“Listen!” Didn’t we hear this a lot when we were children? This short, two-syllable word has a lot of power. Listening is not only hearing the words that are being said. It’s about making an effort to hear with the ear of your heart to what is truly being said and being fully present to whoever is speaking. It is about understanding another person’s story and responding in a way that lets the other person know they are heard.
Just a few days ago, several women participated in our five-day virtual Mission for Peace immersion experience via Zoom. The objective was to give women who are discerning religious life an opportunity to explore and try out our Dominican life of prayer, study, community, and ministry.
We are grateful for Sisters Luisa Derouen, Claire McGowan, Jane Belanger, Janice Thome, Joye Gros, Margie Davis, Mary Vuong, Suzanne Brauer, Pat Thomas, Ceal Warner, Phuong Vu, Judy Morris, Rita Schwarzenberger, Francine Schwarzenberger, Gemma Doll, Rachel Sena, Susan Zemgulis, and Chrstine Connolly whose presentations and prayers helped these women to think critically about many issues and to respond compassionately to the needs in their local area creatively.
On the first day, we listened to the parable of the sower. Sr. Luisa invited us to think of ourselves interchangeably as being the soil that receives and germinates, as being the seed that trusts the process while being nurtured, and as being the sower who takes action by scattering the seeds. We were then summoned to plant a seed as a symbol of God’s seed planted in us.
On the second day, we learned about ecology in the light of the “deep time” cosmological perspective, which is a perspective that gives meaning to the journey of life. We learned how “deep time” can impact our understanding of God and our relationship with God, and that it can transform us, guide our actions for the future, and can serve as a learning continuum.
In the afternoon, we also learned about how we could utilize things for more sustainable living and about the ministry at our Heartland Farm.
On the third day, we learned how Dominican Sisters of Peace listen to the cry of the poor, the marginalized, and the immigrants through the Ministry of Presence. A sense of mission was deeply felt when we heard what it takes to be part of this ministry: whether it was about learning a language to be able to engage in conversations and then to be the voice for the voiceless, or assisting immigrants with completing legal documents, or transporting them to the doctor, or helping someone learn to drive, or serving food to hungry immigrants who have walked hundreds of miles, or providing them the opportunity to take hot showers and choose from donated clean clothes, etc. We witnessed or saw that it all takes a heart and deep listening.
On the fourth day, we looked at the needs of our current times, and how sisters respond to those needs. As an example, we asked our Sisters at the Peace Center to share about their ministry and we studied the “Ministries in Action” website that tells about some of the stories how sisters and associates minister to God’s people during this pandemic. One woman shared during the program that she really appreciated recognizing the way we minister. To explain her insight, she shared her observation that we don’t just go and help what we think people need, but rather we go out into the neighborhood to ask about the needs of the local residents, and then we respond to those needs. In the afternoon, we learned about how we can study various justice concerns, such as racism, immigration, human trafficking, common-sense gun control, the death penalty, climate change, and to advocate for more just laws.
On the last day, in the morning the message of hope radiated from the presentation about our mission in Nigeria whether it was about drilling a new water well or helping families who have rickets or communicating our passion for God’s Word, or the sisters’ year-long labor to support the mission in Nigeria. Compassion, passion, presence, continuity, and ultimately, love are a few words that describe this session. In the afternoon, we learned about Catholic Native Americans and Native American Saints and their rich spirituality, one of which is praying in seven directions: East, South, West, North, upward, downward, and inward (center/heart.) This session affirmed our awareness of God’s presence being all around us as a foundation for our life of prayer and ministry.
In between sessions, women were invited to prayerfully reflect on what they heard and to take actions. Usually, during a mission immersion program, we take women to our Motherhouses and ministry sites to volunteer, however, this pandemic compelled us to listen to the needs of the times in our local areas and to respond to those needs compassionately and creatively. Some activities included:
- visiting various suggested websites, including our Justice Updates website.
- seeking out organizations in need of volunteers and taking necessary steps to volunteer,
- writing cards to the neglected or lonely,
- distributing masks and/or care packages to those in need,
- crocheting dishcloths or potholders to support our mission in Nigeria,
- making a cross out of sticks and yarn similar to the Native American tradition,
- considering ways to live a more sustainable life and committing to this lifestyle,
- being mindful of God’s creation when on a walk,
- and taking actions by signing petitions online.
Each day opened and ended with prayer, and with integrating what transpired that day with time for silent reflection. We prayed with a variety of prayers, including:
- praying with our Dominican Praise prayer book,
- praying in the Taizé tradition,
- praying the rosary,
- praying with the words of Pope Francis,
- praying for peace,
- reflecting silently on our relationship with God by using a labyrinth,
- doodling our prayers,
- and on our last day, using a wordle-image that was created from our participants’ faith sharing after listening to the daily Gospel and listening to their hearts what they have heard from the presentations.
Listening is such an essential element of mission work. Being on the mission is about willing to make the effort to listen to the voice of the voiceless, to the cry of our mother earth, and to the still small voice in our hearts: God’s Spirit stirring our deepest self, and then willing to respond to those needs. To what is God calling you at this time?
If you think God is calling you to a life of prayer, study, community, and ministry, please contact us.