Remembering Bethany and Julio this Valentine’s Day

Blog by Director of Founded Ministries Mark Butler

My first conversation with Bethany “Sage” Moreno took place during a brief telephone call. She and her husband lived in Whitehall, Ohio and she was interested in becoming Catholic. I explained a little bit about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and invited her to an information meeting we were having at Holy Spirit Parish later that month.

At that meeting, Bethany shared some of her life story with us. She was the daughter of an ordained minister and was raised in a strong Christian family in Chillicothe and Circleville, Ohio. She was passionate about the theatre and dance and taught English Language Arts for the Columbus Torah Academy. Bethany had been attending Mass with her husband Julio and heard the invitation to enter into the full communion of the Catholic faith.

Bethany’s face lit up as she talked about Julio. She clearly loved him deeply and the two of them had the promise of a bright future together. Bethany shared with us that Julio was an undocumented immigrant, but they were working with an attorney to remedy his immigration status. She told us that if necessary, she would immigrate and they two of them would start their family together in any country that would welcome them.

Bethany requested help discerning a sponsor for her journey though the RCIA. That discernment process was an easy one. I knew a woman who had gone through the RCIA years ago; someone who was also a raised by a minister in rural Ohio; someone who was also a passionate teacher, my wife Susan.

Bethany and Julio on the day of their Catholic wedding, October 28, 2011. Photo credit: Facebook

After a few weeks, Bethany shared with us devastating news. Julio had been arrested near Cincinnati and was being held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A judge had declared that Julio should be deported and transferred him to a facility in Morrow County, Ohio pending appeal. Bethany was resolved to visit Julio every week and to mail a substantial letter to him, including stories and poetry to help alleviate the lack of books at the facility, every day they were apart.

The RCIA process continued as expected. Bethany shared updates with us. We prayed with her and for her and offered to provide whatever support and assistance she and Julio needed. After the Rite of Welcoming, she asked Susan to take a photo of her holding a plush “Stitch” toy. Stitch was going to be present at all of the major steps in the RCIA process as a stand-in for Julio, with whom she would share the photos.

A week before the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, Bethany was making her weekly pilgrimage to visit Julio. It was Valentine’s Day 2015 and she wanted to spend part of it with the man she loved. On the way home from her visit, a snowsquall caused a multi-car pileup on I-71. Bethany was critically injured in that accident.

It was providential that our pastor had been asked to come to Grant Hospital to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to an injured woman brought in that winter day. He realized who Bethany was and was able to comfort Julio, who had been allowed to be with Bethany and her family at the hospital.

Bethany died two days after her accident, surrounded by loved ones. Her journey into the RCIA did indeed end with an anointing, just not the one any of us anticipated.

After her funeral, one attended by the great many who knew and cared about her, Bethany’s husband was returned to incarceration. She wanted Julio to have a safe and happy life with her in America. No part of that wish came to fruition. As his chances for winning an appeal dwindled, a brokenhearted Julio Moreno-Ledesma chose voluntary departure, leaving behind family, friends, and the dreams of a good life he shared with an amazing woman.

This is just one of many tragic stories lived by undocumented immigrants and their families. Whenever I see the news or hear the debate about immigration reform, I remember Bethany and Julio and wish this issue was viewed by Americans through the lens of love instead of fear or wrath.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Luxurious Diversity

Blog by Associate April Queener

A few months ago I attended the Midwest Mission Group meeting.  A video was shared of Sr. Pat Murray addressing the LCWR in a speech titled “Imagining Leadership in a Global Community.” One of the themes of the speech resonated deeply with me as the ministry leader of Mohun Health Care Center. The  theme was “to celebrate our luxurious diversity.”

As we took time at our table to ponder our “luxurious diversity” I heard sisters question if they were doing enough to encourage and promote diversity. The conversation went on for a few minutes as sisters asked the tough questions of themselves and the congregation. I was surprised to hear such a contrast of how I, as a woman of color, viewed the inclusion of the congregation versus the members who were wondering if they were doing enough.

I shared with the table how lucky I felt to be working at Mohun and what a rich representation of diversity DSOP created in Mohun Health Care Center. Employees of Mohun hail from Ghana, Barbados, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Haiti, Eritrea, Nigeria, Liberia, China, United Kingdom, the United States and many other countries.

Many of our employees join Mohun as their first job in the United States and we view our responsibility as welcoming them into the US and the ministry of the DSOP. We have an opportunity to learn as our staff openly shares their culture with us and one another. This goes beyond the usual “diversity day” sharing of food and clothing customs.

Our staff graciously shares with us and the residents their backgrounds, cultural norms and history of government from their country of origin. They share celebratory customs and alert us to tragedies that we may not even be aware of in our part of the world. In turn, we share cultural norms and expectations and our gratitude in working with us in this ministry. We appreciate the care they provide so selflessly. The giving and sharing of culture is unlike anything that I have ever experienced. This  environment was created by the DSOP since Mohun’s inception and we are the beneficiaries, it is a blessing.

This openness and celebration of our “luxurious diversity” has created a special time and spirit at Mohun. Over the last two years, ten Mohun employees have chosen to become Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. There is truly something unique that happens when people of different backgrounds come together for one common goal in mission.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Justice Updates – February 11, 2020

Object the Use of Landmines

On January 31, 2020, President Trump lifted the restrictions on the use of landmines by U.S forces.  This decision reverses a 2014 Obama administration ban on the use of such weapons.

Allowing the use of landmines puts countless lives at risk in areas at war or previously at war. As the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor noted in a report last year, 71% of the casualties caused by landmines in 2018 were civilians.

For further details please click on this link.

Please contact President Trump on the White House comment line by calling (202) 561-1111 or click here to send an email.

A Letter from the Border

Sister Esther Calderon has sent an update regarding the effect of the “Remain in Mexico” protocol enacted by the Administration last year. Border Patrol has been returning at least 30 people a day back into Nogales, Sonora (Mexico) with orders for these families to report to Ciudad Juarez to begin their asylum hearings.  The families must not only find a way to travel the 350 miles unassisted from Nogales to Juarez in time for these scheduled hearings, but must also find a way to survive within Mexico with little to no resources.

Human Rights First documented 636 publicly reported cases of kidnapping, gang rape, torture, assault, and other violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants returned to Mexico—likely only the tip of the iceberg. Among these were 138 kidnappings or attempted kidnappings of children.

Learn more about this tragic issue by clicking here.

Speak out Against an Unfair “Peace” Plan

The release of President Donald Trump’s long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian “peace plan” took place yesterday during a joint Trump-Netanyahu press conference. All the Israeli apartheid deniers, from Sheldon Adelson to Jared Kusher to mayors of the West Bank settlements, were in the room as Trump and Netanyahu announced a plan for even deeper repression of Palestinian rights. It has blown open the door for Israel to complete its theft of the West Bank. Congress must act immediately.

Palestinians had no say in the process. They rejected the plan in advance and have made clear that their rights, dignity, and lands are not for sale.

The plan calls for:

  • Annexing almost all of the West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley;
  • Rejecting the Palestinian right of return;
  • Carving the West Bank into swiss cheese such that no contiguous Palestinian state could ever be possible;
  • Insisting that Palestinians accept a permanent status where they have no control over their borders or their self-determination.

Speak out against “peace plan that isn’t” by clicking here, or by calling your representative.

Suffering at the Border

Norma Pimentel, a sister of the Missionaries of Jesus, and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley sheds light on human suffering she is witnessing at the border as a result of the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP). Click here for her letter to President Trump following his State of the Union address. 

Stop Trafficking

The latest issue of the STOP TRAFFICKING is now available. Please click here to read.


Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

The Joy of Spiritual (Grand)Parenting

Blog be Associate Sal Ciferno, OPA

One of the greatest honors of my life befell me late last year.

My fourteen-year-old granddaughter asked me to be her confirmation sponsor. I was taken by surprise because my remembrance of confirmation sponsors was that they were gender specific and, as such, the field of qualified female candidates in our family is vast. It may be needless to say that my answer, in the affirmative, was spontaneous.

Forthwith, we began our journey — together with my daughter and her husband. We gathered documentation, attended classes to complete curriculum, and completed service hour requirements.

The next step was the confirmation retreat. While our candidates (including my granddaughter) spent the entire day in retreat, I (along with the other sponsors) participated for about four hours. We worked on team building exercises and communication skills. One of the suggestions for the retreat was for sponsors to write a letter of support to his/her confirmation candidate.

As I began my reflection on the content of my letter, many wonderful thoughts came to my mind. I immediately recalled fourteen years of growth and maturity and realized just how blessed I and my family are. I see a loving, lovely, kind, intelligent girl with a fantastic sense of humor and I totally love the person she has become.

With these thoughts in mind, I began drafting my letter, using 1 Chronicles 16:11… “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually!” and Romans 12:9… “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” as the foundation of my message.

I began my letter by reminding my granddaughter of how much she is loved by me and her family. I expressed to her that my love for her is immeasurable and yet is nothing compared to the love God has for her (as He does for all of us); and, quoted my late pastor, Father Crumbley: “without His love we would all cease to exist.”

I incorporated 1 Chronicles by reminding her that during this time of confirmation, it is important to adopt a prayer life, because it is the fuel for love and strength. I shared with her my simple daily prayer: “bless us, keep us, make us holy”.

As I continued, I began to realize that my granddaughter walks a very straight line. Our conversations about school, bullies, mean girls, and drugs are easily accepted topics for her. She has a beautiful heart and truly cares about the disenfranchised. This is where I began to understand that my role as her sponsor is to teach and guide her in the acceptance of her spiritual life.

It is truly my belief that her walk is already in accordance with Romans 12:9 because her love is genuine; she abhors what is evil; and she holds fast to what is good.

So, as it goes in the world of grandfathers, I don’t believe that there is any prouder grandfather than I.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Who Me? Called to be a Sister?

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Dear friends, I would like to share a blog I wrote 5 years ago that I think is as relevant today as it was then.  As I begin my 7th year in Vocation Ministry, I can say that God has indeed blessed me and continues to guide me each day of my life.  Peace, Sr. June

“Who, me?”

Hi, my name is Sister June Fitzgerald and I am a Dominican Sister of Peace.  I am new to this Ministry of WelcomeTeam (aka Vocation Ministry) and am excited to have the opportunity to invite women to consider Religious Life and to walk with them as they discern their call.  I am blessed, grateful, and amazed that God chose me to do this work – actually, I am amazed that God called me to be a sister in the first place.

You see, I was not very religious growing up.  Yes, we went to church and I had all of the sacraments but, that was basically it for me.  I prayed to God when I needed something or was really sorry about something and didn’t know how to fix the mess I was in.  I even read the Bible on occasion but had a difficult time getting past Genesis.  Ever have that experience?

Then, I went to a Catholic College in Philadelphia and I had my first Catholic friends.  These people knew all of the extra prayers in the back of the missal, had gone to catholic school and had attended something called a retreat!.  To be honest I felt a little “unholy” around them but soon realized that although they’d been there and done that, they were pretty much like me.  They too were trying to make it through college, have some fun, and see the world before we settled down.  Figuring out how God might be calling me to live my life was not in the picture.

In college, I learned most of the prayers in the back of the missal and developed a personal relationship with God.  I never thought ordinary people did such a thing!  I began to pray and attend mass more regularly but, I was still unaware of the adventure that was before me.

After college I had it all figured out.  I would get a job, live on my own, meet someone, get married and begin a family.  However, a funny thing happened on the way to that dream.  God began to interrupt my days, I began to wonder what my life was all about and I found myself going on a retreat.  A retreat at the Dominican Retreat in McLean, VA with the Dominican Sisters.  Then, I began to volunteer, attend more retreats, and even to show up at the house on weekdays to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and Mass with them before I went to work.  One day, my friend, Sr. Annette Lucero, asked me, “So when when are you going to join us?” . . . “Who, me?”

That little question began a whole new journey in my life.  I didn’t know where it would lead but I knew that I needed to listen, pray, and trust God as I tried out this strange new way of life.  If I didn’t try it, how would I ever know?

Some day, I’ll fill you in on the rest of this amazing journey.  For now, I leave you with a prayer from   Dag Hammarskjold, “For all that has been, Thanks. For all that will be, Yes!”


Think that God may be calling you to consider such an adventure?  Contact us here to begin a conversation or join us on our Come and See Retreat, March 13 – 15, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio.  Click here for more information. 

Posted in God Calling?, News