia.

Poster for the Barefoot School Day of Peace.
A prayer for peace at the Barefoot School.
Students performed traditional dances.
Students created and performed plays and poems about peace.
Students at the Barefoot School join to sing hymns on the day for peace.
The children read scriptures about peace.
Students at the Barefoot School in their new Peace t-shirts.
Posted in News

God Is IN Everything

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Om Mani Padme Hum.

I first heard that phrase about 50 years ago in my high school English class. We experienced Siddhartha and Bhagavad Gita and more Eastern literature, but this phrase has stayed and gives pause when I hear it.

It seems there are different translations of it, and maybe even spellings of it, but the one that catches me now is “God is IN everything”.

Do I really believe that? If I do what does it look like in the day to day? Well, it could mean that I don’t help the homeless person on the corner because God would want me to or because I was taught to love my neighbor; but because God is in that person just as much as God is in me. It could mean that in order to truly live a life of compassion, I can’t hate or kill based on ignorance or fear or my own self, because by doing any of those things I am dishonoring God in my self but also God within the person or creature I am harming. I cannot pick and choose who is a good person and who is not because all have God within them.

As I look around at the situations in our present world on so many levels, it really is difficult to say that God is within all things because there is so much going wrong; somehow I am seeing that it is because I have continued to only see God within those who live according to my standards. How much am I missing when I fail to acknowledge that God is within, that “God is IN everything”.

Posted in Weekly Word

Witness: Tornillo and Target: Homestead*

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

When we were in El Paso, we visited Tornillo, a tent city that housed unaccompanied and separated children ages 13-17. At its peak, it held around 2,500 children. It closed down while we were there and most of the children were united with their sponsors. Some of the children, however, were sent to another camp in Homestead, Florida which has become the focal point for efforts to eliminate child detention.  Homestead is the largest of the child detention centers and unlike others, is run by a for profit organization and does not have state oversite.

There are numerous reasons why children are held in detention. If they are separated from their parents, come alone or are with an aunt, uncle, cousin, or brother instead of a parent, they are defined as unaccompanied and put in detention. The large number of children in detention was largely due to an administration policy to require every adult in the sponsor’s household to get a background check instead of just the sponsor. Not surprising, some adults refused to get them and the children remained in detention.  That policy has now been rescinded.

There were 3,000 children separated from their parents during the zero tolerance policy of this administration. 2,737 have been reunited but there may be still more children who were separated before the court required the administration to track them and since the ruling to stop separating children.  There is no way to know how many children this represents. Even though this policy of separating children has been banned, over 100 children have been separated since June 2018. Some children may never be reunited with parents or family because there is no way to find the parents who have been deported or the children were given into foster care.

Because Homestead is a “temporary” or “influx” shelter on federal lands, it is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare – only a loose set of Health and Human Services guidelines.  The concern for advocates is that Homestead is a for-profit organization and it is in the best interest of the owner – Comprehensive Health Services, a division of Caliburn International – to house as many children as possible as long as possible (an average of 67 days) with the least amount of services. The time of stay has increased to 89 days during 2019.  This arrangement is also a way to get around the Flores Settlement that limits the amount of time a child may be detained to 20 days. Another downside of keeping the children so long is that if they are in detention when they turn 18, they are immediately taken into ICE custody and deported.

Examples of reduced regulation occur in healthcare and education. In regular children’s shelters, Health and Human Services (HHS) requires a 12 children to 1 clinician to provide mental health care. At Homestead, it’s 20-1. Other detention centers require an educational component with certified teachers. There are also no certified teachers providing any educational programs and the superintendent of schools for the Homestead area has not been contacted.

Currently, HHS spends about $775 per child per day at Homestead. This is compared to other facilities that cost around $276/day. Comprehensive Health Services has been issued state licenses for three permanent shelters in South Texas to hold 500 migrant children for the government.  In an IPO filing last fall, Caliburn International stated that the administration’s “border enforcement and immigration policy…is driving significant growth” for the company.

This problem is only going to grow.  In January, the Customs and Border Protection collected over 5,000 unaccompanied children. As of the middle of February, there were 11,500 children in HHS custody, down from nearly 15,000 last December but nearly 80% higher than the year before.  A bill was recently introduced in congress called the “Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act” (H.R. 1069). This bill prohibits HHS from maintaining and opening any more emergency shelters. This really is an unacceptable situation.  Children need to be with family not in shelters.

*Facebook Group for those wanting to close Homestead

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Dominican Sister of Peace Marcia Fleder

Sr. Marcia Fleder

Dominican Sister of Peace Marcia Fleder (Irene) (91) died at St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, OH, on February 17, 2019.  A native of Steubenville, OH, Sr. Marcia was born in 1928 to Adella Grabaskas and Frank Fleder. She entered religious life in 1947.

Sr. Marcia earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from St. Mary of the Springs, now Ohio Dominican University, in Columbus, OH.

Sr. Marcia’s ministry reflects her love of young children and her delight helping them love to learn. She began teaching First Grade in 1948, and continued teaching young children for 45 years. She taught at schools in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, and was chosen to open the St. Jane de Chantal Parish School in Chicago. She considered this one of her greatest works, and looked back on that time fondly. She also taught at St. Mary’s in Lancaster, St. Thomas in Zanesville, and St. Janes the Less and St. Gabriel’s in Columbus, all in the Columbus diocese, and Holy Rosary in Steubenville, OH.

Sr. Marcia also trained altar servers in the various parishes in which she ministered. She was delighted to have trained the first female altar servers at Holy Rosary Parish in her home town of Steubenville, OH.

After she retired from teaching, Sr. Marcia continued to minister to the people of the Holy Rosary Parish as a volunteer at both the church and the local convent. She was a welcome visitor to the sick, taking Communion to those who were unable to go to Mass. She also assisted with the sacristy and acted as a lector. Her volunteer work continued at the Mohun Care Center in Columbus, where she served as assistant sacristan and coordinated bingo for Mohun residents.

In her preaching, Sr. Mary Joel Campbell remembered Sr. Marcia as a woman with a beautiful simplicity of soul.  “She knew where she ought to be,’ said Sr. Mary Joel, “and she had no desire to be more than she seemed.”

Her 71 years of service to the church concluded with her ministry of prayer and presence at the Mohun Health Care Center.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Frank Fleder and Adella Grabaskas Fleder, her brothers, Frank and Charles Fleder, her half brothers, Rev. Peter Grabaskas and Stanley Grabaskas. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Marianne Fleder, nieces and nephews.

A Vigil of Remembrance was held on February 21, 2019. The funeral liturgy was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel on February 22, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery by Egan Ryan Funeral Home.

Memorial gifts in Sr. Marcia’s memory may be sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr. Columbus, OH 43219 or submitted securely at oppeace.org

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

Posted in News, Obituaries


Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Did you hear about the police officer who got caught on video playing with dolls?

If you didn’t, you missed a heartwarming story.

It goes something like this: Corporal C.B. Fleming — a 15-year veteran of the South Hill, Virginia Police Department — responded to a report of a gas leak at an apartment complex. Once first responders determined that the area was safe, Fleming took the opportunity to play with some of the neighborhood children.

Video footage shows Fleming laying on his stomach on the ground, playing dolls and talking with two young girls.

The woman who captured the video (identified as the mother and aunt of the two girls) lauded Fleming as a community “superhero” who took the time to help the children feel safe by interacting with them in a positive way (Fleming could also be seen in the video coloring with sidewalk chalk and talking with two young boys).

Fleming, of course, said he was just doing what he should.

“When I got into this job, I knew there was something different, other than just writing tickets and being the bad person all the time … I figured if I could be that bright spot in someone’s day, then that’s all that mattered.”

Fleming said he hopes his actions, and those of his fellow police officers, will lead to real change in police and community relations. In fact, according to his police chief, Fleming was doing what comes naturally for him – building authentic relationship with people in the community where he serves.

Can you imagine what would happen in our world, if each of us strived to be “that bright spot in someone’s day” and worked to build authentic relationship with the people we encounter each day?

Posted in Associate Blog, News