Sr. Suzanne Noffke, OP

Sr. Suzanne Noffke, OP

Sr. Suzanne Noffke, OP, a Racine Dominican author and linguist, went home to God on Tuesday, April 14 after a long illness. She was 83 years old. Born Ione Noffke, she entered the aspirancy at 15. At 18, she was received into the Congregation received the name Sister Suzanne. A few years later she began teaching and earned a bachelor’s degree from Dominican College and a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

She went on to serve as president of the community, as well as a translator, writer and historian, but was best known as one of the world’s leading experts on Saint Catherine of Siena. She lectured internationally and led numerous retreats based on the life and thought of Saint Catherine. She also published annotated translations of all of Catherine’s extant works (The Dialogue, 1980; The Prayers, 1983; The Letters of Catherine of Siena, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2008), and a two-volume thematic Anthology (2011), a book of essays (Catherine of Siena: Vision Through a Distant Eye, 1996, 2006), and numerous articles.

In an interview, Sr. Suzanne said, “Every phase of my ministry has been exciting and filled with meaning for me, but especially meaningful has been my work with making accessible to others our community history and the life and thought of our patron, Catherine of Siena.” She shared her knowledge and wisdom generously throughout her lifetime.

Please hold Suzanne, her family and her many friends in your thoughts and prayers and love. May she rest in peace.

Sr. Suzanne’s body will be cremated. A Memorial Service will be held at a later date.

Posted in Obituaries

Alleluia Alleluia

Blog by Associate Frank Bevvino

As I waited, on Easter Sunday morning, for Mass to begin on TV, I read through Saturday’s and Sunday’s New York Times.

Much of it was filled with news about the worldwide pandemic and stories of men and women throughout the world giving of themselves — people of all nationalities, faiths, and color tending to the needs of others, either in their professional capacities or as concerned citizens feeling the need to do something.

Among the stories in the paper, I read of a 53-year-old priest in Bergamo, Italy (birthplace of Pope St. John XXIII) defying rules of self-confinement to minister to many people lying sick and dying in the local hospital. Bergamo had seen 20 priests die since the outbreak in Northern Italy. The papers also had stories of celebrities and ordinary people taking the time and risking their own health to provide for those in need. Stories like these abound.

Two stories struck me in the paper.

One was a story about speed on the highways during this pandemic. With the lack of cars and police enforcement, vehicles are far exceeding the speed limits posted. One story dealt with an Audi A8 with three drivers, fully gassed and loaded with extra fuel tanks that drove from NYC to California in 27 hours. The distance from NYC to Los Angeles is 2790 miles. In 27 hours, that would imply speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.  My first reaction is WHY? The article ended citing that there would be other attempts soon to break this newly established record.

The other story that caught my interest was the fact that because of reduced demand, milk by the millions of gallons was being dumped into drains and sewers. Additionally, millions of tons of fruits and vegetables were rotting on their plants for lack of laborers to harvest them.

There has been much criticism of Western culture over the past century due to the quest for material wealth. Consumerism has replaced many of the values that look to the common good. Our desire for goods and services outweigh our feelings of sharing our abundance with those who have little.

Now with the world order in complete disarray, a spirit of concern has transformed our world into crisis mode. The outreach to the sick, elderly and anyone who is in need of some help is a sign of our inner love for others. Business as usual has become outreach to our neighbor. GOOD NEWS!!!!

As we celebrate the Risen Christ, we can hear the words of Jesus in  Matthew 22 as he repeats the Old Testament law in Deuteronomy 6 that we are  “to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Happy Easter!

Posted in News

A Reflection on Lockdown

Reading: John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Reflection by Anita Davidson, OPA

How familiar does this scene feel to us right now?!  “The doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear…”  And then, “…a week later his disciples were again inside…the doors were locked…” I’ve lost track of how many days of sheltering in place we’ve completed now, but it seems like a very long time.  I hope that it isn’t just fear that’s keeping us inside as it was for the disciples.  I hope that there is also a large portion of love, care and compassion for each other that is holding us within the safety of our homes.  We who are healthy (and I pray you all are) are staying home to protect not just ourselves but most especially those who are most vulnerable among us – the elderly, the sick, those whose immune systems are compromised. Our sheltering in place is the most powerful communal act of love that the world has seen, certainly in my lifetime and perhaps in recorded history. And that alone is a Lent and Easter miracle that none of us could ever have imagined or asked for!

For the disciples, Jesus showed up in spite of the lockdown and wished them peace.  And breathed the Holy Spirit into them.  What a miracle!  We hope that if we’d been there, we’d have received that gift with open hearts and much joy.  It seems, though, that the disciples didn’t respond that way.  After all, a week later they were still frozen in fear behind locked doors!  Is it any wonder that Thomas didn’t believe what they said about Jesus’ visit?  They were lousy witnesses!  It wasn’t Jesus that Thomas didn’t believe in. Thomas doubted those fearful, stuck disciples who didn’t seem the least bit transformed by Jesus’ arrival. And it was only Thomas who responded to Jesus’ second visit with the most powerful and heartfelt profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” Yes, Thomas believed because he had seen, but the other disciples had seen, too, and it wasn’t enough to move them beyond their fear into the work for which Jesus had tried to prepare them for three years. Thomas didn’t just see their beloved rabbi whom they thought dead and now had come to life. He saw the deeper reality of Jesus, the Christ. And spoke it out loud.  I’ve long thought that poor Thomas has gotten a bad rap for all these thousands of years being called “Doubting.”

So here we are, in 2020, on lockdown just as were the disciples. Are we able to see through and beyond our fear and impatience to the greater Divine Reality in whose presence we are basking, even now? If we aren’t, how can we open our eyes and our hearts and move from doubt to faith?  If we are able, are we allowing ourselves to be transformed by it? Are we credible and persuasive witnesses who can help others to believe even when they aren’t able to see?  Can people believe by our lives that they are forgiven, and loved, and filled with God’s Spirit?  It might seem a bit challenging to respond to the call to be witnesses when we are quarantined. However, our presence goes well beyond the physical.  Think about what you choose to post on Facebook or Instagram; what kind of emails and text messages you send on to others; the content of your conversations in phone or video calls.  Consider how you are praying in these times.  Each of our actions and attitudes have ripple effects we’ll never know about, but they are part of the legacy we leave in our wake.

This very strange and surreal time that we’re living in feels quite a bit like the world of Jesus’ disciples after his death and resurrection. Let’s learn from Thomas and open our eyes and see and recognize Jesus’ presence with us in the midst of it all. Let’s have the courage to be open to the transformation that is surely being offered and let’s speak it out loud however we can to encourage one another and ourselves as we move through our fears and into a brand new future filled with hope.

Posted in Just Reflecting

Democracy at Risk

Blog by Sister Judy Morris, OP

After the election of George Washington in 1789, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin if the United States was a republic or a monarchy.  He responded, “A republic, if we can keep it.”

Under norms of rationality, the recent Wisconsin democratic primary would never have happened.  Governor Tony Evers sought to postpone the in-person Democratic primary because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders issued by his own office.  This appeal was denied by the conservative Wisconsin state supreme court and later denied by the similarly-conservative U.S. Supreme Court – a Supreme Court which, by the way, cast their votes on this remotely, a privilege not granted to Wisconsin citizens. Television cameras focused on thousands of primary voters wearing masks, trying to position themselves six feet apart from each other as they stood in line for as long as two hours.

These people risked their lives not only to exercise a fundamental right, but to do their civic duty, when seeking absentee ballots could have protected them.  As they reached the interior of the voting sites, they had to stay within two feet of poll workers… many of whom were elderly and therefore part of a vulnerable population. Wisconsin voters carried signs reading, “This is crazy,” and “Is this democracy?”

This irrational and irresponsible decision could infect many citizens with the virus and cost lives.  It was later discovered that nine thousand absentee ballots requested earlier by voters were never sent, disenfranchising people who followed the rules to vote absentee.

Voter suppression is not a new phenomenon.  Numerous barriers to voting came to light during the 2018 mid-term election.  In Dodge City, KS, the polling site was moved from a centrally-located area to the outskirts of town more than a mile from the nearest bus stop, making it more difficult for the poor and Hispanic citizens to vote.  In North Dakota, Native Americans were deprived of the opportunity to vote because they did not list an address when registering to vote; reservations do not have street addresses.  In Georgia, many African American voters were removed from the rolls because they had not voted in the previous two elections.

After the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision to weaken the landmark voting rights act, many states lost no time eliminating polling places. Arizona closed 320 sites in 13 counties. Southern states have closed 1,200 voting sites. There was one common denominator in these closings: the large majority was in areas populated by people of color.

Voter suppression is real and growing. I believe in light of this obvious weakening of fundamental democratic rights, Benjamin Franklin would answer the question about our nation much differently today.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Blue Skies: The Exuberance of Easter

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Well here we are in Easter Week, the time when I always think the world, and everything in it is right, and good, and happy.  We celebrate this sacred and liberating truth that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, has conquered evil and deflected the conspiracy of the self-protecting powerful. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the epitome of God’s promise to love us no matter what, is now resurrected and engaged with us in a new and mysterious way. “Peace be with you,” is his greeting to us.

For us, in the Northern Hemisphere, who are experiencing the opening of the earth in Spring, we can simply look out the window and see the promise of God fulfilled in budding trees, greening forsythia, popping snow drops, crocus and jonquils.

Blue skies above us, even when the clouds are grey, when we are held captive by a global pandemic. Blue skies even in the midst of shortages, anxiety about our jobs, our savings, our health. Blue skies even when we wear a mask to protect others from ourselves. Even then, the sky is blue, it is always blue above the storm, above rain, and wind and yes, even above death all around us.

I have been so aware of how blue the sky is, on sunny days, when all around us is news of Covid-19, when we worry about loved ones, friends and family.  The entire way in which we move through life is changed. As if we are in a warp in the universe, a communal nightmare from which we cannot awaken.

Blue skies above us even then, even now.

Do not let the power of this pandemic keep you from seeing blue skies. Do not let this pandemic rob you of the exuberance of Easter, of the joy and yes, conviction that Jesus Christ is in fact Risen. And in the same way, WE are risen, we are a risen people who carry within us the presence of Jesus, Risen from the dead.  Death has no victory — all you need do is look for the blue skies that are there, even when clouds are grey.

This is no Pollyanna thinking. Watch for blue skies to lift you, to return you to the exuberance of Easter as you have always known it. Easter is in you. You only need a simple sign that God is with you. You only need to spend more than a minute looking at blue skies. Then you will know, as you have always known, that God is smiling at you.

To show you what I mean, watch this YouTube of Frank Sinatra singing Blue Skies, by Irving Berlin. If you can’t do that, just read the lyrics. I dare you not to be lifted up.

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long

Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly

Blue days
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

I never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going oh-so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly

Blue days
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

Posted in News, Weekly Word