“I thought I’d spend my life in the little triangle of a parish: living in the convent, teaching in the school, praying in the church, and, if lucky, getting to the dentist twice a year.” That’s how, late in life, Sister Elaine Virginia DesRosiers, O.P., ’66M.S, recalled her embrace of her religious vocation as a teenager in 1948.
Her first 15 years as a Dominican nun went according to plan. Then the Second Vatican Council — and six summers studying biology as a graduate student at Notre Dame — changed everything, transforming the former grade-school teacher into a TV host and audiovisual expert who would lead the University’s trailblazing foray into the world of the computerized classroom.
The former director of educational media at Notre Dame, known as much for her oil paintings, her summer film festivals, her effervescent warmth, her hope and her heart for the poor as for her landmark contributions to campus technology, died December 16, 2020. She was 90.
Having completed her master’s degree, DesRosiers returned to the Boston archdiocese where she grew up, creating The World of Biochemistry, a televised course for high school students broadcast by the Boston Catholic Television Center. The experience led to doctoral studies in educational media and skills that landed her back at Notre Dame in 1976 as head of a small unit that mostly dispersed students and their AV carts through the halls of classroom buildings, but in time would oversee the genesis of a campuswide computing network.
By 1992, DesRosiers and associate director Michael Langthorne had spearheaded plans for DeBartolo Hall, with 84 classrooms wired into a centralized system that enabled professors to use the latest digital and visual media in their courses. As of her retirement in 1997, representatives from more than 650 universities around the world had toured the building.
“Everything concerning people and their betterment — she was into it,” recalled her friend, Gerald Gingras, professor emeritus of Spanish literature at Saint Mary’s College. “She had a total commitment to humanity and saw goodness at every level.”
Returning to her motherhouse in Springfield, Kentucky, DesRosiers’ artistic talents garnered commissions to paint historic and religious buildings — and a Fra Angelico Award from the Dominican Institute for the Arts.
“I recognized that this life of mine has been one big act of gratitude,” she once wrote. “St. Catherine’s teaching, ‘Of myself I am nothing. With God’s gifts I am everything,’ has imbedded in me a deep, deep sense of gratitude to God, the giver of my gifts.”
“Peace be with you” is the greeting that the risen Christ used to reach out to his disciples after his resurrection and before sending them out to the world. This greeting is for each of us too, encouraging us to live each day with mindfulness of peace to be sent as peacemakers in the world.
Being mindful of peace helps us to recognize God’s gifts around us. Pause for a few minutes from what you are doing and look around. You will realize that you are so blessed with beautiful flowers, fresh scenery each day with new green buds/leaves, and the sound of bird song. Such moments provide inspiration and opportunities to refresh your soul and feel at peace, moving you to praise God wholeheartedly.
Our Congregation was founded at the beginning of Easter 2009. Living into our name “Peace,” we strive to be messengers of the peace of the risen Christ in our time. We are sent with new enthusiasm to preach with a new fire, striving to live and work for peace in all facets of our lives. We are inspired by the scripture, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7. We often ask, how do we practice living peace each day?
We practice be-build-preach peace in various ways both as individuals and as a congregation. As an individual, I would like to offer you one of my daily practices of the mindfulness of peace:
When you wake up: Do not hurry to start your day. First, smile and look around your room. Lift your mind and heart to praise God for the new day. Then, sit up. Commit yourself to be peace: “I commit myself to be-build-preach peace today by… (state one action here that you want to commit.) I will be more attentive and keep myself open to opportunities for peace that come to me during the day.” After that, stand up. Pause for ten seconds to breathe in and out before you move. This practice of mindfulness will help you enter your new day joyfully and gently.
Throughout your day, pause for a minute or two to be aware of what is going on in nature or around you. Be aware of your feelings at that time. You can do this more than one time per day.
At the end of the day, before you go to bed, do a “Peace Examen” which can be added to your Ignatian daily Examen. For example,
What type of peace did I receive today? Then smile, and with a grateful heart, praise God for each peaceful moment you received.
How and to whom did I share God’s peace today?
What opportunity to bring or receive peace did I miss?
How did I communicate with others today?
Where and when did I encounter God today?
Being mindful of peace and practicing a daily peace examen helps us to be aware of God’s peace present in our life, to raise our own consciousness of, and to grow in being peace for peace mission. When practicing mindfulness, remember to practice smiling too. Smiling is often considered as an act of peace sharing, reducing tensions at works and in families and making others relaxed.
The Easter season is a good time to practice being mindful of peace. Let us live each day as messengers of Christ’s peace here on earth. If you feel called to be peace, build peace, and preach peace as a Dominican Sister, contact us to begin the conversation.
Act for the For The People Act
When the Senate returns from recess on April 12th, one of the first orders of business will be the For The People Act (S.1)—a once-in-a-generation transformative democracy reform bill.
Join the National Call-In Day—Thursday, April 8.
Please call your Senators on April 8 to urge them to support passage of S.1.
The For the People Act would
protect and strengthen the sacred right to vote,
end the dominance of big money in politics,
end partisan gerrymandering, and
implement anti-corruption, pro-ethics measures to clean up government.
Contact your Senators today and urge them to support this bold, comprehensive response which is critical to strengthen and protect our democracy. You might say something like:
I’m (Your Name) from (Your City). I am a constituent and a person of faith. I’m calling to ask the Senator to support S. 1, the For the People Act. The common-sense reforms in this legislation are deeply popular across the political spectrum and have been enacted into law in many states and localities. People of faith see fair representation, voting rights and accountability for elected leaders as moral issues of utmost importance. My faith tells me that a fair and inclusive democracy is about dignity for all and passing the For the People Act is the first step to get us there. Can I count on Sen. ___ support for this comprehensive reform legislation which responds to the comprehensive problems undermining our democracy.
On April 8th please call your Senators and ask them to support the For the People Act.
The Crisis at the Border
Thanks to Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, who shared this excellent article by Don Kerwin on from the Center for Migration Studies. The article is an excellent assessment of the causes of the increased number of unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers crossing the US-Mexico border. Click here for the article.
Learn About Caring for our Soil The theme for Faith Climate Action Week (April 16 – 25) is “Sacred Ground: Cultivating Connections Between our Faith, our Food, and the Climate.” We are featuring the film Kiss the Ground, which discusses how regenerating the world’s soils has the potential to rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems, and create abundant food supplies.
Once you register you will receive a link-to-view for three different versions—the full-length film (84 minutes), a grower version (45 minutes), and an educational version for schools (45 minutes.)
You can also download the free screening kit that includes faith-based discussion questions on the film page, and host a film discussion with your congregation, and attend the companion webinar on April 21.
We’ll havea conversation with Kiss the Ground filmmaker, Josh Tickell, and Faith in Place’s Statewide Outreach Director, Veronica Kyle, on what congregations can do to be part of the solution to food justice and climate justice. When you register to view the film, you will also receive the Zoom link to join the webinar.
Is it time for another moon shot? In the 1960s President Kennedy sparked the imagination of the American people by declaring that astronauts would go to the moon, “Not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” His prediction demanded a large amount of financial support, determination, and imagination. President Obama called for another moon shot to cure cancer. We are still waiting in hope that successful outcome.
The “American Jobs Plan” initiated by President Biden is an ambitious effort to repair the nation’s infrastructure from roads and bridges to expansion of broadband, to the long-standing need for replacement of water pipes that contain lead, so that cities can provide clean drinking water. For me, the next moon shot in the post-Flint, MI, era is clean drinking water. The crisis in that city should have been a wake-up call for our leaders to address – and it’s time to rouse them from their slumber.
When leaders in Flint decided to switch the city’s water source from the Detroit river to the Flint river, children paid a high price by accumulating high levels of lead in their bodies. The city lived on bottled water and still has not fully recovered. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the number of children with elevated blood lead levels in the United States is 1.2 million and the numbers are likely to go up, and many of these children suffer from long-term neurological damage.
President Biden’s bill proposes to replace 100% of the lead pipes and service lines. The EPA estimates that improving and maintaining the nation’s water infrastructure over the next 20 years will cost about $750 billion – but that investment is offset by the positive impact on society.
Lead’s impact on the brain — particularly the developing brains of children and fetuses — is severe and systematic, “resulting in reduced [IQ], behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior and reduced educational attainment.” These impacts are felt at even low levels of exposure. What is the societal cost of generations of children with low academic achievement, low impulse control leading to crime and to teen pregnancy, and increased danger of addiction?
A 10 percent drop in the crime rate associated with lead abatement would generate $150 billion per year in benefits. A 2009 study by Elise Gould suggested that eliminating lead paint alone would generate somewhere between $41 billion and $199 billion in reduced expenditures on health care and special education, plus $25 billion to $35 billion in extra tax revenue. Just imagine what removing lead from the drinking water of young children could do.
Living in denial of the problem or arguing about the cost and benefits will not solve the problem. How valuable is the health and safety of children in the United States? We can cut the tax write-off of the three-martini business lunch, and instead vote for clean drinking water. We can call for large corporations to pay taxes (55 corporations in the United States paid NO TAXES last year.) Fed Ex, Version, Niki can pay their fair share, especially since corporations made over $40.5 billion in profits. We can close Guantanamo Bay prison and place those prisoners in federal prisons in the United States and save millions every year. The list goes on.
Children in the richest country in the world (and in all countries) deserve clean drinking water. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but a moral issue.
Rasheedah Crawley suspected that religious sisters wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to help others, but she never expected the enthusiasm that the Dominican Sisters of Peace had when it came to helping her pack and distribute nearly 1,000 bags for the homeless.
Crawley is founder of People Helping People 614, a collective of people who get supplies to those in need, and it had plenty of items leftover following the summer’s protests after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in late May.
That’s where the Dominican Sisters of Peace came in.
The novel coronavirus had 72 women, with an average age of over 80, quarantined inside the North East Side motherhouse and itching to find a way to help those in need in the world outside. They, of course, pray often, but they also wanted to do something more tangible.
Packing 991 bags for People Helping People filled with toothpaste, toothbrushes, Gatorade, socks and more isn’t all they’ve been doing while being stuck inside during the pandemic, either, said Gaye Reissland, activities director for the sisters.
“They’ve never remained stationary,” Reissland said. “They’ve done lot being confined — a lot of outreach — and touched people, maybe not physically but through really good works.”
Unlike nuns, who mostly live and pray within the enclosure of a monastery, sisters work and live in the world outside their religious community.
Even during their year of quarantine, the sisters have made around 7,800 face masks; sewn mittens, hats and scarves to donate to the homeless and others in need; tutored adult learners through Zoom; and offered virtual counseling sessions. Those who don’t live in the motherhouse — and thus weren’t quarantined — have been volunteering for Meals on Wheels.
“We really haven’t stopped because … when one thing was easing up — like masks — there would be a need right away for something else,” said Sister Susan Olson, mission group coordinator for the sisters.
Crawley never expected a group of religious sisters would be the ones helping her pack bags for the homeless.
“I didn’t expect it to be like an army of these ladies,” she said. “I didn’t expect them to be so very serious about this, pushing it forward, insisting we send them more stuff and more bags. They’re still insisting we do.”
She loved the sisters’ enthusiasm for helping people and their dedication.
“They’re not just talking it, they’re walking it,” Crawley said.
“These are all women who are later in their lives. They have not settled down, they’re going to continue to push forward and fight.”
Crawley plans to work with the sisters in the future and is thankful for their help.
“It does not escape me how important it is that they were willing to help me transform something that is a symbol of trauma into something that is a symbol of hope and maybe even transformation,” she said.
The sisters in the motherhouse, 97% of whom are vaccinated, are just beginning to venture out again after a year in quarantine, Olson said.
“Once they are able to get out again, I know they’ll be at the front line at city council meetings and working with public officials to try and make the world a safer place,” Reissland said.
Olson got the other sisters involved in a project of her own while they were quarantined and had them pack 50 bags for the homeless in February, a task they accomplished in 20 minutes, she said.
“They’re very efficient,” Olson said.
Although most of the sisters are technically considered to be retired, Olson said none of them claim that. Instead, on cards they get each year, they say their lives are now of prayer and service, she said.
“One of the things I continue to be humbled by and in awe of is the generosity of spirit,” Olson said. “Even in the midst of very hard times — we were pretty much locked down for a full year — the sisters still want to do outreach. It’s what they’ve known their whole life. It doesn’t stop.”