Our Response to Systemic Racism

For years, women religious have stood for and with those calling for racial equality in America. In the past, Dominican Sisters of Peace marched with Dr. King. Today, we pray for Dreamers at the Capitol and help those Dreamers and their parents attain citizenship at our literacy centers. We march with our sisters and brothers of color and work to end the systemic racism that holds those same sisters and brothers in the grip of poverty across the nation.

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in early 2020 called into focus systemic racism and called the Dominican Sisters of Peace to respond. The challenge of social distancing caused by the COVID-19  pandemic required creative thinking and a response that combined old and new media. Sr.
Anne Lythgoe, OP, spearheaded the response on behalf of the entire Leadership team, of which she is a member.

“Like so many people of conscience, we were heartbroken and angered by the violent and senseless death of George Floyd,” Sr. Anne said. “Our Sisters and Associates wanted to speak out against racism, but many of them were quarantined because of the virus. We had to find a way to speak out from our Convents and Motherhouses while maintaining safety in a time of pandemic.”

It started online. The Leadership team posted a statement on the OPPeace website, followed by a 30-day series of social media postings quoting Father Bryan Massingale, one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars of African-American theological ethics.

As the nation began to open after the shutdowns of the early pandemic, our Akron Motherhouse hosted an interfaith group of about 150 people for a prayer vigil on the lawn. Sisters and associates joined marches and demonstrations. We carried signs, we stood as allies and we prayed.

By mid-summer, Sisters, associates and friends began witnessing from their homes, driveways and windows. Our “Racism is a Sin. Period.” signs have popped up at Motherhouses, ministries, and private homes across the nation.

At Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT, Sr. Anne Kilbride posted her “Racism is a Sin. Period.” signs around the college chapel when the students returned in September.

“This message really seemed to resonate with our students,” said Sr. Anne. “Students were stopping to talk about and take photos with the signs; the faculty had a positive response – they were just very well received.”

Andrea E. Kovacs, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing at the college, saw an opportunity to make a big statement about the college and its mission, and asked if the college could place this message on one of their billboards around New Haven, CT.

“The “Racism is a Sin. Period.” message is a strong statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in our local community,” Kovacs said. “We felt this message from our founders, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, was strong, direct, and crystal clear. We wanted our larger community to know these powerful women and their clear view of social justice.”

The billboard is currently on display in East Haven and Hartford, CT.

We continue to pray – not just for peace, but that our own hearts and minds be opened to the issue of systemic racism, and that our walls of privilege be broken.

As important is discussion, study and contemplation. The Dominican Sisters of Peace and their 700+ associates have been involved in a study of racism for several years. As we look at our world in chaos, we also look inside at our own hearts, and reach out to our neighbors with compassion to stand up for justice.

Director of Associates Colette Parker, 1960 -2020

Our late Director of Associates, Colette Parker, was an eloquent voice for racial justice. Her powerful words fueled much of the Congregation’s racial justice work. She expressed her hope for the future in a 2020 blog, where she paraphrased the late John Lewis, “Together, we can redeem the soul of America by getting in…good trouble, necessary trouble.’”

 

 

 

Your year-end donation supports our ministries of social justice, standing with our sisters and brothers who are marginalized by race, color, gender, or social standing.

Posted in News

A Reflection for Epiphany

JANUARY 3, 2021, MATTHEW 2:1-12

Preaching by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

The story of the magi is the story of a journey. Astrologers followed a star and came from the east to give homage to the newborn king of the Jews. They studied the skies. When they found something new they looked for its meaning. What this particular star meant, they weren’t quite sure. So they came seeking, looking for some sort of sign of what that star could tell them.

Along the way they must have pondered what this journey might offer them. Would it give them new knowledge? Would they find some hidden wisdom? They didn’t know. They only knew that they were on the journey and if they were open then the journey would show them the way. In time they would learn more about the star and the purpose of their journey.

The Magi found that in the course of their journey that they were changed. Things were different than they thought they would be. They couldn’t go back the way they came. That wouldn’t work anymore. They had changed in the process. They needed to find a new way.

We too are on a journey – we call it life. This journey has taken us to the place where we are now. It has made us the persons we have become. We have so often thought that we know the road ahead. For example, it was usually easy to plan Christmas because it would be like it was last year. But this year, this covid-19 has thrown a wrench into our plans, into our life. This Christmas has been so different. There are times we wish that we could get back to the way things were before.

Like the Magi, we too are being changed by our journey, by this pandemic. Life isn’t, and probably never will be, the way it used to be. How have we changed in the process? What new have we learned about ourselves? What have we experienced in the process of “staying in place”? Have we grown? Or have we just complained about what we aren’t able to do anymore?

The year 2020 is over. With the beginning of a new year we can, like the Magi, “depart (or begin) by a new way”. We can take advantage of the time of covid-19 to see what God might be asking of us. Is this a time to grow more deeply in our spiritual life? Is it a time to simplify, maybe to let go of some of the frivolous activities that used to take up our spare time?  Is it a time to reach out to others to let them know of our love, or to tend to their needs? Is it a time to…?

 

Posted in Weekly Word

Peace and Justice Updates 12.23.2020

Our Dominican Family has chosen to focus our Dominican Month for Peace. on Ukraine, a country struggling with the effects of violence and war.

UNICEF, a worldwide nonprofit organization providing relief to Ukraine, describes the situation as an ongoing challenge, especially for children: “After seven years of conflict, women and children in Eastern Ukraine remain extremely vulnerable. The conflict is taking a heavy toll on civilians: regular ceasefire violations, damage to homes, and social infrastructures lead to mine contaminations and limited access to services.”

Here are some resources that you can use to continue to learn about and offer support to the people of Ukraine.

Documentaries:
Hunger for Truth:

In English:        Hunger for Truth

Generation Maidan:
In English:        https://vimeo.com/ondemand/generationmaidan

Resources on Ukraine:
https://ui.org.ua/onlinecourse_en

ucmc.org         https://ui.org.ua/media-research-xx_en

Organizations to support:
Building Ukraine Together: https://bur.lef.org.ua/en/

This is a project that has had great moral as well as material impact.
BUR Friends – monthly BUR support campaign provided by people who believe in the idea of ​​the program and want to be part of it.
Support of Political Prisoners held in Russia: case of Oleksandr Marchenko

Ukrainian Political Prisoner Oleksandr Marchenko
A Russian court has sentenced Oleksandr Marchenko to 10 years’ imprisonment, despite the evidently flawed nature of the charges against him and his consistent account of torture inflicted by Russian-controlled militants in eastern Ukraine before being abducted to Russia.

Write a letter of support:

Here is a sample letter (letters must be written in Russian)

Привет,

Желаю Вам здоровья и терпения, и очень надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ]

Address

350915 РФ, Краснодар, ул. Красноармейская, д. 22, ФКУ СИЗО-5

Марченко Александру Владимировичу,  1971 г. р.

[In English:  350095, Russian Federation, Krasnodar, 22 Krasnoarmeiska St, SIZO No. 5

Marchenko, Alexander Vladimirovich, b. 1971 ]

Books on Ukraine:
Red Famine by Anne Applebaum
Bloodlands by Tim Snyder
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
Road to Unfreedom by Tim Snyder
Putin’s People by Catherine Belton

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Starting Over

It is time to say goodbye to 2020.  Please applaud! Whenever we cross the threshold of a new year, there is an atmosphere of hope, and now more than ever, hope is the focus for millions.  We hope that a COVID 19 vaccine will be effective, that Republicans and Democrats will work together and get things done to improve the lives of millions, and hope for racial justice.  The list for real change is endless.

President-elect Biden and the 117th Congress will face a mountain of issues demanding action:  an economic recovery plan, expansion of the Affordable Care Act, concrete action on addressing climate change, and immigration reform.  As one in six people in the United States faces hunger and millions face eviction, non-partisan action is critical.  We have had twelve years of a partisan tug of war with the working class, immigrants, and people of color always on the losing end. Executive orders from the President will not adequately solve relentless social problems.

In a past issue of NETWORK CONNECTION, Network compared the FY 2017 federal budget of President Obama and the 2019 federal budget of President Trump.  The comparison is a display of the devaluing of the common good:

FY 2017                                 FY 2019

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity        $733 million                               $0

Department of Education                                            $69.4 billion                          $63.3 billion

Federal Work Study                                                     $983 million                           $200 million

Housing and Urban Development                             $48.9 billion                           $39.2 billion

Center for Medicare and Medicaid                            $2.9 billion                              $2.4 billion

Low Income Home Energy Assistance                       $3 billion                                     $0

SNAP  (formerly food stamps)                                    $82 billion                              $73 billion

“Show me your budget and I will tell you what your values are.” This quote from former Vice President, now President-Elect Joe Biden, is a simple truth.

Will the votes on bills to come in 2021 be in support of the common good?  I dream of the following: an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour; an immigration reform bill that unites families and leads to a path to citizenship, with “dreamers” (DACA) granted citizenship; climate change bills that reverse the weakening of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, green jobs and responsible, common-sense gun legislation.

In a season of hope, there is much to hope for and work for, with renewed confidence.  I believe the spirit of John Lewis is with us in the ongoing work of “righting the ship” of a country hitting rough waters.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Go and Do Likewise – From the 2020 Annual Report

Sr. Mai-Dung Nguyen and her family made more than 2000 masks for local charities and first responders.

These words in the book of Luke, 10:37, close the parable of the Good Samaritan. With them, Jesus illustrated the value of mercy.

Like our founder, St. Dominic and our patron, St. Catherine of Siena, our Sisters have always gone where the need is greatest. As the United States quarantined to protect citizens from the emerging coronavirus, our Sisters wanted to help the poor, the sick and the marginalized. For some of our Sisters in their 80’s, and others in poor health, this was not to be.

As essential workers struggled to locate protective gear, Sisters took to their sewing machines. Sr. Mai-Dung Nguyen, living temporarily with her elderly parents during quarantine, sewed and donated more than 2,000 masks. Each mask was
accompanied by a special prayer, and the entire family helped with the project. (1)

In Oxford, MI, our St. Mary’s Retreat House was closing when Sr. Rita Birzer, in true Dominican fashion, saw the needs of the day changing around her. Much of the Retreat House furniture, bedding and personal protective gear was donated to a temporary facility to house COVID-19 patients.

Rising Youth, an initiative of our anti-violence project in Columbus, OH, supplied back to school bags to students at
Whitehall-Yearling High School. This is the first year of our mentoring program at the school.

Sister Joanne Caniglia and the Sisters in our Akron, OH, Motherhouse created math and science lessons that could be done at home, and 300 projects a week were distributed to women’s homeless shelters and food centers. Associate Connie Dubick, who volunteers with the King Kennedy Community Center in Akron, helped manage the distribution of the packets.

People of color were exceptionally hard hit by the virus and the economic downturn that accompanied quarantine. At the Peace Center, Sisters Suzanne Brauer, Pat Thomas and Ceal Warner took to the streets of New Orleans, masked and socially distanced, to take food to elderly neighbors and offer a friendly face.

Our Sisters at the Columbus, OH, Motherhouse, along with the Martin de Porres Center and the Dominican Learning Center, packed weekly bags of food, educational activities, and personal protective gear for members of the local Latinx community.
In rural Kansas, Sisters Janice Thome and Roserita Weber have obtained donations to help their neighbors maintain their homes. Many of them are economic refugees.

Sr. Ellen Coates, a health professional in the second year of her novitiate, is working as a contact tracer at the Ohio State University in Columbus to help reduce the spread of the virus on campus and in the local community.

In Niskayuna, NY, Sr. Sue Zemgulis at the Dominican Retreat Center is launching a spiritual sanctuary for seniors, persons with disabilities and 12-step group members, caring for the needs of heart and soul.

Our vocations team has continued to minister to those who hear God’s call. Our virtual vocation events have helped to bring two new candidates, Cathy Buchanan and Tram Bui, to the Congregation. Sr. Phuong Vu professed her temporary vows on
December 8, 2020.

This year has been like no other, and like so many, the Dominican Sisters of Peace have found new ways to serve. Your support – your prayers and your gifts – are vital to our ability to continue the work of St. Dominic: to preach the Gospel of peace through our words, our deeds, and our lives.

With your help, we continue to serve the people of God.  Thank you for your year-end donation.

Posted in News