Advent Joy

In today’s Gospel, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. At Christmas time we sing “Joy to the World”. The shepherds hear the angels proclaim “Good News of Great Joy.” We are surrounded by messages of Joy at this time of year. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit given to us. The Greek word for joy is “chara” which is defined as the natural reaction to the work of God, whether promised or fulfilled. This Joy is a feeling of inner gladness and delight. It comes from a recognition of the presence of God in us, in each other, and in the world around us. Possessing joy is a choice. When we open ourselves to receive this gift, the Spirit opens our eyes to see God’s grace in and around us even in the midst of difficult times.

As we head into the last week of Advent we invite you to focus on your internal Joy. Reminisce about a simpler time when you first felt the presence of Jesus Christ in your life. Were you a child or an adult? Did you feel the quickening of this newly lit fire in your belly when you thought of your Lord and Savior? Did this Joy propel you to give more, be more? Were you able to hold on to this fire regardless of external circumstances? 

At the initial confirmation of the Dominican order the Pope declared the brothers would be “the champions of the faith and the true lights of the world.” Letting our lights shine as members of the Dominican family is what we are called to do. Although our circumstances may be hard or even insurmountable, we can draw on that initial flame of Joy.  We cultivate it by adding fellowship, study and prayer- surely our flame will grow brighter as we move into the New Year! Spending quiet time this season thinking of the birth of Christ and His gifts to the world can ignite the Joy within us!

Posted in Associate Blog

From Dominican Sisters International


Reflections On Response To Covid-19 In Nigeria

Click here to read the published story.

Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger, OP
Dominican Sisters of Peace

My response to COVID-19 in Nigeria is colored by other personal experiences at the onset of information on the disease here in Nigeria. I was in the hospital recovering from surgery when the government began to speak about COVID-19 and the need to engage in protective measures against the disease.

A national task force was set up, and nightly on the news there was a press report on what was happening regarding measures the government was taking, both in terms of structures and of the spread of disease in the various states. Two states and the Abuja were ordered to lock down.

In Kaduna State, the governor who was among the first to announce that he was infected, ordered a complete lockdown that lasted more than a month. Only hospital personnel and others offering essential services were exempted from the lockdown. Others who were caught were subject to fines.

This lockdown affected people in different ways. People in rural areas were able to eat what food they had on hand, but they were not able to market the necessary goods to buy what they did not have. People in the outskirts of the main city moved about on foot to go to nearby shops to buy necessary items. But from all the cry was that the government is trying to starve them, that they would die of hunger rather than from the virus.

In Kaduna, the government initially within the second month lifted the ban for only one day in a week to allow people to go to market for foodstuff. No other shop was allowed to open unless it was for service for essential services, e.g., petrol station, pharmacies, etc. According to government directives, masks were to be worn, but this was ignored, and because of the desperation of people to get what they needed within the 24-hour free period, there was much pushing and shoving in the markets, no local distancing observed at all. After about two weeks of such, the days were extended to two a week. But again, safety protocols were largely ignored, though the government tried to set up areas for food so that markets would not be overcrowded.

Sr. Julie came daily to the hospital to bring me food. She was able to pass through all the checkpoints (manned by military and police and other security bodies) because she had a national ID card as a nurse. Two of our staff who took turns staying with me at night were also able to pass because of their IDs as health workers. Their bigger problem was getting transport to come to the hospital because cars and buses were not plying the road due to the lockdown. But as is often the case in the Nigerian system, ‘big’ people were able to come to visit me, e.g., priests, highly placed people, etc. Others such as parishioners and staff took their chances of not getting caught.

Regarding work, the clinic purchased hand gloves, sanitizer, soap, buckets, and containers for water supply, etc. Patients came into a situation where social distancing had been established through placement of areas to sit. Visits to rural communities were curtailed, and the main ones carried out were related to the pandemic. Sensitization was done and accompanied with distribution of buckets, soap, masks, etc. This was done for community groups in general and in some communities, for children. An assessment was made in five communities to determine those most vulnerable, i.e., elderly, disabled, widows/widowers, the sick, single-headed households, etc. These were then given palliatives such as cooking oil, bouillon cubes, rice, soap, etc., when funds were available for these goods.

Places of worship were not allowed to open. Easter was celebrated by people in their homes. Some priests did defy the orders and instead of having Mass in the parish church, they would have it for a small group in their home or go to one of the outlying areas of the parish to celebrate in someone’s home. No social distancing was observed in such cases. People love the Mass, so they did not bother about the virus, for them, it was most important to have Mass. Several Sunday Masses were available online so that is how most people ‘attended’ Sunday Mass. Most people did not believe that COVID-19 is real; they believe it is a government scam to get money from international agencies. Thus now, with the society open, few wear masks or even consider social distancing. Churches and mosques are now allowed to hold their worship services. Among the doubters have been the priests who have been stating that there is no COVID-19 in Nigeria, that the numbers of cases and deaths are just made up numbers.

Their opinion was shattered several weeks ago when one of their brothers, Fr. Augustine Madaki, was infected and died within 3-4 days. He was diabetic thus more susceptible to the worst effects of the virus. His funeral was well attended (more than 110 priests) by large numbers of friends and ex-parishioners of his as well as his living family members. The reality of the disease was made more graphic by the fact that his casket was not brought into the church but taken straight to the cemetery for burial.

Posted in News

When a Child is Born…

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

When a child is born, there is so much joy, awe, and wonderment. While I cannot personally attest to the experience of giving birth to a child, I can recall the joy around the birth of my nieces and nephews through the years.  This joy, mixed with awe about their growth and development and wanting to know more about who they were becoming, what they were interested in, and how they were doing, became the focus of many conversations within the family.

Certainly for Jesus’ Mother, Mary these many feelings undoubtedly held true.  As she waited for her Son’s birth, she assuredly experienced moments of wondering what this child would be like. And knowing that she and Joseph were entrusted with raising a son who was born to bring good tidings to all of God’s people, must have been an overwhelming feeling. Understanding this concern, we learn that God sends the angel Gabriel to be with Mary and tells her to not be afraid for God will be with her.

We, too, can take comfort in trusting that God is with us in our own journeys and to not be afraid of what comes next.  What is God birthing in you and waiting for you to say “yes” to in your life?

As we approach the celebration of the Christ Child on Christmas Day, may we be filled with joy, awe, and wonderment, pondering the meaning that this birth holds. May we find peace, hope, and love for a future that calls us to seek God’s will always and to respond, like Mary, with a faith that trusts that God is present within and among us.  May we and all humankind know God’s peace and love and may we be instruments to each other in extending this same peace and love in both the enriching and challenging moments of life’s happenings.

If you are ready to begin entrusting your life to God as a religious sister, we invite you to contact us as we walk with you in this journey of faith.  We also invite you to join us for a Mission for Peace program where you can EXPERIENCE daily prayer, reflection, and sharing; PARTICIPATE in interactive presentations, ENGAGE in mission opportunities, EXPLORE God’s call for your life – all from your home! Click here for more information.

Posted in God Calling?

The Rush to Kill

“No government is ever innocent enough or just enough to lay claim to such absolute power of death.”

                                                                                  Sr. Helen Prejean

 

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

As we patiently await the birth of the Prince of Peace, the backdrop in the United States provides a violent contrast for those in federal prisons.  Following the order of Attorney General William Barr, thirteen prisoners housed in federal prisons will be executed before January 20th.  Before this decision, the federal government had not killed a person incarcerated on death row in 17 years.  This unprecedented killing spree leaves many unanswered questions.  One raised by many Catholics is why William Barr received the Christifideles Laici Award at the National Prayer Breakfast in September.  This award goes to those who “exemplify selfless and steadfast service in the Lord’s vineyard.”  Still waiting for an answer!

Brandon Bernard (40) was executed at 9:27 pm on December 11 for a murder committed with four other teenagers in 1999.  In 2018 his legal team discovered that the trial prosecutor withheld evidence from the defense.  This was the basis for Bernard’s appeal.  This fact changed the minds of six of nine living jurors who sentenced him.  Kristin Corella, Executive Director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, states:  “A case like Bernard’s shows how our criminal legal system chooses finality over fairness.”

Bernard was one of a disproportionate number of African Americans receiving the death penalty.  According to the ACLU, “The color of a defendant and victim’s skin plays a critical and unacceptable role in deciding who receives the death penalty in the United States. People of color have accounted for 43% of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those awaiting executions.”

According to his lawyers, Bernard expressed his hope that his death might move the country to a future when one would not pointlessly and maliciously kill its own citizens.

Photo by Pat Sullivan, AP

In another unfathomable move, William Barr and President Trump have called for additional methods of execution, including firing squads, hanging, poison gas (inhaling nitrogen gas), in addition to the current methods of lethal injection and the electric chair.  What is next, a coliseum with lions?

Unfortunately, our country has been focused on a horrific pandemic, an economy in shambles, and a deeply divided political scene.  It is unlikely that those being executed in federal prisons will make the headlines.

Let us take a moment to remember in prayer:  Alfred Bouglois, Brendan Bernard, Orlando Hall, Christopher Viola, William Lecroy, Keith Nelson, Leynord Mitchell, Dustin Lee Honken, Wesley Ira Purkey, Daniel Lee and Billy Joe Warkey.

May their executions lead us to a peaceful and just way of dealing with violent crimes in our country.

 

 

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

What Does God Want for Christmas?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

For the last few years now, I have used my December blog space to consider what I want for Christmas. And every year, I start off with the same problem: why would I ask for anything when I have so much? It feels oddly uncomfortable to say I want this or I want that for Christmas.

This year — being like no other year– gives me pause to ask the question in a different way. What might God want for Christmas? (hint: its not gold, frankincense or myrrh).

First, I think God would want more patience with the pandemic. It’s been a long weary year and most of us are tired of having to wear a mask and distance socially, agitated at times for not be able to do the normal things of human life (like hugs).  Especially over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Will we remember how to hug again?  I think so, it’s a natural thing, a normal thing, and all we will need do is practice.   God knows that this pandemic will end. We will return to something like what used to be normal. We just don’t know when. So maybe God might want patience for us and with us as we bear down now into a new phase of isolation over the holidays and winter’s cold nights.

Second, I think God would want more money.  More money to pass around to shop owners, restauranteurs, grocery clerks, delivery people, those whose livelihoods have been so deeply wounded by the economic catastrophe of the pandemic. So, I pray that Congress will get its act together and do what needs to be done. Help people who continue to hurt. If God had the money, I know it would be given to the right people.

Third, I think that what God wants for Christmas is a large heaping helping of memory.  Memory of times when family was fun, when snow days were real days off, when we reached into our past and find something joyful to tell a story about or just smile over.  Remember that?  Memory is a healing balm on our souls that helps to smooth over and bring to wholeness the wounded places, the absent friends, the lost loved ones. So, in God’s honor this year, I invite you to tell more stories, tell them like they happened yesterday.  Memories are the best way to lift the blues, the sadness and the weariness of our times.  If revenge is a dish best served cold, then memories are a dish best served warm and plentiful. Don’t just think of your good times alone, tell someone else a story from your childhood. Or better yet, your adolescence, those are the really funny stories.

Most of all, I think what God wants for Christmas is to be God, to be in charge of the universe and of course, God is!  We are not in charge. I certainly am not in charge. We are doing our best to let God be God and God is only asking us to remember better times when we laughed more, sat closer together on the couch, shared food from the same place. God is asking us to be patient, to share what we have with others. To take care of each other as best we can.

Dear God,

All I want for Christmas is you.

Amen.

Posted in Weekly Word