Becoming a Dominican Sister

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

The process of discerning religious life is an exciting journey!

In the journey of becoming a sister, there are several significant phases of initial formation. In my ministry with the Dominican Sisters of Peace as Coordinator of Formation, I have the wonderful opportunity to journey with women in the various stages of formation until they make perpetual profession. I do this in concert with other Sisters who serve as formation mentors, community members and guides along the way.  Whether a woman has just entered as a candidate or has become a novice or has taken first vows, each distinctive stage of her journey is unique.  Each stage deepens her self-knowledge and her understanding of the call, the congregation, and her relationship with God. I love being a part of this wonderful process.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting our Dominican Sister of Peace novice, Sr. Phuong Vu.  Sr. Phuong is part of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) in St. Louis, Missouri and shares this novitiate experience with a Maryknoll novice, Sr. Rolande Pendeza Kahindo (the Maryknoll congregation is part of the Dominican family).

Phuong and Rolande are mid-way through their novitiate year. The novitiate year is a very busy and special year of immersion into deepening the understanding of the four pillars of Dominican life: prayer, community, ministry, and study. The novices also connect with the wider Dominican family and interact with novices from other religious congregations who are in the same place in their journey.

Celebrating this mid-year mark in the novitiate and sharing some of their experiences with members in congregational leadership and with formation representatives is an annual event for every novitiate group at the CDN. I remember well doing this during my own time in the novitiate over 13 years ago. This year as a formation representative, I was blessed to be present for this wonderful sharing by novices Phuong and Rolande as they did their group presentation about their time at the CDN.

In their sharing, Phuong and Rolande spoke about how blessed and grateful each felt for all that they have learned and experienced. They spoke of how loved and supported they felt by their communities, from their CDN co-directors and from the extended family of sisters and the Dominican family. They spoke about the wonderful learnings they have acquired from their studies that include theology, preaching, the vows, human development and conflict resolution—to name just a few. They talked about learning to live in a diverse community and about the skills needed for good community living, especially good intercultural community living. They spoke about the rich prayer and reflection day experiences that helped support them as they engaged in ministry as tutors/mentors in an economically challenged school.

Phuong and Rolande also shared about what challenged them and about times of fun and laughter. Their presentation spoke volumes about how they are integrating their learnings during this grace-filled time of their canonical novitiate year.

Finally, Phuong and Rolande collaborated on creating a beautiful ritual as part of their presentation.  They helped plan the Mass where the entire group celebrated together.  And celebrate we did, with drums, shakers, spirited singing and preaching.  Each novice played an essential role in the Mass, from Phuong being a lector and writing the intercessions to Rolande breaking open the Word with us with her preaching and leading us all in a Congolese inspired rendition of the Our Father. We were all so very proud!

Walking the journey with women who desire to live religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace is a blessing.  Being with our novices who will help carry on the Dominican tradition fills me with deep gratitude and hope for the future.

I invite you to enjoy some of the pictures from this wonderful event that I was privileged to attend.

I also ask you to continue to pray for our novices at the CDN, Phuong and Rolande, as they continue to journey into this grace-filled year at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate.

Perhaps hearing this story about Phuong and Rolande’s journey stirs something in you and makes you think about religious life.  If so, I invite you to contact one of our Vocation Ministers to explore what being a Dominican Sister of Peace might be like for you.

Peace.

Posted in God Calling?, News

From the Border

Blog by Sr. Norah Guy, OP

Having spent only two weeks in El Paso at the border and by no means an expert on the historical or political underlying events that have led to what is now a crisis of humanity, I am sharing this brief reflection on where my heart is at this time.  I am back in Boston now for less than one week and am still trying to unpack all of what I saw, and especially what I felt and still feel about the trip.

As background, the crisis at the border in El Paso, as I now understand it, was precipitated when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency released roughly 400 immigrants who were stranded at El Paso’s Downtown Greyhound bus station late in the day on December 23, 2018.  No notice of this release was given to city or county leaders.  The local government was naturally unprepared and overwhelmed by this situation.   The refugees themselves were just lost.  Most, if not all, were non-English speaking, had little money and were carrying all their belongings in clear trash bags.  They were also holding close to their hearts or bundled on their backs, their children, infants, and toddlers.

The mayor of El Paso was desperate to find help and reached out to a well-known Catholic justice activist living in El Paso, Ruben Garcia.  Ruben immediately set out to contact every church and organization in the area as well as local business leaders, food distributors, and medical personnel.   The response was tremendous and the outpouring of help and support on that December evening was remarkable.  All the newly released refugees were fed, and most, but not all, were placed in temporary housing locations that night.  Ever since that night, the mantra of Annunciation House has been that “No refugee will be left on the streets.” I would add to that statement that, “All refugees will be treated with great dignity, compassion, and love,” because that is what I experienced as a volunteer.

As you read in Joye Gros’ blogs, we prepared breakfasts and lunches and helped to find a change of clothing from bags and boxes of donations. We also made hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to send along with the refugees as they headed by bus, train or plane to their new homes in America.

Joye, JoAnna Magee, OPA, and I lived in El Convento, owned by the Sisters of Loretto.  The convent housed women religious and associates from many congregations and communities from all over the United States.  Although we were all serving in different centers and did not gather each day when we did meet it was a time to share our experiences good and not so good. Most days it seemed that we would be able to have a good laugh at ourselves and someone in the group would be able to share a really happy story about their ministry that day.  One of the sisters dubbed us “The Sisters Gray Brigade.” And you know what?  That was an honest description of who we were.

The other part of the story was told by the refugees themselves.  They were held in detention cells with as many as 17 others, sleeping on the floor with only a blanket to cover them. They were given a glass jar to use for a toilet, and semi-defrosted burritos to eat. These men, women, and children were held in these conditions from 4 to 7 days before being released.  While in the holding centers each adult was fitted with a very large ankle bracelet so that they could be located at any time.  The bracelet was so big that many of the refugees had to cut the leg of their pants in order to change or remove their pants.  Before leaving the border detention center, the refugees were warned not to remove the ankle bracelet.  If they did, they would be arrested, deported and would never be allowed to enter the United States again.  When questioned about how long they were to wear this bracelet, the answer was consistent, – “I don’t know.”  I wondered as I watched them walk around the center with this large ankle bracelet if it was a deliberate way to make people they would meet along the way feel uncomfortable and cautious around them.

When the refugees were finally released from the border detention center, they were transported to our center in large white buses driven by a uniformed border guard and with a second armed border guard riding along with them.  When they came off the busses, they were silent, queuing up and just waiting to be given directions as to where they should go and what they should do.

All of the refugees were tired-looking; the face of a group of people who had just been worn down.  Many of the adults and children were not well.  Colds and stomach issues were common.  Several of the children came to the center with such high fevers that they were taken to the local children’s hospital for immediate treatment.  Other children who were less seriously ill were seen by a local doctor who generously volunteered his services and fitted them into his office schedule.  Thank God JoAnna Magee was with us.  She helped so many who needed her expert nursing skills and was able to diagnose the case and advise what was needed to help people just to feel a little better.   Headaches, sore throats, cuts, colds, and lines of waiting patients became her daily ministry.

To be honest with you, when I close my eyes, I can still see the faces of many of the hundreds of people I was honored to serve.  I think once they knew that they were safe and would be going “home” to family, some of the anxiety and perhaps even the fear they felt, was somewhat diminished.  At least that is my fervent prayer.

My struggle with what I saw and experienced remains with me because I deeply feel that our government leaders have by their actions, wounded the very integrity of what our country has always stood for.  When people are seeking refuge from hatred, brutality, and political abuse, I believe we as Americans should not add to their suffering and fear but embrace them and hold out to them a hand of welcome and a promise of freedom.  For me, I think it may take some time to be able to have the same depth of pride and the feeling of joy that I have had in being an American.

I know that immigration is only one issue among many urgent issues that must be examined in our country and in the world today.  I am grateful to the Congregation that I have had the opportunity to begin to prayerfully reflect on one of these issues, the Immigration crisis.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

The Power of ONE Word

Blog by Sr. Rosemary Loomis, OP

It could have been a disaster. One word would have corrupted the project. But it didn’t happen – thanks to an honest conversation.

Last year, I wrote a children’s story featuring female white squirrels and the life skills the mother teaches her daughter. All generations of these albino squirrels were called Whitey. The story itself is not flawed; however, the original title was. You see, I had called it “Lessons from Whitey.”

During a massage with Adrienne, my African-American therapist, I mentioned the story and its title. I noticed a definite change in touch when I said the word “Whitey.” I immediately told her to stop and to tell me what had just happened – and yet, I already knew because something also changed for me. She knew that the title was based on the name of the squirrels, and still found it to be very offensive to her and to all African-Americans. And so, we talked. It was an in-depth and wonderful conversation about racism.

“If you were to see this title in a bookstore or library, what would you do?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t touch it, let alone open it, and would probably ask the owner or librarian why they had the book in their children’s collection,” she answered.

Instantly I had the new title: “Lessons from Mama.“ “This title would pique my curiosity about the lessons Mama had to teach. I would definitely check it out,” she said excitedly. I gave her the manuscript to check for any other possible offensive or confusing words, and happily, she found none. It’s interesting that I had been questioning the title for several months, feeling that it might be greatly misunderstood. Adrienne confirmed my suspicions. “Lessons from Mama” was saved!

We often talk about the power of words. They can build up or tear down; they can reveal or conceal; they can offer hope or intimidate. It’s why we have to choose our words carefully. We make choices with our words – and I chose to change ONE word, which has made all the difference.

Lessons from Mama will be available from SisterRosiesBooks@oppeace.org in March 2019.

Posted in Just Reflecting

A Labor of Love

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I intended to write about another subject this month, but I did not have enough time to do the research it would require, and I just was not “feeling it”, so another time….

Instead, I write about what I am really feeling— and that is a great excitement and gratitude for completing a project we started three years ago. This week, we launched the electronic edition of “Dominican Praise, a Provisional Book of Prayer for Dominican Women”.  It is a new e-book edition of the Liturgy of the Hours, which was first published in 2005 by eight Dominican congregations in the US.

It was a project with every reason to fail. We had many moments when we could have given up in the face of naysayers, software glitches, tedious, monotonous work, anxiety about whether we could actually do it and worries about whether or not anyone would actually want it. (Ok, we could not imagine anyone not wanting this book). Here we are now at the launching pad, the countdown is complete and the rockets have fired. For the next few months, word will get out and we hope that many Dominicans will discover this beautifully-written treasure.

In addition to the acknowledgments of the many sisters previously listed in the 2005 original edition of Dominican Praise, I want to express my deep gratitude to a number of sisters and lay partners who carried this project for many months amidst other responsibilities and demands. In particular, I want to thank the members of the Mission Advancement and Communications Office of the Dominican Sisters of Peace who worked on this in a number of ways. Ashley Apollonio created the electronic edition from original digital files, designed the cover, and other innumerable contributions. Ashley is responsible for the look and feel of the book and in many ways, this was her baby. Ashley, we are so proud of your work!

Alice Black, Ph.D., OPA, tirelessly shepherded the electronic conversion software requirements and found ways around obstacles, roadblocks and errant software code. Mary Ellen George, OPA, helped to proofread. Sr. Honora Werner, OP, Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, NJ, made sure the chant markings were correct, a tedious labor of love. Sisters Judene Lillie, OP, and Denise Bourgeois, OP, helped clarify some copyright permissions.

My role was to keep the project moving, seek and acquire copyrighted reprint permissions, and provide the guidance and leadership needed to bring it to completion. Tom Henry edited and enhanced my video tutorials and polished them to an attractive shine. Finally, we are indebted to the Leadership Team who gave invaluable support and encouragement to everyone who collaborated in its completion.

The electronic edition of Dominican Praise offers up the beauty and soaring language of the psalms to new generations and new Dominican audiences. It makes the original edition accessible in a new and broad way and our hope is that members of our English-speaking Dominican community will find inspiration in its pages.

The Dominican Praise e-book is available for Android and Apple devices on Kindle through Amazon.com. You can use it on a tablet, iPad, or smartphone. Font sizes and styles are adjustable, bookmarks, highlighting and other Kindle features make it easy to navigate. Be sure to use the tutorials at www.oppeace.org to know how to find your way around the book.

Enjoy!

Posted in News, Weekly Word

A Series of Blessed Encounters

Sr. Joye Gros, OP is currently on a 2-week mission serving refugees in El Paso, TX.

In 2014, Diego Fares, SJ, wrote THE HEART OF POPE FRANCIS:  A NEW CULTURE OF ENCOUNTER.  He described how Pope Francis called for a culture of encounter.

How ‘Gospel’ of Francis. Francis not only speaks of this but he demonstrates it.  He not only calls us to preach this way of living the message of Jesus but challenges us to live it by our actions.  His iconic words are more than metaphorical.

As Joanna Magee, Norah Guy and I approached this two weeks of ministry at the border, Francis’ Gospel challenge rang in our ears.

It was easy to be overwhelmed by the crowds (they arrived by the dozens each day).  However, we tried to make each encounter personable.  Sometimes it was helping a family pick out fresh, clean clothes.  We rejoiced when the garment not only fit, but was an item that matched their tastes.  One 3-year-old girl found a pair of pink sneakers that she wanted – but they didn’t fit (Remember Cinderella?).  Mom, however, found white ones that did fit, sparking a tug-of-war that I sympathetically (and wisely) let mom handle. It was a moment of encounter!

When other responsibilities allowed, we met the people departing the buses and arriving at our shelter with a warm handshake and a welcome: “Bienvenido” or “hola”.  It was in the eyes….the warmth and the welcome.  A moment of tender encounter!

There were two trips when Norah and I brought children and parents to the Emergency Room.  Nurse Joanna trusted them to our care and received them when we returned.  A moment of encounter!  When dad and baby were preparing to leave, they came to say goodbye and ‘Muchas Gracias.’  A moment of grateful encounter!

Though I could speak only minimal Spanish and ‘medicaleze,’  I bonded quickly with two young moms with sick babies as we sat in the doctor’s office.  The next day we celebrated the effectiveness of the meds – their babies were so much better.  Then we got to ‘shop’ for sweaters for their children.  We even found jackets for each mom!  We rejoiced in common language-smiles, cheers, and clapping.  A moment of celebratory encounter!

Posted in News