The Vastness of God’s Love

Blog by Candidate Shingai Chigwedere

I recently volunteered at a weekend retreat at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, NY. The retreat was for persons with disabilities and the theme was, God loves you, based on John 3:16. Some of the retreatants were in wheelchairs due to cerebral palsy, others were hearing impaired, had Down syndrome, or had some memory issues. Each retreatant was paired up with helper/s to provide companionship and in some cases nurses to ensure correct medical attention. As an aside, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), they use the term, people of determination instead of disabilities. I like the term people of determination because it positively describes the lived reality that our retreatants push through every day.

So here I am in Niskayuna, awaiting the arrival of the retreatants. Suddenly, one of our fellow volunteers leaps from her chair and runs out the front door. My heart swelled with warmth as I watched her running exuberantly to greet the van that was transporting her wheelchair-bound friend. It was such a pure, holy moment. An hour later, I received a big hug from a retreatant with Down syndrome whom I had never met before. Her parents explained that she was excited to return to this retreat after a two- year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the weekend, this retreatant would give spontaneous hugs to others. It was always heartwarming and something about her carefree sharing of love stayed with me.

Throughout the retreat, scarves, and instruments (shakers, tambourines, etc.) were provided so that all could fully participate in the Eucharistic celebration. The music team selected upbeat processional and recessional hymns and lively arrangements of the Gloria, Gospel Acclamation, and Doxology to encourage self-expression. You could tell the priests celebrating Mass were touched in an extraordinary way and even joined in by clapping to the hymns. When one retreatant offered a comment after the priest finished his homily, the priest engaged in a loving and affirming manner that made the interaction seem like a regular part of the liturgy. The retreatants enjoyed being together, sharing stories during mealtimes and breaks. There was a real sense of fellowship, oneness, and genuine care for each other. God’s love was palpable and overflowing. It was a sacred space.

As the retreat facilitator talked about the theme, God loves you, I reflected on the big hug I got from the retreatant and how joyfully the volunteer greeted her friend. Is that how much God loves me? Does God delight in me with this exuberance I witnessed? Yes, John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” God gave up the life of His only child, for you and for me. Wow, that is beautiful and overwhelming! I thought I was there to help the retreatants and yet God used this retreat to remind me of the breadth, depth, and width of His love through my sisters and brothers in Christ.

If you are discerning religious life and would like to explore ways God is calling you to share this incredible message of love, please contact our Vocations team.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Art to Celebrate Laudato Si’

Some of  SIster Thoma Swanson’s pieces are directly inspired by scripture, such as “Tears for Aaron, Rain on the Green Mountain,” a large acrylic painting referencing the weeping of Aaron, brother of Moses.

“As I read the Psalms, I saw that mountain with the tears coming down, and it struck me. It was this image of the tears of a man that were so plentiful, so huge – this huge burst of tears that could run down a mountain.”

Sr. Thoma Swanson, OP

“Tears for Aaron, Rain on the Green Mountain by Sister Thoma Swanson, OP, excerpted from Columbus Alive – Joel Oliphint, Associate Editor

 

God of Justice,
Open our eyes to see you in the face of the poor.
Open our ears to hear you in the cries of the exploited.
Open our mouths to defend you in the public squares
As well as in private deeds.
Remind us that what we do
To the least ones, we do to you.
Amen
Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Dominican Sisters of Peace Share 200 Years of History in “Building Peace” Podcast

Sr. Ana Gonzalez, OP, records an episode of “Building Peace: 200 Years of Catholic Dominican Nuns in the United States.”

As the Dominican Sisters of Peace celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Dominican Women Religious in the United States, the Congregation will release a new podcast: “Building Peace: 200 Years of Catholic Dominican Nuns in the United States,” on Saturday, June 25.

The podcast shares the 200-year history of the founding congregations of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, beginning with the Kentucky Dominicans, the first congregation of Dominican Sisters, founded in Springfield, Kentucky in 1822. Subsequent episodes will examine the histories of the other Congregations that constitute the present-day Dominican Sisters of Peace, including the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs; the Congregation of St. Mary; Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci; the Dominican Sisters of Great Bend, Kansas; the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic; the Sisters of St. Dominic of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Congregation of St. Rose of Lima.

Each Congregation will be featured in a single episode. Other episodes will look at the Congregation’s work in education, social justice, missionary work, and more. The podcast has been written and recorded by members of the congregation and offers a unique look into religious life and the women who have dedicated their lives to service to the Church and her people.

“The story of Dominican Women Religious in the US is literally the story of America,” said Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, who has spearheaded the effort to create this podcast series. “From our earliest days of teaching children on the frontier to our work today in education, medicine, ecology, and social justice, our Congregation has helped build this country, and we believe that we will also be a positive force in our nation’s future.”

The first episode of “Building Peace: 200 Years of Catholic Dominican Nuns in the United States,” will be available Saturday, June 25. It can be found at the website celebrating the 200th anniversary of Dominican Women Religious, usdomsisters200.oppeace.org, and other podcast services.

Posted in Celebrating 200 Years, News

Guns – Another personal (but darker) Story

Blog by Rev. Ron Kurzawa

Previously, I shared with you the story of a time when, at least for a few hours, I actually possessed a gun.

This is a second story and this time about a gun that “possesses” me.

These days as we recall gun tragedies in schools, our stories go back usually to beginning with Columbine and the student massacre that took place there. And while it is probably true that the horrid tales of modern day school massacres should be traced to Columbine, the reality is that  there is to be found a long history of gun violence in our schools.

And while this is not a tale of mass shootings or multiple deaths, it is a tale of a gun tragedy in a school and in our time. It is the tale that, for me, personally, marks the saga of modern day school gun violence.

This story unfolds in late April of 1984 on the West Side of Detroit in Precious Blood Grade School.

It was Holy Week and for the students Easter Break was right around the corner. In fact the final half day of classes before the Great Easter Break was coming to its final minutes. No doubt, with Springtime and Easter heavy in the air, the excitement among the students had to be running very high.

Minutes to go!

And in the eighth grade classroom one  young lad at that moment proudly decided to produce a unique token of his excitement.

He had brought a gun to school!

And this, minutes before that final bell, was the perfect time to produce this item and allow his friends to be properly impressed.

And, indeed, they must have been.

All the while, that is, until, somehow that gun went off. That weapon discharged.

A single bullet.

Just enough to tear across the room and lodge in the skull of an unsuspecting eighth grade girl, a young lady named Kelly.

And in an instant Kelly was gone.

Dead!

I was the pastor of Precious Blood Parish at that time and, thus, that school was directly in my care. One of “my kids,” Kelly, was dead and still another, perhaps a couple of others, responsible for her death.

In an instant what had promised to be a calm and quiet few hours before entering the Easter Triduum suddenly turned into nothing short of a nightmare not just for me but for so many.

There were grieving, shocked parents and frantic, fearful parents and bewildered, dazed boys and girls and sirens everywhere and police and media and questions – questions mostly  with no answers right then.

Try, just try and sit down on an evening like that with parents who have just lost their daughter and try, just try and find some words to make sense!

And the next day, with media still hounding and legal authorities still searching for answers, that day that in our calendar is called Holy Thursday, I and the faculty and the parish staff spent in sessions with grief counselors, all just trying to put our own spirits and souls somehow back together.

And on that Friday which we call “Good” there was the usual Service that focused on that long-ago cross and death even as we continued to deal with a right-here-right-now senseless death.

In the evening the church building was filled to overflowing, not for prayer and worship, although there likely was plenty of that present in  hearts and minds, but rather for a neighborhood and community meeting to gather and talk about what had happened and how some healing might begin.

And in Easter Week – the Funeral!

And a whole lot of years have passed  since that moment, those days and yet, in all honesty, every time a new story of a school and youngsters and a gun or guns emerges, well, for me it is like tearing a bandage off an old wound and opening it yet again.

I continue to be called to grieve and so I do.

And as I do, I can only imagine what some parents are going through and some kids and some teachers and some First Responders. Sandy Hook! Uvalde! And so many others!

And I can also suspect that, even after all these years, there are those who were part of this story who, likewise, still feel the pain and those wounds. This sort of hurt just does not heal.

A single bullet has taken one life.

It has also wounded countless others.

I know.

I continue to be one of those.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Sr. Pat Twohill Granted Honorary Doctorate

Albertus Magnus College held its Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22, 2022. The celebration was held in front of the College’s iconic Rosary Hall in New Haven CT.
As has been customary at the College’s annual Commencement, Albertus awarded honorary degrees to distinguished individuals whose life and work have honored the College’s mission.
Sr. Patricia A. Twohill, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace and Albertus Board of Trustees member, was honored with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa. Sr. Pat also delivered the Commencement Address to the Albertus
graduates; click here to read her address.
Albertus Magnus College was founded in 1925 by the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary the Springs, a founding congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

Posted in News