Just Reflecting

Homily by Sr. Diana Culbertson, OP

Today’s first reading is from a text referred to by scholars as “Third” Isaiah.  He is the third writer on this long scroll known generically  as “Isaiah.”  This section extends from chapter  56 to the end of the  scroll (or book)–that is,  to what we know as chapter 66.    Why is that important?  The text draws from the situation at the time it was  written, and our task is to understand how it connects to our own historical and personal experience.  Language  is not spoken or written in an historical vacuum.  By the time this text was composed, the Jewish people had returned from exile in Babylon, the  Temple had been rebuilt and the idea of God’s dwelling  with them was more intense…God  is understood as present to them and through this text –present to us. And that presence calls for response. What is God asking of us?

The issue in both texts this morning is “fasting.” There are times to fast—and times to celebrate, to enjoy the goods of the earth.  But today’s reading suggests that we sometimes don’t understand what fasting is all about—giving up candy (or desserts ) for Lent  may be difficult, but it is not exactly heroic.   The prophet this morning asks us to “set free the oppressed.”   But what if we are the oppressors?    Who are those  we oppress?  –Whom I oppress?   . . . (WE—  –I’m not talking about  radical Islamists or  racists . . .we can oppress without their help. ) It is just a matter of denigrating people we live with or work with, or privately regarding another person  with contempt.  That is the kind of   self- indulgence we are asked to  resist.   We are asked to “set free the oppressed.”   That kind of effort is preferred to fasting.      How do we free those  around us whom we refuse to love? How do we free ourselves from our own self-hatred?  Giving up ice cream isn’t going to fix that kind of bad habit.

In this Gospel reading, Jesus redefines fasting.  Giving up candy is easy compared to giving up our opinions, or our hostility to another , or giving up our leisure to study  something—anything (but preferably scripture).   Lent is not about self-control (which is hard enough) but self-giving—and self emptying.  If that kind of effort is hard—and it is—we can count on the Lord’s help:  “If you cry for help, today’s reading reminds us,  “You shall call—and the Lord will answer. . .He will say to us in what may be our desperation, “Here I am!”

He is here, and in our self doubt and perhaps lack of confidence in our own capacity to love, we can call to Him. “‘Here I am’”  Is the response.    His presence among us is  the basis of our  hope and our reason to  love and forgive one another  and to celebrate—  with or without ice cream—even in Lent.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

Justice Updates – Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Are we doomed? Or can we really stop climate change? NPR interviews an energy entrepreneur, an urban planner, and a farmer who describe what it would be like to live in a zero-carbon world. It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change

What you can do to make peace with the earth during Lent.   Fast from meat a couple of days a week… from purchasing new items… from using disposable items.

Death Penalty.  This 1982 article written by Mary Meehan and published by American about Ten reasons to oppose the death penalty is as relevant today as then. Why haven’t we learned?  Check it out.

Why Boycott Wendy’s?  Read this great New York Times article about why colleges are kicking Wendy’s off their campuses.  It’s about the TOMATOES and the farmworkers who grow them. It’s also about labor trafficking.

H.R.6 Dream and Promise Act. If you haven’t done this yet, call your representative and urge him/her to support this bill. There’s more information on the Justice Update for March 19. It’s time to protect immigrants with TPS (Temporary Protected Status), DED (Deferred Enforced Departure), and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)  J.D. Long-Garcia describes what DACA recipients think of the Dream and Promise Act.

Fast and Pray. The Immigration Reform Committee invite you to pray that the hearts and minds of people who fear our immigrant sisters and brothers will come to recognize the human suffering that moves people to flee from their homes.

Shelter for Migrants. Click here for an update from the CCS Monastery shelter.

Another Border Opportunity. Sisters Rachel Sena and Esther Calderon share that Casas Alitas needs volunteers to help with asylum seekers. .

The Diocese of Tucson needs help on the Border in Yuma, AZ (4 hours west of Tucson that borders California and Mexico) where Catholic bilingual ecclesial lay ministers are working to provide services to immigrants coming through the port-of-entry of San Luis, AZ and San Luis. Mexico. This is coordinated by diocesan networks. In Tucson, the Diocesan House for immigrant families called CASAS ALITAS needs volunteers who are willing to support the medical professionals, cook, drive families to bus stations, clean bathrooms, sort clothes, play with young children, help in any capacity needed. Casa Alitas is temporarily housed in the former Benedictine Monastery, where Sr. Esther goes to lead the Rosary in Spanish, or just-be-present-to young mothers and dads with children. No Spanish Necessary…however…if you are bilingual this is a plus to minister directly with refugees seeking asylum. These children are not in schools because they are in transit to another state within days. Numbers will only increase.

Housing: 3 bedrooms available here in our CASA GUADALUPE OP Peace house in Tucson. We are open to receiving Associates or Sisters who wish to visit the Border for 1-2 week visit and design an educational program to help our OP Peace membership to consider this place as a place for short term mission placement. We will gladly work with any who would and could do this.  Collecting socks, children’s clothes for both refugees and homeless communities here in this diocese is another option. 

Contact Sr. Gemma Doll if you are interested in this opportunity.

Click here for an article from Tucson newspaper describing Casa Alitas as “sanctuary truly extraordinary “



Posted in News

What does a Come and See weekend retreat mean to you?

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Have you seen a flyer or advertisement for a “Come and See” weekend retreat posted on a campus, church bulletin, Facebook Page, or other social media platform, what is your first reaction?  Do you know what “Come and See” means and what it’s like if you attend one?

Our Dominican Sisters of Peace community offers “Come and See” retreat weekends two times per year, usually in the Spring and in September in various locations. Each retreat has a slightly different theme related to discernment or some aspect of living religious life. Last weekend, the sisters and staff at our Motherhouse in Akron, OH, joyfully welcomed six retreatants for the “Come and See” weekend retreat.  The theme was, “To Praise, To Bless, and To Preach” which is one of our Dominican mottos. During the retreat, each retreatant was accompanied by a sister for deep spiritual sharing which she might not have felt comfortable to share in a large setting.

Sr. Amy McFrederick helped us to understand that “To Praise” is to be aware and to be engaged with God’s presence within us and around us. “Praise” goes beyond traditional prayer and can be expressed in music, poetry, and physical prayer postures like “The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic.”

Sr. Barbara Catalano and Sr. Barbara Kane spoke about the motto, “To Bless” and shared with us their ministries (human trafficking, peace and social justice issues, etc.) and how they are blessed by their ministries and how they seek to bless others to whom they minister. “To bless” includes how we are blessed and how we become a blessing to each other and to all God’s creation.

Finally, when focusing on the motto “To Preach,” Sr. Mary Ann Wiesemann-Mills led us beyond the image of preaching at a pulpit to how we are to become daily witnesses of the Living Word by being fully who we are. She said we should be an event of the self-communication of God and allow God to communicate to and through us freely.

Besides these talks, reflections, and sharing, retreatants had time to observe and interact with sisters and staff during the breaks, meals, prayers, and social times. Besides praying the Liturgy of the Hours with our sisters, we participated in a Taize Prayer and a version of the Stations of the Cross that focused on “All of Creation”.

Addition to that, Sr. Diana Culbertson took us on a tour to learn about the history of the Dominican Sisters in Akron and Sr. Maura Bartel guided us through Our Lady of the Elms High School, which is one of our Founded Ministries. Our retreat also included activities such as making care packages for the homeless. We were all invited to a pizza party at one of the local convents with Sr. Amy McFrederick and Sr. Barbara Catalano on Saturday evening.

At our closing session on Sunday, each retreatant was blessed by her sister-companion and received a candle as a symbol of the light of Christ we are to carry out to the world. The retreatants also had the opportunity to express how they were blessed by the retreat. One woman shared that she has attended three “Come and See” retreats and has received different blessings each time. Another stated in her evaluation that “…you all showed me much caring, love and joy while I was visiting in Akron. God is very evident in your lives and in your ministries. I left with much to pray about and much to discern.”  A third retreatant said that even in the kitchen staff she could see the joy and peace in the way they served and interacted with each person. Several women shared that they came for clarity and that they were leaving the retreat affirmed and ‘things clarified.’

At the closing session, retreatants received candles and were blessed by sisters

I, myself, was deeply touched by the Living Word shared in each sister’s presentation and the retreatants. One of the presenters shared that during this weekend, she felt reaffirmed and blessed by her decision to become a Dominican Sister of Peace. How wonderful to hear such feelings and feedback?

Thank you to all (sisters, staff and retreatants) who helped to make this “Come and See” retreat such a success.

Please consider joining us for our next “Come and See” retreat so you can experience a taste of how sisters live out their lives in community, prayer, ministry and study. Each time you attend, you will receive greater clarification of how God is calling you.

We have other opportunities for you to discern with us, such as our monthly on-line discernment group, our mission immersion week (June 1-5 in Columbus OH), and one-on-one conversations with our Vocation Ministers.  To begin the journey, contact us here.

To view more photos from this weekend’s Come & See retreat, click here.

Posted in God Calling?, News

You, You’re Us!

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Have you followed the news last week? Terrorism has struck New Zealand, a beautiful small country that looks just like Ireland in many places: rolling green hills alive with herds of sheep.

Because I spent a month there a number of years ago, and loved every minute of the trip, I felt very keenly the pain of the terrorist attack that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.

I was struck by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s words: “You, you’re us!” when responding to the senseless violence against the Muslim community there.  She covered her head as a sign of respect when embracing a Muslim woman, while visiting those grieving people. Good people who committed no crime and who only sought a peaceful and productive life.

Her leadership in this horrendous moment is a sign of courage and strength to all of us, no matter our faith tradition. Her instinctive sensitivity to the community and courage to act to protect her citizens from harm holds up a higher way.  Good must be our response to evil. Compassion must be our response to loss. When evil seems to prevail, good must come from our actions.  Bad action must be met with good action.

The other day, the Gospel reading we prayed with was from Luke:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

In hearing it, I imagined that Jesus was aware of the laws of karma: that is, when you send good energy out into the universe, it comes back to you in some other good form.

According to the basic Sanskrit definition of karma, it simply means “action”.  Laws of karma (there are 12 of them) are all about the positive or negative valence of our words, thoughts, and deeds. In essence, everything we do creates a corresponding energy that comes back to us in some form or another.  A good action creates good karma, as does good intent. A bad action creates bad karma, as does bad intent. This concept is in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and other traditions that originated in India, and various schools in each of these tradition.

Every human heart is geared to this exchange and balance of good, no matter what tradition you come from. This is not revolutionary. Normal people want to be treated with respect and want to be generous toward others. Jesus holds up to us the basic laws of human decency and takes it further.  Do good even in the absence of good; do good even in the face of evil.

Prime Minister Ardern says to the Muslim community: You belong to us, you are us. There is no separation, we are one. Terrorism, racism seeks division, violence, and hate. Her courageous response was not to simply say, what a horrible thing has happened. She has put claim to her citizens, we are together, you are us and we will not let the evil of this act separate us from one another.

May it be so everywhere.

Posted in News, Weekly Word


Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Fifty innocent individuals were slaughtered at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday.  It was done by a self-professed white supremacist who wrote that he wanted to kill as many people as possible.  Why?

On the following day, I participated in a press conference at CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations). Each of the imams and Muslim leaders described calls and texts from children and teens in their mosques who wanted to know if it was safe to come to prayer.  They were afraid.  Why?

Later that evening I prayed Taize prayer with discerners and sisters at the Come and See Weekend in our motherhouse in Akron. As I sat in silence, it occurred to me that not one of the twenty or so women in the chapel were afraid to come to prayer. The majority of us were white and we had never experienced hatred because of our skin color or religion.  Why?

Why? Why? Why?  As Dominican sisters and associates of Peace, we must condemn the heresy of supremacy that teaches that one race, religion, or nationality is superior to another.  It is evil. It is not what the Scriptures teach. At the same time, we must also pray for conversion of heart for those ensnared by this heresy. Is this hard? You bet. It’s much easier to pray for the victims and we must do that; but, we also have to pray for conversion of hate to love.  We cannot match hate with hate.  Join me please, in prayer so that children will not be afraid to go to prayer.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog