Associate Update

Dear Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace…

Happy New Year to each one of you. I’d like to wish each of you, my friends in Christ, many blessings in the year 2022.

The past six months of my life – months of new experiences and new friends – have been filled with an awareness of how present the Holy Spirit has been in my life.

In June I moved into a new phase of my life’s journey. Having retired in December 2019, I thought that I would be able to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. I was moving to a new home in Florida and life would be great. I arrived in Florida in February of 2020 – just in time for the world as I knew it to come to a screeching halt in response to COVID-19.

Everything around me shut down. I spent months inside my home, wondering just when I would be able to enjoy my new “freedom to be me.” I learned a great deal about myself – and my own faith in God. (Although honestly, sometimes that faith was challenged!)

In April of 2021, I was invited to consider the position of Director of the Associates of Peace. God had prepared me for this possibility, and I was totally open for the opportunity – and on June 1, 2021, I began this wonderful adventure.

Over the past six months, I have been able to meet and greet many of the Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in person. I have met many more through the windows of Zoom. Meeting my sisters and brothers in Dominic’s family has assured me that I am where I want to be.

I traveled to the Motherhouse in Great Bend to direct a Retreat on the 4 Pillars of Dominican Life and experience the Commitment Ceremony of the Associates. I saw a part of our country I had not seen before where the sunrises were beautiful.

I have been to the Akron and Columbus Motherhouses and met many Associates and Sisters. I have sat in on planning meetings, prayer services, and commitment ceremonies.

Traveling to Virginia, Philadelphia, New York, Michigan, I met more Associates and learned how they worship and fellowship in their local areas. Virginia, Philadelphia, and New York were homecomings, as I had lived there as an Associate myself. My visit to Michigan was my first time in the state, and everyone made me feel welcome.

Being one of a group of women and men committed to the Four Pillars of Dominican life has been tremendously life-giving to me.

But in the midst of this joy, I have also seen and heard what the pandemic has done to our Associates and their families. Each month I have heard the stories and concerns, all leading to one question – when will our lives return to normal? I am not even sure what normal is at this point of my journey.

What I do know is that we, as Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, in mission with the community of Sisters, are resilient. Through many hours of conversation, I have learned that even though some Associates feel disconnected because of the virus, there is also much to be encouraged by as monthly gatherings are returning in person or on zoom. Our associates are, again, on the move.

Great prayer services are being held, presentations are being delivered, ministries are being nurtured and new ministries are springing up. Like the rest of the world, Associates are seeing new and different possibilities – and God is with us with every step.

The past six months have held challenges. The Office of Director was left vacant by the sudden death of Colette Parker, and I did not have her assistance during the transition. But sitting in the Akron Office of Associates, I feel Colette’s presence and her strength. I am supported by Celeste Williams, our wonderful Administrative Assistant. We are making great progress in getting things in order and doing important things together.

Just one month into the New Year, many innovative ideas and developments are coming into view. I believe we are a very strong group of women and men who are committed to discerning a new path in Associate life. There are answers to our questions – with faith in God and in each other.

Will we be challenged? Yes. But we are moving forward. We have great Sisters leading our Congregation. We have a strong Associates Council that is ready for the challenge. We have Mentors nurturing our small groups. Most importantly, each of us is continually saying YES to our commitment. Our continued YES communicates our desire that the Spirit of Dominic continues. We are capable and willing to be part of the future of the Congregation, and we welcome new people to join us in this work.

Indeed, the Holy Spirit has been very present to me in my first six months as Director of Associates and will continue to be present each day. I am grateful for all that has taken place and excited for all that is to come. Please continue to say YES as we move forward, as we become the hope for the future.  I am certainly grateful for each one of you.

Remember, “In God all things are possible.” Let us make it happen.

Thank you and bless you



Highlights: June 2021-January 2022

  • SAFE in-person Associates group meetings.
  • Regular Associate Zoom meetings.
  • New discerners and new Commitments are expected in August.
  • Communication between Associate groups around the country.
  • An active Mentorship program has been launched.
  • A new Associate Council has been launched.


Posted in Associate Blog

Vocation Discernment – Now and Then

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

“Sister, why did you become a Dominican Sister of Peace?”

“What do you see as the future of religious life in your congregation?”

“How do you respond to the needs of our time?”

“How does your community function?”

These are some of the many questions that discerners ask. The process of discerning a vocation today is different from what most religious sisters experienced in the past, including me.

When I was discerning, I often asked senior sisters about their vocation stories. I learned that in the past eighty, sixty, or fifty years ago, most sisters entered the convent at a young age, around 16 or 18 years old or even younger (in Vietnam, for instance). They did not experience much life outside their families. No vocational discernment program was established for them at that time. Their decision to enter a convent was based mainly on their connections with sisters, their impression of some of the sisters they encountered, or their attraction to the mission life of religious sisters.

Then, about twenty or thirty years ago, the process of discerning a religious vocation changed. Many congregations began to have Come and See events or allowed discerners to stay with them for a few days or a week. To respond to the needs of discerners at that time, the Dominican Sisters in Kentucky, who are now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, opened a house of discernment in Boston for discerners to live with sisters up to a year while participating in their discerning program. I decided to move into that house. I was impressed by their vision for mission and how the sisters interacted and shared life daily. After that year, I decided to stay.

Now that I am involved in the vocation ministry, I realize that there are many discernment programs around the country. Let’s take a look at the discernment programs the Dominican Sisters of Peace offer as an example of the variety of discernment opportunities available to discerning women. First, discerners meet with one of our vocation ministers monthly to seek clarification of their calling and to cultivate their call at a deeper level.  Second, they can also attend monthly Emmaus groups, Discernment Prayer groups, online Mini-Retreats, Come and See weekend retreats, Mission for Peace programs for 3- to 5-days, and mini live-in experiences.

The congregation also launched a congregational website to share our mission, and the vocation team created a vocation website, specifically for discerners. All of these programs and our websites are designed to help discerners develop their spirituality and to learn more about themselves, and their calling.  Today, discerners and sisters have many more opportunities to learn about and know one another at more profound and intimate levels.

At her studio, Sr. Thoma Swanson, OP shares her drawing with a visiting discerner, Terry Schell, and a temporary professed sister, Sr. Ellen Coates, OP.

In journeying with discerners, I find that most women, who come to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, are diverse and unique in many ways by age, race, career, and life experiences. Those who say “Yes” to becoming a Dominican Sister of Peace found themselves at home with our sisters. They are inspired by the joy, the peace, the faith living, and the strong commitments the sisters have. They desire to live this life and share in the congregation’s mission with sisters. At the same time, our sisters enjoy sharing their vocation stories and having conversations with these discerners or newer members because of the fresh vision, new fire, and new energy they bring to the congregation. Together, discerners, newer members, and professed sisters all create an environment for spreading hope and enthusiasm and for motivating and awakening us to the new possibilities for religious life in the present and for the future.

Reflecting on this history of vocational discernment through the years, I see a common thread of mutual affection between professed sisters and new members.

If you feel a call to this mutual affection for the church’s mission and for your vocation call, contact us or participate in our Come and See event this March 4-6, 2022. Or, click here to register now for this weekend event.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog


Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

“The blueprint for a better tomorrow lives in the collective imagination.”

These are words that greet visitors to STUDIOBe, an art space in New Orleans. Recognizing the importance of art as expression and, for Dominicans, as preaching, STUDIOBe seemed like a perfect field trip for the Peace Center and our neighborhood kids. The founder of STUDIOBe, Brandon Odums, is a local African American street artist, which made our visit, so close to Black History Month, even more appropriate.

While STUDIOBe is a popular tourist spot here in New Orleans, Brandon’s backstory is one that we wanted to share with the students from the Peace Center. Brandon is a NOLA native who graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), where he studied visual arts. He worked as a filmmaker and became interested in spray paint “street art” as a hobby. After Hurricane Katrina, he created a series of murals of Black revolutionaries in abandoned houses in the Ninth Ward. His installation attracted other young creatives to create an underground, guerilla art hub, which Odums named #PROJECTBe.

PROJECTBe was open until the Housing Authority of New Orleans shuttered the Florida Housing Development where it was housed. In the documentary “Strong Light,” Odums asked, “Why is this space still here, eight years after Katrina? Could be it’s a response to neglect… a response to the fact that New Orleans has so many eye sores right next to communities that are trying to rebuild?”

This is an important point to consider. New Orleans has faced so many disasters, and often the poorest, those of color, those who have the most resilience but also the fewest material resources, are left to recover in the shadow and wreckage of tragedy. This speaks to the mission of the Peace Center… where we work to provide a place of peace to strengthen those who want to build a peaceful life.

The larger-than-life images at STUDIOBE capture some fun nostalgia from former days, like a pay phone, a doll house and a Nintendo game system. More important, some of these images  reflect the reality of being Black in a White world, giving us an opportunity to discuss these realities with the kids.

One wall showed a painting of a young Black boy drinking from a water fountain with the sign “WHITE ONLY” pasted on the side. I asked one of our boys what he would do if he found one of those signs on a fountain in his school. His response was immediate, “Tear it down!”

I asked him what he would do if the cops came and he said, “Go down on my knees and raise my hands.” At the age of 12 he had had “The Talk.” He has learned as a young Black man, he needs to be more careful when he “protests,” even when he is in the right.

We are grateful that we had the opportunity to share this amazing exhibit with the kids from the Peace Center. We hope that Odum’s lesson of using art to inspire, to question, and yes, to preach, helps the youth that we serve find a new way to build peace.

Posted in Weekly Word

From Our Annual Report: Hope Changes Lives

According to a study by the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, only about 16 percent of “persistently poor children” become successful young adults. In a nation like Jamaica, where more than 25 percent of youth live below the poverty line, that means that a significant number of young people may feel that they have no opportunity to move past the generational poverty that they experience daily.

But thanks to the work of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, young people at Riverton Meadows in Kingston, Jamaica, see a way out of poverty and towards a better life.

Sister Gene Poore has been involved with summer programs in Jamaica since 1992. Ten years ago, she started working with youth in Riverton Meadows, a settlement built on and around a landfill in Kingston, as part of the Jamaican Outreach Collaborative. The Jamaican Outreach Collaborative is supported by grants from Common Spirit Health as well as donations from people like you.

“The Jamaican Outreach Collaborative was born out of a collective realization by people serving in west Kingston,” said Sr. Gene. “After many years of working in the area, we came to understand that the issues facing these impoverished neighborhoods were not only complex, but deeply rooted. The resources and expertise that were required to solve these issues seemed greater than one organization could offer.”

“We have learned that the work of genuinely transforming lives not only requires collaboration by people in and out of Kingston, but a vision that provides hope to vulnerable people lacking resources and options,” she continued.

The Jamaican Outreach Collaborative offers a wide range of aid – from healthy mom and baby clinics to summer camps to funding of schoolbooks and supplies. But one of the most transformative aspects of this ministry is the skills training program provided to young people.

With unemployment in the double digits across the island, more than 70% of those unemployed lack remedial academic skills, and 90% lack the professional skills that would make finding employment possible.

For more than a decade, the Dominican Sisters of Peace and the Jamaica Education Fund have been supporting youth in high school, universities, and in law school. They have sponsored 30-35 young people annually to receive the training that will make them employable and offer a way out of poverty.

“Jamaica has a rigorous permit and certification process for workers in most trades – from bookkeeping to security to nursing to cosmetology. These licenses and permits are often too costly for the young people of Riverton Meadows, so we help them pay for the training that they need to start their career,” says Sister Gene. “Many young people just lack the confidence and the family support to try to further their studies. The team on the ground that is funded by the Jamaica Education Fund offers guidance, academic reinforcement, and moral support. All of this has been done with the help of grants and donations from people who support our work.”

Students can choose from more than 20 areas of study to find the career path appropriate to their own interests and talents. Once complete, they can find employment in Jamaica.




















The increase in trained medical professionals that has resulted from the Jamaican Outreach Collaborative has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many medical professionals were not available to serve at the Riverton Clinic during the pandemic, students in practical nursing rotated shifts at the clinic when their classes were interrupted by COVID-19.

Their training made them indispensable to the Riverton area during this time of crisis.

The sewing center founded by the Jamaican Outreach Collaborative, which offers employment to Riverton community members, also played a part in protecting the community from COVID, refocusing output from school uniforms and medical slings to much-needed face masks.

We are not offering a band aid, but an avenue for transformation for individuals and the neighborhoods in which they live,” said Sr. Gene. “Education, skills training, and the opportunity for employment are the only ways young people can break the cycle of poverty and provide for themselves and their families. They want to be – they need to be – part of building a stronger, safer, and healthier community.”


Click to help support our ministries in 2022!




Posted in News

From our Annual Report: Discovering Purpose

Cassidy Rinker, 27, was living in Madison, WI, and working a job that paid the bills… but was not interesting or fulfilling. The stress of the pandemic made it worse. But when her sister Lindsay Fisher, 37, approached her with an idea, she wasn’t sure it was the best next move.

– Travel to Kansas?
– For six weeks?
– To care for alpacas?
– With a bunch of nuns?

Lindsay had learned to love alpacas on a college trip to Peru and Cassidy tried to be enthusiastic about an opportunity for her to pursue this dream. And the more she thought about it, the more she felt her sister’s excitement. She needed to jump-start her life. Maybe this was the leap that she needed to take?

She quit her job and accompanied her sister to Pawnee Rock, KS, where the Dominican Sisters of Peace own a sustainably-managed farm and tend a herd of 15 alpacas.

“I didn’t know anything about farming,” Cassidy says. “I had lived in cities most of my life, and I was absolutely lost. But the Sisters welcomed me with open arms.”

Sr. Jane Belanger, a longtime member of the Heartland Farm community, took Cassidy under her wing. “She was a great mentor, and she knows – and does – everything, from handling the plants to using the machines on the farm,” Cassidy says. “I have never seen a woman with so much go-get-it-ness.”

“I fell in love with the farm…with the quiet beauty of the land, and the rhythms of the weather and the crops and the animals,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy also spent a great deal of time with Sr. Imelda Schmidt, who has lived on the farm for a total of 14 years.

“Sr. Imelda was so compassionate…she spent hours just listening to me talk about my old job and my old life. She didn’t tell me what to do – she just pointed to things I might consider and let me find my own way,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy signed up for an organic farming apprentice program and asked to remain at Heartland Farm until November to continue her training. Sr. Jane went one step further, hiring Cassidy to apprentice with the new Heartland Farm Assistant Manager.

According to Sonali McDermid, an assistant professor at the department of environmental studies at New York University, organic farming can boost yields over conventional farming because it relies less on water and chemical inputs. Cassidy will be part of a growing movement to feed more people while caring for Earth.

“The next few months will be an amazing learning opportunity,” Cassidy said. “My time with Sr. Jane, Sr. Imelda, and the community here at Pawnee Rock literally set my life on a new course, giving it new meaning, new purpose, and wonderful new friends.”

Click to help support our ministries in 2022!

Posted in News