An Update from New Zealand

Norman Gray, OPA

It has been a surreal few days.

In my role as Operations Centre manager in several departments in Wellington’s Regional Hospital, I was notified shortly after 3:00pm by Christchurch hospital Emergency operation centre staff of the shootings and expecting upwards to 40 casualties.  As the situation was still evolving, the hospital in Wellington implemented our emergency plan.  Early on, Christchurch hospital was not sure of the number of people it would receive, nor did they know if they would be able to deal with them all. Wellington Regional Hospital was put on alert to make capacity in our ICU and operating theatres. It was about three hours later that Christchurch let us know they were coping with the 39 injured. We were put on standby.  We ended up taking two patients from their ICU, not from the shooting, but to give them space for the injured. It was not until Saturday morning that we were stood down.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I begun to process the events. Our morning liturgy was very moving, a sobering experience. This evening I attended a vigil in town with several thousand people. Another moving experience.

At Mass, before we started we are invited not to sing the national anthem, but to speak it/pray the words.

God Defend New Zealand / Aotearoa

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

At the vigil this evening, an Imam (the person who leads prayers in a mosque) prayed this prayer:

Sufi Prayer for Peace

Send Thy peace, O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting,
that our souls may radiate peace.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may think, act,
and speak harmoniously.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may be contented
and thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife
we may enjoy thy bliss.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that we may endure all,
tolerate all in the thought of thy grace and mercy.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, that our lives may become a
divine vision, and in Thy light all darkness may vanish.
Send Thy peace, O Lord, our Father and Mother, that we
Thy children on earth may all unite in one family.
– Sufi Prayer

Tomorrow is Monday, a time to connect with our very multi-cultural staff at the hospital.  There are many Muslims in a variety of clinical settings that our management team, including myself, will reach out to.

The country is stunned, dazed and confused.

The message throughout the past two days to our Muslim sisters and brothers, many who are refugees from war torn countries, is that the individual who perpetrated this act of hate is not us, but that you are us and are most welcomed.


Posted in News

Justice Updates – Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Making Peace with the Earth Lenten Activites:

This week, take time to drink a glass of water and appreciate the gift, eat a slice of bread and be thankful for those who made it possible, breathe the air and pray for all life that share this air with us.

Have you considered giving up plastic for Lent?  Kristen Hartke from NPR provides some suggestions in her Commentary: 4 Ways to Reduce Plastics and Other Single-Use Disposables in your Kitchen.

Fast and Pray.  The immigration Committee invites you to pray and fast for those with Temporary Protected Status especially those whose status is in jeopardy.  Many of these men and women have lived in the United States for many years and have children who are American citizens.  May our government find a way to give them justice.

The Dreamers are still Dreaming.  H.R. 6 –  American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 was introduced on March 12, 2019 with 202 original cosponsors. The bill would provide Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and individuals with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) with protection from deportation and an opportunity to obtain permanent legal status in the U.S. if they meet certain requirements. There are currently nearly 700,000 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, 1.6 million eligible Dreamers, 300,000 TPS holders and 3,600 individuals with DED.  For more information about the details of this bill, read moreCall your representative and ask him/her to support H.R.6.

Garden City, Kansas featured.  STRANGERS IN TOWN tells the story of how global migration unexpectedly transformed and enriched Garden City, Kansas. It brought great challenges to the community, including demands for housing, social services, education, and infrastructure. For the current students at Garden City High School, the town’s remarkable diversity is all they’ve ever known. STRANGERS IN TOWN gives new meaning to the city’s motto: “the world grows here,” and provides an inspiring view of human possibility in the face of change. Our own Sr. Janice is featured.  Click here for the link to the 31 minute film.

Support Red Flag Laws. On March 26th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Red Flag laws. These laws empower family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns when they pose a risk of using them to harm themselves or others. Whether it is gun suicide, a mass shooting, or any other act of gun violence, shooters often demonstrate warning signs before carryout tragic acts of violence. States like Connecticut, Maryland, and New York Red Flag laws have stopped potential gun crimes after warning signs indicated that the would-be shooter was a threat to themselves and to others.  After it was learned that the shooter of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting displayed prior warnings, Florida lawmakers quickly enacted a bipartisan Red Flag law.

Why are its citizens leaving El Salvador?  The National Geographic Magazine researched the root cause of why citizens from El Salvador are taking the difficult and dangerous journey to the U.S. Click here to read this compelling article.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates


Blog by Associate Colette Parker

They are us.

Those words — from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing the people killed, injured, and traumatized in the two mosque shootings in Christchurch –   should be written on our hearts and minds every time we encounter another person.

They are words of peace, love, and support.

They are words of inclusivity that reject hate.

They are words that move us from an ”Us and Them” mentality, which causes division, fear, and hate and fuels attitudes that are ultimately responsible for the unacceptable violence that plagues our world, where horrific events are gradually becoming the backdrop of daily life.

They are words that move us to a mindset of “Oneness”, which embraces the philosophy that we are all human and we all call this planet our home and causes us to see our brothers and sisters as people to be loved and respected.

They are words that give us the courage to stand for what is right in the face of wrong. They are words that give us the strength to spread love in opposition to hate.

When horrific incidents like the shootings at the two mosques in New Zealand happen, we can be quick to ask: what can I do?

I suggest that whatever you choose to do, include “checking yourself” to see how often you view various groups as different, other, or inferior. How easy is it for you to view people as an “outgroup” and have negative emotions about them?  How quickly can you dismiss people as “not my kind”?

It is no secret that we tend to be more empathetic, more forgiving, and more generous with “our own kind”.

I know that it can be a great challenge to move beyond our closed-mindedness and narrowness to a place where we see all people as part of our human family, but we can do it if we try.

We can choose to make a conscious effort to see all human beings as “our own kind”.

Write it on your heart and mind: They are Us.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Lenten Commitment as a Response to God’s Call

Blog by Sr. Bea Tiboldi

I love the feeling that Lent brings – a deeper relationship with God that comes from the prayers and from the ways we help others see the presence of Christ in how we live, love, or respond to various needs. Even though we live a life of prayer throughout the year, Lent brings a special meaning to me as we pray with the Stations of the Cross and turn our hearts to God more intentionally.

Each year, I used to set a new ‘challenge’ for myself. However, this year, I went blank each time I thought about giving up something for Lent. I decided to go online and search for some ideas. I found an article about what to give up in the light of one’s MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality. It sounded interesting.  Based on my personality-type, I was invited to give up internalizing things, and so I challenged myself to give up that one for Lent. Ash Wednesday came, and ashes were smudged upon our foreheads in the shape of a cross as a reminder to ‘repent and believe in the Gospel.’ When I was younger, I used to compare my classmates’ ash-crosses with mine. To be honest, I still look at other’s crosses and mine too. Last week, I ran into a Facebook posting that labelled and interpreted the different shapes of the “ash crosses,” as shown in the illustration below. This was a light-hearted one, instead of anything serious. I looked in the mirror and thought: “sweet, it’s not ‘The Blob’ and it’s not ‘Father’s revenge’. It is definitely a cross… I think it looks like ‘The Mini.’” Then, I started to internalize: “what does this “Mini” cross mean for me – what is the invitation here?” Then, the next thing I was thinking: “Oh, great… I’m internalizing already.”

It was God, through the action of a boy, who guided me back to my Lenten commitment.  In the evening, I read on the news online that a 9-year old student was asked by his teacher in Utah to wash off the cross on his forehead.  It was his first time receiving ashes, and it was a choice that the boy carefully made after asking questions of his grandmother.  She carefully informed him why Catholics receive the cross on Ash Wednesday, but she also added that he didn’t need to receive it because his classmates would probably ask him questions. The brave, young boy followed God in his heart: “OK, I want to wear them.” Later, the boy was asked by his teacher to wash it off.  However, the boy’s beliefs truly determined what he was about to do as he followed God in his heart and gained courage to inform his principal. [The principal, and since then the teacher, too, apologized.)

I realized that, although my Lenten commitment helps me deepen my relationship with God, it should no longer be ‘an annual challenge.” From now on, I want my Lenten commitment to be about seeking continuously what God wants of me, and to be about my response to what God is calling me to be/do, and then follow that in a way that deepens my relationship with God and that helps others recognize God’s presence and God’s love.

I love the Servant song by Sr. Donna McGargill OSM, because it inspires me to stay tuned to God and to seek continuously what God wants of me.  I especially like these lines: “What do you want of me Lord? Where do you want me to serve you? Where can I sing your praises? (…) Your Spirit stirs my deepest self (…) Fire my life with your love (…) Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord. Jesus, Jesus, you are the way.”

On this National Catholic Sisters Week, I would like to express my gratitude for all vowed religious sisters who responded to God’s call and have been singing their praises to God through their witness of faith. Their faithfulness, compassion, courage, and passion for justice inspire me day-by-day. Thank you!

As you continue this Lenten season, what is God calling you to and what is your response? If you think that God is calling you to religious life, please contact us at

Posted in God Calling?, News

Are we in a State of Grace?  Does the Holy Spirit Sit for portraits?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

These two questions are bouncing around together as I struggle with a collage about the Spirit of peace. It started with some decorative renditions of doves of peace, and these are almost complete—I’m sending a couple examples along. This labor of design has been absorbing and I’m happy with them. But I’ve been trying to find an arrangement, a background-foreground interaction to create movement in order to convey a Spirit surprising and unfettered. And it hasn’t happened. I’ve played with all kinds of letters and patterns and shapes and materials to get both “Spirit in pose” and “Spirit-on-the-fly” connected in one visual whole.

I have been at this for a whole year. This labor has at long last given rise to a revelation: I’ve been trying to make two different collages out of one. The first idea,the doves of peace, is far from the experience of Spirit that I had hoped to convey. Now it is clear: one cannot bring to vision the essence of Spirit in static portraits. The searching eye/heart must be led into blurred quickness, shimmering, gusting, blazing, cascading….

Not long ago I attended a funeral. Inside the booklet was an admonition about who was permitted to receive communion, reminding non-Catholics that they could not approach unless they were seeking a blessing, and Catholics that they had to be in the State of Grace.

Grace—a state?  As in unchanging? Stable? Something we hold carefully within ourselves, a garden perhaps, or a reflecting pool, a holy emptiness found somewhere beneath our ribs, something that needs a regular refill?

And here of course, is my Spirit-puzzle in a different dimension. Grace is not a state (apologies to Thomas Aquinas and Greek philosophy). It is impossible to “have” it or “contain” it. Grace moves in and through us, an ongoing happening, a shared adventure with others, building, bonding, giving and receiving, stretching and reaching out.

The science of the universe is a revelation of constant change in a  vastness of time and space so huge, so ancient, so expansive. Those who study the tiniest of things have discovered worlds beyond imagining on an infinitesimal scale—neurons, cells, molecules, viruses, DNA. Physicists have split the atom into tiny moving parts. The Big Bang, the beginning, was an explosive trillionth of a second, a  bursting forth of particles of energy which crashed into each other and sizzled into the basic chemistry of the universe which over billions of years became the birthing clouds of stars and the building blocks of every element of our precious earth and our amazing selves.

There is an ever-recurring mystery here. It is mobility, not stability, that underlies and supports the matter-ing we are and which surrounds us.

All is grace, suffused by grace, abounding and transforming, alive in our bodies and our communities, in every dying and blossoming anew. And moving in it all is the Spirit of Creator and Christ, that mysterious pushing and pulling and longing and yearning that throbs in our veins and erupts in our voices of praise and witness to the call of a divine Mover. And we will be carried by the grace which swirls in the galaxies and in every human heart, pledging a future whose dimensions are beyond all imagining, a vast gathering into the Christ.

I have another collage taking shape. The doves of peace aren’t going anywhere. I’ve enjoyed the process and I will finish and frame them. But this work- in- waiting demands dynamism, fire, and wind, getting into the flow. And even if I finish it to my own satisfaction, it will be so limited a conveyance of the Holy that I  wonder both why I bother and why I can’t wait to start in again. Veni, Creator Spiritus!

Posted in News, Weekly Word