Love and Hope in the Time of Corona

Blog by Associate Michelle Gray

It has been six weeks since Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued the “stay at home order,” which coincided with my daughter’s diagnosis as a “suspected” case of the coronavirus.

A week into her bout with illness, I caught her “suspected” case. We remained in quarantine for the requisite 14 days. My husband is working from home, but both daughters have been furloughed from their jobs. My job, as a florist assistant and delivery driver, awaits me once we’re given the all clear. I won’t say sheltering in place has been easy, but it hasn’t been that difficult.

Whatever we had — corona or not — we weathered it well, with no lasting effects. And during our quarantine, when we could not leave the house, family, friends, and neighbors let us know they were just a phone call away. In fact, when we got dangerously low on TP, my aunt and uncle drove over and left a pack on our front porch. All of this felt a lot like love.

To be clear, I understand that some people are suffering financially during this crisis. I get it. I understand the disappointment of students missing out on proms and graduations. I get it. What I don’t understand is the people who want to flout all caution; who carry guns to statehouses to demand it is their right to expose themselves to this virus if they so choose. Yes, they might survive the virus, but they might carry it to someone who won’t. This I most certainly do not get.

With all this as a backdrop, my mind keeps going to the stories of two people who were teenagers in the 40s. You probably have heard of both of them: Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel, both Jewish.

Their stories, while horrifying, give me both hope and courage for this current crisis.

Frank, her sister and parents, and four others spent two years in hiding in a secret annex in her father’s business. The Franks were captured and Anne died of typhus in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp just weeks before the Allied liberation. She was 15 and missed more than prom night. And yet, in the diary she kept while in hiding, she wrote: “…in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” This, from a child who knew she was hiding from people who literally wanted to kill her.

Elie Wiesel was 15 when he and his father were seized by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz, and then marched to Buchenwald. Wiesel survived the holocaust and wrote “Night,” a deeply personal and candid recollection of his horror in the camps. One story has stayed with me, and while it haunts me, it gives me hope and courage. During the winter march, the prisoners dropped and died from the cold. Arriving at the next camp, the men were crowded into a single barrack, “where the dead were piled on top of the living.” It was then Wiesel heard the violin. It was Juliek, a boy who played in the Buna Orchestra in Warsaw. Wiesel wrote: “Never before had I heard such a beautiful sound. In such silence. …it was as if Juliek’s soul had become his bow. He was playing his life…his unfulfilled hopes. His charred past. His unfulfilled future. He played that which he would never play again.” Wiesel fell asleep to that sound. When he woke, Juliek was facing him, dead, with his trampled violin next to him.

If a young boy, in the midst of the most terrifying chapter of his life, and our history, had the courage to create, then I can find the courage to face anything.

I will close by sharing this poem, written by retired U.S. teacher Kitty O’Meara on March 16, 2020.

And the people stayed HOME.
And read books, and listened, and rested,
And exercised, and made art, and played games,
and learned new ways of being, and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced,
some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.

 And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant,
dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
he earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images.
and created new ways to live and heal the earthy fully,
as they had been HEALED. 

And, you know, it feels a lot like love to me.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

What is Earth Asking From Us?

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica that “It happens sometimes that something has to be done which is not covered by the common rules of actions.” (Q51. Art.4)

Just think about the past, in many religious congregations, the archives tell the stories of how sisters responded to the needs throughout history – whether it was responding to educational needs due to the rapidly growing population during the settlement movement, caring for the medically ill or orphans during wars, or persevering in pushing for more just laws and in working for a more peaceful world.

Fr. Bryan Massingale gave an excellent presentation about “Courage for an Interim Time That Does Not Yet Know Its Name” at a conference for Catholic Religious Formators in October 2019. Little did we know how different life would look like in just a few months. In his presentation, Fr. Bryan shared this thought: “When the rules don’t work, gnome [pronounced as gnohm-eh] is the imagination and creativity in the face of the new and unprecedented. (…) It is the ability to move into the new without nostalgia or despair; trusting we have the ability and capacity to reason well even in the face of the unknown.”

This is certainly a time when we need to use our imagination and creativity in the face of the new and unprecedented. People seem to be more compassionate and caring these days. Lester Holt, journalist and news anchor, highlights a kind act at the end of the daily news. First responders, nurses, cleaners, mail carriers, workers at grocery stores and gas stations, they all go beyond their job descriptions and risk everything to respond to the needs and demands of their communities. People smile and wave to each other as they pass by one another during a walk in the neighborhood. Stuffed animals peek out the windows to entertain children with a ‘scavenger hunt.’ Children draw Easter greetings, inspiring messages, or messages of gratitude on their sidewalks. Seniors learn how to use FaceTime, or Zoom, or Skype, just to be able to ‘be’ with their loved ones who are receiving chemotherapy. Many of us picked up a new ‘skill’ of sewing masks, and then donated them where they were most needed. As companies run out of time making plastic covers for the masks that are in high demand, children stepped up to design and print 3D masks for doctors and nurses. Parishes provide Mass online and offer other ways to be present virtually for their parishioners spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

One of our retreat houses donated beds, bed frames and linens to an overflow facility for a hospital. Sisters in the medical field continue to be there for those they serve. Sisters in their 80s and 90s sit long hours to sew masks, other Sisters deliver groceries and meals on wheels to those in need, others learned how to teach online so that their students can earn their degree without a delay, others listen to those who need someone to talk to, others offer virtual retreats, and the list could go on. Preaching the Love of God is happening in so many ways.

It is, however, not what we do, but how we are open to God’s Spirit and how we communicate God’s love, hope and peace in our hurting world. Easter season is a time when we reflect on the love, hope, and peace that God offers. I would like to inspire you with a quote by Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP: “All the resurrection experiences testify to hope born amid loss and pain. Hope emerges in the power of God breaking forth in new imaginings and new energy. Beyond grief the disciples discover it is possible to love again, to trust that one is forgiving, to get on with life, to invest new energy in the people and mission that have been entrusted to them. The details of the stories of impasse for the original disciples differ, but in each case the Spirit of God brings about what appears to be impossible.”

We are all called to discover new ways how to love, to trust, to get on with life, to invest new energy in the people and mission, and allow the Spirit to guide us in the midst of all these challenges.

How is the Spirit calling you to be ambitious, compassionate, daring, and creative in the light of the needs of our times? In which ways are you called to share God’s love?

After praying with these questions, if you are interested in discerning God’s call to religious life, please contact us at vocations@oppeace.org.

Posted in God Calling?, News

A Reflection by Sr. Ellen Dunn, OP

In these precious hours of time on our hands, day after day, there is a unique opportunity at our individual doorsteps. I’m just now waking up to it in a new way. Mindful of our scriptural preparation for pre-chapter and Chapter 2021, I have been reading about Ruth and Naomi, about Mary and Elizabeth. Since I feel that I can understand the Visitation story better than Ruth, I recently decided to think about my time here in Mingo Junction as time spent in companionship with Mary and Elizabeth. The biblical account is pretty straightforward with few details—just the facts. But I noted the simple verse: Mary remained with her about three months and then she returned to her home. It was the ‘about three months’ part that grabbed me—hearing daily news reports of scenarios about the immediate future.

As I continue to reflect on the days Mary spent in the hill country with Elizabeth, attending to her needs, helping with household chores, the more I realize that it’s really Elizabeth I am aware of. I am clearly Elizabeth in this duo, and as I begin to meditate on this truth, I recall the many ‘Marys’ who have been doing kind things for me over these odd weeks in my home cloister—my next door neighbor, Deana, who gets me groceries & sometimes dinner, then there is Karen (a former student of mine) who calls nightly, and still another Karen who brought Easter dinner & additional cooked meals. So Mary has been quite present to me in these strange days of Covid-19. She has not been sitting idle by the well or by the kitchen fire. And when Mary wasn’t assisting Elizabeth in some way, there was always Zachary who surely needed attention as well.

Posted in Just Reflecting

Earth Day

The nation celebrated its first Earth Day in 1970, April 22—a response to the widespread awareness of the devastating pollution of our country. Remember Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)? The Cuyahoga River on fire?Urban smog? In July 1969 we had had the first moon landing; with the Apollo 17 crew in 1972 we saw the Blue Marble image of Earth. How small we are in the Heavens!

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, December 1970)and federal legislation expanding specific rules and

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller

actions for clearing up our air, mandating personnel training, emission controls of industry, and transportation fuels. Water was next with the Clean Water Act (1972) and then our Endangered Species Act (1973). Earth Day became an annual world event, leading to the Paris Agreement of 2016 and its focus on climate change which is affecting the world’s patterns of rainy and dry seasons, the ocean’s temperature, global glaciers and the stability of our polar ice packs.

Just consider our resource of water—depending on where you live in our states, plenty of it and sometimes too much? Is it drinkable, much less available for you if you rely on a well or spring or water pipes? A reminder: less than 1% of Earth’s total fresh water is available for us and as the polar snow and ice packs or glaciers diminish their water either goes into the salty ocean or dries up in the land heat. Despite the Vatican’s calls supporting water as a human right, our political powers such as the US and Europe cannot agree—Kyoto Water Forum 2013.

In a snapshot of our Earth today we see her burning [California 2018, Australia and the Amazon 2019-20], parched due to droughts or flooded and whipped by excessively strong hurricanes and rains. All God’s creatures—animal, aquatic, bird and human—are suffering from the smoke and pollution of chemicals in what we wear, eat, and breathe. We cannot continue to rely upon piecemeal or individualized actions as tree planting, composting, solar heat or rainwater collection.

Should not this Earth Day and the days, weeks, months following be revolutionary once again? Can we not strive to be truly transformed in our own way of seeing what God has given us? Can we become the preachers for all through our decisions (personal and social) in what we drive, how we illumine our buildings, conserve our own lands or support in our larger communities?  This is the Common Good of our Earth World which we broadcast.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

The Prayer

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

The flames of anxiety and frustration, resentment and insecurity are blazing more brightly these days, fueled predominantly by fear. What can I say? It was inevitable.

So I want to offer this. It is a song sometimes sung as a duet by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli; look it up on YouTube.

The Prayer

I pray you’ll be our eyes, and watch us where we go
And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know.
Let this be our prayer; when we lose our way
Lead us to the place; guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

I pray we’ll find your light; and hold it in our hearts.
When stars go out each night; remind us where we are.
Let this be our prayer; when shadows fill our day,
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace;
Give us faith so we’ll be safe.

We ask that life be kind and watch us from above.
We hope each soul will find another soul to love.
Let this be our prayer, just like every child,
Need to find a place, guide us with your grace,
give us faith so we’ll be safe.

AMEN

 

Posted in News, Weekly Word