A Holy Week Reflection

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George

As I reflect on what Jesus went through on Palm Sunday through Good Friday, I have a number of questions. What must it have been like for Jesus to go from being met with adoration on Palm Sunday to dying on the cross by Good Friday? How could he utter the words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” after he was nailed to the cross and in agony?

I wonder if Jesus recognized that the cross he was carrying on Good Friday was ultimately a gift he was giving to the world.  How often do we see that the cross we carry can also be a gift?  Life is full of paradoxes and parables.  By carrying his cross, Jesus shows us that suffering can be transformative and does not have a forever hold on us.  Jesus put his trust in God and his death teaches us to TRUST that God will be with us in our darkest hour. His resurrection teaches us to have FAITH that our lives have meaning and a purpose.

Jesus’ death and resurrection also encourages us to trust that there is always HOPE and newness after difficult times. Think about your life. What moments have you experienced where you rose from the ashes of desolation? How have your experiences moved you to a deeper sense of compassion for others?

May our questions lead us to seek a deeper understanding of Jesus’ life and bring us to a closer relationship with our loving God.

What cross do you bear?  What gift is embedded in the cross you carry?  Are you willing to take up your cross and share your gifts with others by serving God as a religious sister?  Are you ready to answer God’s call?  If so, contact one of our Vocation Ministers to begin the journey of becoming a Sister.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Holy Week Right in the Back Yard

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

I have written about life in our backyard from time to time, and Holy Week offers another chance to notice the connection between the way we look at the world and the way God sees it.

Actually, full disclosure up front, I’m not a fan of Lent. If it were up to me, we would have one 24-hour period of repentance (not 40 days) at the beginning of Holy Week. Something like the day of Atonement in Jewish tradition.  Forty days seems like too much emphasis on repentance, and not enough on the other half of that coin – Easter Resurrection.  I think it comes from my Philadelphia Catholic upbringing that focused on the “Jesus died for your sins” approach. As a young girl, I could not understand the logic of that approach: when I was not even born yet, Jesus died for my sins, so why was it my fault? I think this is the heart of Catholic guilt. You are to blame even if you weren’t there. And sometimes it takes a lifetime to see it differently.

But I digress.

Every living things knows the dying/rising cycle. I see it in our back yard all the time.  Trees know it. Finches who were once grey and brown, come back to their brilliant golds and yellows. Snow drops and daffodils come back, because they know dying and rising. The grasses, the bees, the hummingbirds, the rose bushes. All know.  They do not focus only on dying or only on rebirth. Winter does not say, “I am more important.” Spring does not say, “I am number one.” Nature is in balance. There is a season for each, a time for each. One leads to the other in an exquisite rhythm.

There is a balance and a beauty in the Holy Week drama when taken as a whole, when we see the complete story, the epic story from beginning to end (which is actually another beginning). So this year, I encourage you to be sure to take it all in as one beautiful, even theatrical, performance of Love.

In Act 1, Jesus prepares his followers for the long journey ahead without his physical presence by giving them the Bread of Life on Holy Thursday, teaching them servant leadership and forgiveness of sin. On Good Friday, Act 2, Jesus gives himself over to misguided and fearful men, in a time of moral and ethical corruption and social chaos. A self-sacrifice without assurances of a happy ending or a last minute rescue.  In Act 3, the fallow waiting of Holy Saturday mimics the dormancy of the winter earth and the quiet time of expectation, of the hidden and mysterious working of God. The bursting forth of the Risen Christ in Act 4, reflects the explosive power of Spring, when all of nature awakens. All of life is changed and God unites our story of salvation with the story of creation.

So when you watch the back yard come back to life, remember that every blade of grass, every bumble bee and songbird is God calling out to you: Alive!

Happy Easter

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Making Peace with it All

Blog by Sr. Jane Belanger, OP

Making Peace seems like an effort.  It appears as if we have to pull opposing forces together and try to get them to shake hands.  It assumes that opposition and even strife are inevitable.  If we want peace, we have to somehow reconcile things—daunting work. And, it is a tough world out there:  survival of the fittest; dog eat dog; loggers vs. spotted owls; clean energy vs. jobs.  Yet that is the kind of binary, either-or, winner-loser thinking that is not at all what the natural world offers us to contemplate.

When we humans use words, we have to break an experience down into little parts to explain what we mean.  When we are in the natural world, our senses experience everything as a whole: sounds and smells, tactile impressions, visions close up and distant all coming into us and we are adding our own selves to the reality.  We are not humans “on” the Earth, we are beings of the Earth.  We owe our in-breath to the plants and they accept the gift of our out-breath for their growth.  We share DNA with every living thing and our bones carry the minerals spewed by the explosions of stars.  Not at some early dawning of creation but here and now.  Whether we realize or acknowledge it, we are inextricably connected to everything.  As John Muir wrote:

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Muir wasn’t just being poetic; he was being scientific.  It is as true on a molecular level as it is on a biological level, as it is on the spiritual plane—as if those realities were somehow distinct!  One of the results of our Western philosophical heritage is that we are not holistic.  This has influenced our science, education and even our religious thinking to break everything down into its parts and examine them as if each were a distinct and un-related object unto itself.  We miss the deeper—and now scientifically measurable—truth:  it is all connected.

So air and water, soils and plants, mountains and the creatures enfolded in their vast ecosystems are a whole.  They cannot exist in isolation, nor can we exist without them.  Our souls need thunder to realize how small we are.  Our minds need to be expanded beyond our ability to comprehend to glimpse the magnitude of reality.  Our hearts need the tender unfurling of a spring blossom to taste what love wants to express.

If we want to “make peace with the Earth,” it cannot be a part-time diversion from the “real” work of “making a living.”  Besides, we do not make our living, we receive it as a precious gift.  Our living is contingent upon so many other beings.  We are called to be far more than “good stewards of Earth’s resources” as if the splendor of the Universe were somehow a bank account that we must spend wisely.  Let’s turn that thinking around to recognize the oneness of all that is. Let’s be attuned to the sacred revelation that speaks far truer and eloquently than words.  Let’s breathe in the gift of life and breathe out the thanks of our own gifted life.  Water that is sacred will not be wasted or polluted or sold.  Soils teeming with nutrient rich microscopic organisms need not be blasted with deadly chemicals.  Yes, what we do to Earth, we do to ourselves.  We need to love ourselves far better than we may have yet known how to do.  Then we will indeed be at peace—with all that is.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice Updates – Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Pray and Fast.  “Do not be afraid: I know you are looking for Jesus…” (Matthew) Give us new eyes-give us new understanding-give us courage and new HEARTS to live in loving communion with those escaping from violence and poverty.

Lenten Action.  Commit to reducing your personal carbon footprint.   Wash in cold water… buy your next clothing item at Good Will… drive one fewer trip… reduce food waste.  Check out these articles about reducing carbon footprints. Top 20 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint and  35 Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint .

How has racism impacted U.S. Immigration? This week, Network explains that the U.S. has a long history of discrimination against new immigrants. “Examining the history of immigration in the U.S., as well as the laws and customs that changed over decades, illustrates how ‘whiteness’ was manipulated to serve the purposes in power and how ‘White’ was as much as privileged legal and economic status that needed to be protected as it was a racial identity.”   What is your or your family’s experience with this type of racism? Read more.

ACTIONS:  Tell Congress:

H. R. 6 Support the Dream and Promise Act! The newly-introduced Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) would provide long-overdue, permanent relief and a pathway to citizenship for recipients of TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). It would also go further than DACA by providing much-needed protections to all Dreamers, rather than the narrower subset of DACA recipients. Call or email your representative today.  If you email, go to the Network website. They have customized the message based on whether or not your Representative is a cosponsor of this bill. So email your Representative now to thank them, or encourage them to support!

H. R. 508 Earlier this year, Representative Joyce Beatty reintroduced the Trafficking Victims Housing Act, H.R. 508 which would require a federal study to be conducted to assess the availability and accessibility of housing and related services for victims of trafficking who are experiencing homelessness and those at risk. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services and is awaiting further consideration. Let your representative know that you support this bill.












Is this a budget we can live with?  The budget of a city, state, and/or nation describes that organization’s priorities. Many believe that it should reflect the needs of its citizens. People of faith might consider it a moral document that should reflect the responsibilities of government to protect those most in need.    Examining the budget released by the administration gives a clear indication of what’s important to President Trump.

The newly released budget contains another massive five percent increase in the Pentagon budget, while slashing spending for human needs, diplomacy and infrastructure by five percent across the board.  31 percent would be eliminated from the Environmental Protection Agency, 12 percent from the Department of Education, 16 percent from Housing and Urban Development, and more.

There’s $9 billion in the Pentagon budget for “emergency requirements,” widely understood to augment the $8.6 billion explicitly in the budget for the border wall. Part of the military’s increase will also go toward the wall.

Who will feel the impact of Trump’s budget? In addition to the soldiers and civilians killed and wounded in our wars, and those made refugees, we all do. Think about the lack of affordable housing, crushing student debt, immigrants rounded up and detained in military-style raids, people who go hungry in our land of plenty.

Do you benefit from white privilege? Utah Jazz player Kyle Korver believes that it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.

The administration has threatened to cut funding to Central America. The NY Times describes some of the poverty-reducing programs that this foreign aid is funding. Contact your senators and urge them NOT to reduce this aid.

The End of Empathy?  If we ever hope to have peace in the world, we need to be able to connect with the “other.” Hanna Rosin writes about the End of Empathy in which she describes that the “new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your enemies, but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team. And empathizing with the other team?  That’s practically a taboo.”  It that what empathy means to you?  Read about this here.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Young People – Our Hope in the Fight for Justice

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Remember Flint?

Yes, that city in Michigan where lead-poisoned water began flowing into homes in 2014, after officials switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure.

Well, nearly five years later – despite the Michigan governor’s declaration in April 2018 that water in Flint is safe to drink and the bottled water program was discontinued — the public-health crisis still exists.

A news report published last week revealed that there are roughly 2,500 lead pipes that still need to be replaced in the city. The projection for completing the work to ensure clean water for all Flint residents is sometime in 2020.

But the lasting effects of the lead poisoning are expected to be ongoing (developmental delays, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, premature births, mood disorders, difficulties with memory and concentration, etc.).

Amid this distressing news are reasons for hope, including an 11-year-old girl named Mari Copeny, aka Little Miss Flint. Three years ago, the young activist wrote a letter to President Obama, prompting him to visit Flint to get a first-hand look at the life-threatening water crisis. Subsequent to his visit, President Obama signed off on $100 million in funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system.

Since then, Mari has raised more than $350,000 to help empower children (in Flint and beyond) to know that they can make a difference. Mari is proof that you are never too young to advocate for change.

In addition to founding the Dear Flint Kids Project, which asks people from across the globe to send letters of encouragement to children in Flint; distributing backpacks and school supplies to Flint students; and bringing clean water to the people of Flint, Mari is fighting to overcome education inequalities, including the unequal distribution of academic resources.

It is apropos to highlight this young activist today (April 15) – the day that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was born in 1960 at Shaw University in North Carolina to challenge segregation. SNCC (pronounced “snick”) furthered the goals of the civil rights movement by empowering and organizing young people to challenge injustice on their own terms.

SNCC, which organized sit-ins and freedom rides, demonstrated that young people, like Mari, have the power to further the fight for justice.

The fight is not over – Remember Flint.

Posted in Associate Blog