Wednesday’s Word

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

The happenings of the past few weeks, multiple layers of wars and weather tragedies and political  machinations, find me with a cramp in the load-bearing muscles of body and spirit. How does a Christian, a Dominican, possibly live with and respond to the heavy clouds that bear down on us individually and corporately; how do we pray, how do we lift our voices in a Holy Preaching that brings truth and hope, how do we live and proclaim the Gospel of Peace?

Some of us have devised escape strategies, trying to ease our frustrations and anger and their contagion—we cut back on our daily dose of news and commentaries, and try to keep our conversations from “going there.” Some of us follow it all with that impulse for finding and telling the truth, though contending with the temptation to freeze into a particular focus and its blind spots, or the trap of over-righteousness. Some try to channel our energies to what action we can take, donating, writing letters or calling politicians, volunteering to drive,  to collect, to distribute flyers. We are brought to prayer, all of us, all the time, because a million voices call out for help and solace, for the basics of human life taken from them by weather, by war, by dehumanizing treatment. And as Dominic showed us, we pray as we weep and mourn in sympathy and solidarity: Have mercy on us, open our hearts, hear our prayer, save your people, forgive and transform us.

Decades, centuries, millennia of history have told us that ridding the world of “problem people” has proved to be horrifying and disastrous. And we know in and through Christ that God loves and holds precious each and every person. We hear today that  Jesus in Luke’s version of the “sermon on the mount” actually stood on the plain, stood level with them and among them and us (he said “You” ) and told the poor and beaten down and mourning and persecuted that God chose them and blessed them, even the very worst of them.  No wars—no horses and chariots, no arrows, no guns, bombs, or missiles—no walls or barriers or ghettoes or prisons or concentration camps—are part of God’s ardent arsenal of love.

There is a story that comes from the tales and sayings of the Rabbis. The Hebrews have passed through the Red Sea. The horses and chariots of Pharoah have gotten mired in the mud and drowned in the returning waters. On the other side, there is elation, singing and dancing: ”God, Our God, has saved us from our enemies!”  And as the festivity goes on  God comes to the one who is to lead them into the Promised Land, Joshua, and asks him, ”Why are you so merry? Why do you celebrate the deaths of the Egyptians? Don’t you know that they are also my children, beloved to me?”

In Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, nor national nor ethnic boundaries, nor political parties, nor skin color. No caste or class. In this time of division and destruction, we respond most authentically as we try to fathom the largeness of the Heart of God, the vast breadth and depth of God’s embrace. And that we are part of it.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Justice Updates September 10, 2019

The Season of Creation began on September 1st and lasts until the Feast of St. Francis on October 4th.  It is an interfaith effort around the world to help us appreciate the gift of our world.  Here is a prayer that you can say throughout the season. If you would like daily ideas for living out this season of creation, click here.

Creator of Life,

The Earth is full of Your creatures, and by Your wisdom you made them all. At Your word, the Earth brought forth plants yielding seed of every kind and trees of every kind bearing fruit, the waters teemed with swarms of living creatures of every kind, and world was filled with every kind of winged bird, walking animal, and creatures that creep upon the ground.

Mountains, plains, rocks, and rivers shelter diverse communities, and through the changing seasons Your Spirit renews cycles of life.

During this Season of Creation, open our eyes to see the precious diversity that is all around us. Enlighten our minds to appreciate the delicate balance maintained by each creature. Inspire us to conserve the precious habitats that nurture this web of life.

In the name of the One who came to proclaim good news to all creation, Jesus Christ. Amen.

What do you think is the most important life issue today?  Daniel P. Horan of NCR makes the case that it’s Climate Change.  He writes, “Global climate change threatens every life now and poses an existential danger to the very condition of the possibility for future life on this planet. If we are called to be moral agents guided by a seamless garment approach, as I believe we are, then climate change is the body on which such a garment hangs. The preservation of particular human lives is predicated on the future of the planet and delicate ecosystems on it that make life possible at all.”  To read more, click here.

Climate Strike. Students around the world have been leaving school to bring awareness of the climate crisis we are experiencing and which will definitely impact their futures. This movement was started by Greta Thunberg  (see her video here).    Now they want us to join them.  Why should we join them?  Read why in: “If A Kid Says Help, You Help’: Adults Urged to Join Upcoming Global Climate Strike”  Climate strikes will occur all over the country on Friday, September 20th.  You can find a location here.  Several of the Motherhouses will be hosting events at their sites.  More information will be coming soon.

Sr. Janice Thome shares her insights in  “Voices from Southwest Kansas: Immigrant Perspectives.” This 18-minute video, was produced as part of a broader study of Southwest Kansas’ Food and Farm System by the Kansas Rural Center (KRC). Southwest Kansas is a sparsely populated, largely agricultural economy set in a semi- arid climate, fueled by water from the Ogallala Aquifer. It is also home to some of the country’s largest grain farms, livestock feedlots, dairies, swine confinement facilities, and beef processing plants. The region has a long history of immigrants from Mexico and other Central and South American countries, plus a number of other countries around the globe. (The Garden City School District in Finney County has reported up to 29 languages spoken in the school system.)

What a World Without Prisons Could Look Like?  A TED Talk, featuring Deanna Van Buren, who designs restorative justice centers that, instead of taking the punitive approach used by a system focused on mass incarceration, treat crime as a breach of relationships and justice as a process where all stakeholders come together to repair that breach. Van Buren creates dynamic spaces that provide safe venues for dialogue and reconciliation; employment and job training; and social services to help keep people from entering the justice system in the first place. Watch her TED Talk.

Priscilla Alvarez of CNN reports on a report from the Health and Human Services explaining the trauma experienced by separated migrant children.   The report provides another snapshot of how the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the US-Mexico border affected children — this time, from some of the staff tasked with caring for them. The policy, which ended last June, resulted in the separation of thousands of families.

“According to program directors and mental health clinicians, separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated,” according to the report, which reviewed the mental health needs of children in HHS custody. You can read more here.

What do the new rules for children of U.S. Military and Employees working abroad mean? Another assault against immigrants.  Read about it here.

How is gun violence impacting our teens? Read their powerful words In the Shadow of Gun Violence


Posted in News

The Pan-Amazonian Synod and its Challenges

Blog by Sr. Mary Ellen Bennett, OP

The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region will take place in Rome from October 6—27, 2019. Its topic:  Amazonia:  New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.  I’m interested in this Synod because it will address grave issues of these times:  ecological disasters caused by unregulated and unauthorized development, exploitation, egregious violations of human rights, and the dignity of vulnerable Amazonian and Andean indigenous communities.

The Amazon Basin, roughly the size of the contiguous U.S., with a population of 2.8 million, divided among 400 tribes, includes all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname.  It includes the world’s largest tropical rain forest covering 21 million square miles, and is unmatched for its biodiversity and influence on the health of the entire planet.

Currently, climate change and the increase in human intervention – deforestation, fires, and changes in the use of land – along with forced population displacement and pollution, are putting its ecosystems at risk, exerting pressure on local cultures, and driving the Amazon to a point of no return.

The key discussion points for the Synod will be:

  1. The threat to life in the Amazon region by environmental destruction and exploitation.
  2. Systematic violations of the fundamental rights and traditions of the indigenous people such as the right to land, self-determination, and prior consent.
  3. Possible suggestions for greater access to the Eucharist in a region with few priests. (This point is covered extensively elsewhere)

Challenges to be examined by the Synod are:

  1. The concept of “development” projects is questioned, especially concerning who benefits and who suffers violence.
  2. Certain industries are called out such as mining and logging, hydro-electric dams, large-scale agriculture, conservation projects which are more concerned with protecting ecosystems than human and territorial rights, the criminalization of and violence against people who protest these projects.
  3. Drug and arms trafficking, corruption, violence against women, forced migration, and the exploitation of indigenous people and their territories.

The Synod will reflect on system challenges that require holistic solutions such as “integral health”.  This recognizes that human health and the health of other species are deteriorating because of extractive industries (industries that remove product from one country to sell in another such as deforestation or mining) that introduce new diseases, toxic exposures, and deforestation.  Everything is related to everything else because all exists as one living being, e.g. when we subject a forest to mining, the water becomes contaminated, the animals become homeless, the health of human beings is damaged, and ultimately, communities are fractured.  Nothing is done in isolation; every action has repercussions on everything and everyone.  Clean water, air, food, access to gathering, hunting, and fishing are named as essential to integral health, as is access to indigenous and traditional medicine.

The commitment to caring for the earth and defending the human rights of its inhabitants can be dangerous.  Some political leaders in the Amazon Region (and probably their sponsors in the U.S.), view the Synod as an attack on their sovereignty.  Even a Catholic bishop has called it pagan.

Many people who defend the Amazon face serious threats.  Currently the members of CIMI (The Catholic Church’s Indigenous Missionary Council) are in hiding for fear of their lives.  The number of martyrs in the Amazon is enormous.  The church must support those who risk their lives for others, and remember its martyrs, among whom are women leaders such as U.S. born Dorothy Stang, SSND who defended the land rights of the poor and was assassinated in Brazil in 2005.

The Amazon Basin is one example of situations that are common to many areas of our planet.  We look forward to learning from the Synod for Amazonia about ways to balance technology, consumption, ecology and human rights.

In writing this blog I relied heavily on the following resources, and am very grateful for the material:

Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns

Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns Newsletter 7/19.  “Synod for the Amazon:  What to Expect”

National Catholic Reporter.  6/28—7/11/19.  “Amazon Synod Document Raises Possibility of Married Priests” Catholic News Service:  Junno Aocho Estevens

REPA–Pan Amazonian Ecclesial Network

CELAM—Council of Latin American Bishops

In July 2019  The Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns launched a series of 2 page bulletins titled:  One Amazon Many Voices at

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog


Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Is social media a good thing or a bad thing?

I’m pretty sure that there are as many answers to that question – on both sides – as the number of people you ask to answer it.

I think that social media, like many things in life, is what you make of it.

For me, social media is a way to connect with people. Those connections often lead to positive outcomes for me.

That actually happened yesterday. I was feeling a little discouraged and with the little energy that I had, I opened Facebook on my phone (hoping to find some “good” news being shared).

The first thing that I saw was a quote posted by a friend. Those words gave me relief and hope:

God always has something for you,
a key for every problem
a light for every shadow
a relief for every sorrow
and a plan for every tomorrow.

Those words reminded me that the joy of the Lord is my strength!

As human beings, we experience ups and downs as we journey through life. During those “down” times, we can often find encouragement in places we may not expect – like on social media.

Just like a smile can brighten someone’s day, a positive message shared on social media can lift someone’s spirits.

How do you use social media? Whether you use it or not, do you think that it is a good thing or a bad thing?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Dominican Sister of Peace Eleanor Unrein

Eleanor Unrein, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace Eleanor Unrein, of Great Bend, KS, 91, died at the Great Bend Infirmary at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse on August 25, 2019. She was born in 1928, made her First Profession in 1945, and served God’s people for nearly 75 years as a Dominican Sister of Peace.

Sr. Eleanor earned her RN and a certificate in Psychiatric Nursing from St. Rose Hospital in 1951. She completed postgraduate courses in Obstetric Nursing at the same facility in 1954, while serving as a nursing supervisor in Kansas City and Garden City Hospitals. Later in her career, she also became certified as a Chaplain, better to serve both the bodies and the spirits of her patients.

Sr. Eleanor was dedicated in her ministry to the sick in Kansas and Colorado, serving as a nurse, a nursing instructor, a nursing supervisor and a pastoral care counselor. She especially loved caring for babies in her obstetric ministry.

Retirement for Sr. Eleanor did not mean slowing down. When she returned to the Great Bend Motherhouse at the age of 77, she stayed busy. She was an active member of the Pilgrim Servants Study Group, an archival assistant, and an enthusiastic community volunteer. She also enjoyed celebrating with her Sisters and attending reunions of her large extended family. Even in retirement, she continued her ministry of care by witnessing the peaceful deaths of some of the Great Bend Sisters.

In her preaching at Sr. Eleanor’s Vigil Service, Sr. Renee Dreiling, OP, said “Long before we did our study on racism, Sister Eleanor was always inclusive. Her ministry included Caucasians, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Laotians, as well as Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and Buddhist patients. She treated them all with love and respect.”

Sr. Eleanor was preceded in death by her parents, four brothers, and three sisters.  She is survived by a brother, Tim Unrein, and a sister, Sister Charlotte Unrein, and her community at the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

A Vigil of Remembrance and the Mass of Christian Burial were held on August 27 and 28, respectively, at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse in Great Bend, KS. Sr. Eleanor was interred at the Sisters’ Resurrection Cemetery.oppeqace

Memorial gifts in Sr. Eleanor’s memory may be submitted securely online or sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Drive, Columbus, OH 43219.

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

Posted in Obituaries