Inauguration Day: Where Do Dominicans Go From Here?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

INAUGURATION DAY, January 20, 2021– On this Inauguration Day, I pray President Biden and Vice-President Harris have great success, and with their coming to office, that we, as a nation, will hear a new call of commitment to create brave space where we can listen to each other, to see each other as members of one American people, one human family with all its faults and woundedness.

We are passing through a very difficult time, a time of civic illness, where deeply held pain and division and indeed, hate, has been allowed to poison our soul. We remain in a physical illness, where the hope of a Covid-19 vaccine is slowly becoming reality, even while thousands more people still suffer and die. No matter where you stand in the Church, in your family, community or neighborhood, hate has been as much a pandemic as COVID-19 on us all.

Healing and recovery in both our national soul and physical body will take a long time, and one day, Inauguration Day, is no cure. This brings me to share a  piece from Sojourner Magazine about a new book: Art and Faith: A Theology of Making, by Julie Polter. The book looks at the work of Makoto Fujimura, a ceramic artist who explores the connection between beauty and the pain and brokenness of our world. He is a master at kintsugi, the art of making something beautiful out of broken and fragmented pieces. (I would say more but read the article!)

To quote the story: “…We are invited to look with compassion and love on broken lives and broken systems as the starting point of repair, reform or healing, Fujimura said. “Western culture tends to emphasize tossing out broken things and replacing them with something new, or hiding the damage…A western path of ‘fixing’ assumes that fractures are no longer seen and the object looks as if nothing has happened.”

So where do Dominicans go from here? What is our part and pathway?

Dominicans for 800 years have claimed a special relationship with the pursuit of truth. Is this not what we must be about with even more intention? Hate has been around longer than this pandemic, but we will not heal from it with a vaccine in the arm. The false belief that the election was rigged has “entered our bloodstream,” and its poison will continue to fuel hate. Hate is the underlying condition that is manifest in the disease of post-truth society.

Who among us, as Dominicans, has not bristled at this term post-truth? What an awkward and jolting phrase.  How can any society survive when it cannot rely on telling the truth? Lies are lies. Pursuing the truth means asking questions, looking at sources, and not simply smirking at false statements, but calling them out in a way that is not reactionary but invitational. When we pursue the truth, we reject name-calling (e.g. “loser”), or minimizing, or keeping low our expectations of leaders.

Post-truth is an attack on our capacity to think critically and a temptation to settle for unsupported evidence, and easy distortions. Post-truth uses exaggeration, repetitive deception, and blaming to make us believe something false, like a rigged election, or that political candidates who do not share my values are evil. This is especially true of abortion.

Post-truth is lying, plain and simple. It is not of God. The Truth will set us free. But post-truth has made us miserable.

The remedy for lies is truth-telling.  This is not about the pursuit of the philosophical truth, of the absolute Truth, with a capital T, but the persistent insistence on getting to facts. Dominicans should pursue facts as much as we pursue a philosophical understanding of truth. If my conviction about anything is so absolute that I cannot be open to a question about my assumptions, or I am dug in so deep that I don’t even see you, then we truly are in a post-truth, pre-fascist society. In a fascist state, critical thinking is prohibited. Questions are prohibited, “as if nothing has happened.”

How might we renew our commitment and inaugurate today a refocusing on listening, on empathy, and the truly brave act of seeing the brokenness of the “other” as part of the brokenness of “us?” What form will the pursuit of truth take for you? Does our tradition ring in you a desire to not only ask questions and explore meaning, but also to speak with a desire for what is right –out of a heart that truly seeks?

In the scripture for last Sunday, we read the call of Samuel, a familiar tale of a sleepless night and a call to be a servant of the Lord. The last line is the one that struck me the most: “Samuel grew up and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” (I Samuel 3:19).

To be sure our words do have an effect. Note Fr. James Martin’s article in America magazine where he lays out the role some church leaders and pastors played to incite the violence at the US Capitol on January 6. “The level of our alienation from one another is at a heartbreaking and dangerous place for our church and for our country. This woundedness is deep and serious.  Ironically a group of people who espouse a pro-life stance holds some responsibility for the insurrection.” We cannot act as if nothing has happened.

How might our words have an effect?  Might we truly pursue the truth, which is our living tradition, our capacity to not be satisfied with pat answers to complex questions? May this be an Inauguration Day for us too. Can we pursue truth by creating brave spaces intent on bridging the hate, the poison, and distrust we have witnessed?


Invitation to Brave Space

By Micky Scott Bey Jones

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
But It will be our brave space together, and We will work on it side by side.


I highly recommend further reading:

The American Abyss by Timothy Snyder, an essay in the New York Times Magazine, in which he asserts “post-truth is pre-fascism”.

Art and Faith: God is in the Making by Julie Polter, on the work of Makoto Fujimura. Sojourner Magazine, February 2021 on how art and faith open us the recovery of our brokenness.

Fascism, a Warning” by Madeleine Albright,  available at Amazon.com

How Catholic Leaders Helped Give Rise to Violence at the U.S. Capitol” by James Martin, SJ, America Magazine, January 21, 2021.

Posted in Weekly Word

Learning Can Change Lives

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

January is my least favorite month of the year. There are so many gray days and more darkness than daylight.  However, January is a month to turn on the lights and expose the evil of human trafficking with the designation as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” and “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”  This is an important time for all of us to educate ourselves about human trafficking and what we can do as individuals to end this world-wide epidemic.

We know the statistics are staggering, and never precise.  Polaris estimates that the total number of victims in the United States reaches into the hundreds of thousands; less than 4% of law enforcement agencies across the United States have dedicated human trafficking personnel, and 20 % of law enforcement officers have no form of human trafficking-specific training.  Looking at statistics alone is a discouraging exercise.  What is encouraging are the stories of those who escaped the slavery of human trafficking.

Human trafficking victim Flor Turcio (center) stands with the two Catholic Charities employees she calls family – employment specialist Karen Kanashiro and case manager Rosa Alamo. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

One sad, but encouraging story of survival is that of Flor Turcio, a woman in north Florida who works with survivors of human trafficking.  Flor lived in poverty and a verbally and physically abusive home in a small Central American mountain town.  She fled her home, lived with friends and later worked in a home that provided shelter.  At 17 she met a man who spoke to her of love and groomed her with gifts.  She was trapped by his words of love because she never experienced true affection and caring before.  Soon, Flor was his “sex worker” and was taken to bars and introduced to alcohol.  For years she worked as his slave and became pregnant four times.  Her children were taken away from her and went to the United States.

Flor’s life began to turn around when a man befriended her, contacted the police, and had her trafficker arrested.  She came to the United States, and with the help of the FBI, was reunited with her children.  Despite two attempts on her life, Flor has a new life with the support of Catholic Charities of North Florida.  She was provided with counseling, English classes, completion of her GED, and a job.  Now, this “wounded healer” is helping other survivors of human trafficking get their lives back.

Sr. Nadine Buchanan distributes cards with organizations where trafficked women can seek he;p.

Change can happen when concerned individuals and organizations make it happen.  What can we do to be part of the solution?  We can support legislation that addresses human trafficking with concrete actions to prevent or reduce the opportunities for trafficking.  Many become involved with local organizations that distribute information on trafficking to hotels before a major athletic event.  Others are active in human trafficking prayer vigils, or host panels and speakers on human trafficking. For some, it may be as simple as keeping your eyes open on the street and offering assistance when we see a need. The practical opportunities are many and the need is great.

 

We can brighten the many gray days for victims and survivors with actions that make a difference.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Peace and Justice Updates 1.20.2021

Letter to Encourage Non-Partisan Behavior
As the new Administration is sworn in, along with two new Senators that bring the Senate to a 50/50 party split, we pray that all of our Congressional representatives will work for the good of the country, no matter their party affiliation. If you would like to communicate with your Congressperson to encourage non-partisan cooperation, we have included a letter that you can send.

Dear Senator/Representative  (Name),

I am writing as your constituent to ask that you put your political affiliation and/or aspirations aside for the first year of the new Biden/Harris administration to work for all the American people. We need to conquer the Covid 19 virus, put people back to work and support small businesses, and take back the lead in combatting climate change.  Please move quickly to put the President’s cabinet in place so that the work can be done. There will be plenty of time to disagree with policies after the above issues have been tackled.  Please recognize the importance of working together for the people, all the people.

You will be in my prayers during this difficult time.
Sincerely,
(Name)
Dominican Sisters of Peace

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

A Glimpse of Community

Blog by Sr. Ana Gonzalez

The fragrance of fresh pizza wafted through the house on a cold Saturday evening. Cathy, our Candidate and newest member to our community in New Haven, treated us with two large pizza pies from Modern Apizza. We usually designate Saturdays as a day for pickup for dinner or “review for religious” (a.k.a. “leftovers”).  Cathy’s contribution to our weekend dinner was a welcome surprise. The smell of freshly baked pies, kept warm in the oven, announced to all that dinner was ready.  The community gathered in the kitchen before preparing to bless the meal.

“Have you seen Sister An Hoa,” asked Cathy, as she placed the pies on the kitchen table.

“No, I am not sure if she has completed her test.” I responded, noticing the community’s concern for Sister An Hoa.

“It is getting dark and cold and I wonder if she is ok?” said Sister Julia.

“I am not sure if she is home, but some random table is on the back porch,” said Sister June. “Last time a random table showed up on the back porch Sister An Hoa brought it home. Perhaps she is home and resting after her test.”

In the next moment, the cozy kitchen burst into a roar of cheer as Sister An Hoa walked into the kitchen. “There she is,” I exclaimed.  The community was eager to hear about how her English competency exam had gone because this was an exam she had to take in order to apply for her PhD program.  Her reply, however, had to wait as Cathy started, “Let us pray…”

My little community is a diverse intergenerational, intercultural and inter-congregational mix.  An outsider might imagine that this diversity might create conflicts among the members living under the same roof; it does not. I am learning that, unlike housemates, life in a religious community encourages us to COME together in UNITY, forged by being grounded in our relationship with God and in living out our call to consecrated life.  As we share our common life, we live with the awareness that we are dependent on each other.  We experience God in our relationships and interactions with one another.  Our community life both broadens our vision of God and deepens our understanding of the Divine. Ultimately, community helps us grow closer because of our common unity with God.

“This pizza is amazing,” I exclaim as I bite into my first slice of bacon and sausage pizza. While Modern Apizza is delicious, my real joy comes from sharing a meal with these women gathered around the dinner table. God brought me to this place through my call to religious life.  As I continue my journey of formation as a sister, I am gifted by the opportunity to share my experience, life and faith with women, who like me, are following God’s call. The gift of their lives and their sharing makes my life so much better.  I appreciate greatly the opportunities to grow in my personal and spiritual awareness as part of my interaction with my sisters.  I count my blessings in being able to live in a community. We COME, sharing our diversity and gifts with each other in UNITY with God. Our intentional, diverse community gives me hope for a future filled with promise.

If God is calling you to consider religious life, why not take the leap and call one of our vocation ministers to start a conversation?

Posted in God Calling?

The National Day of Racial Healing

“What do I see around me in today’s world?”
I see infection and turbulence—the pandemic of the coronavirus, the pandemic of racism and of climate degradation, and more…
What response do infection and turbulence invite?–healing and peace.”

These words from Dominican Sisters of Peace Prioress Pat Twohill set the theme for our Congregation on this National Day of Racial Healing … how do we, as vowed religious, and as preachers of peace… instigate racial healing in our nation?

Three of our five Congregational Commitments speak to the importance of welcoming the stranger and the marginalized. The Dominican Sisters of Peace have been studying and contemplating systemic racism and how we might come together to end this social epidemic. Today, we are featuring a series of videos from our Sister Suzanne Brauer, who ministers at the New Orleans Peace Center, discussing her own path to personal racial healing.

Click here to view the entire series.

We are also sharing videos from several of our Sisters discussing their own thoughts on the need for and the path to racial healing. Please feel free to share any of these videos on your own social media using the hashtag #HowWeHeal.

Sr. Cathy Arnold, Co-Director, The Collaborative Dominican Initiative
Sr. Annie Killian, Novice, The Collaborative Dominican Initiative
Sr. Bea Tiboldi, Vocation Outreach Minister
Sr. Ellen Coates, Second Year Novice, Contact Tracer at Ohio State University
Sr. Robin Richard, ESL Program Coordinator, Dominican Learning Center
Sr. Margie Davis, Mission Group Coordinator, Dominican Sisters of Peace

If you would like to share ideas about racial healing in your own community, click here for a discussion guide.

Posted in News