Gold and Loyalty to Love

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

Recently I laid down a decades-long teaching career and embarked on a sabbatical journey of preparing for a new retreat ministry.  Just this past month, I gave my first weeklong retreat, “Trinity and Community: The Mysticism of Creation” where we explored the Book of Creation using the lens of science to understand and hopefully imitate the ways in which God calls Creation (including we humans) to build community (a.k.a. the Kingdom).  Starting with the Big Bang (a.k.a. the Flaring Forth), we examined several levels of increasing complexity, called sciences, until we reached the most complex form in the universe, ecosystems.

Since the retreat, I have begun reflections on how common everyday objects or events from my daily life contain this universe story.  The following story tracks the universe story of the gold in my maternal grandmother’s wedding ring, which I inherited from my family upon my religious profession in 2005.

After the Big Bang, the genesis of the first nuclei occurred as the universe gradually cooled, but only the elements hydrogen and helium and a little lithium were part of the universe.  No gold anywhere!

The gathering of those elements, driven by gravity, produced a relatively massive star, whose nuclear fusion produced not only light, but many more elements up to iron, including, but not limited to: carbon, oxygen, neon, silicon, sulfur, calcium, too. Still no gold!

At the end of that star’s life, gravity prevailed as fusion ceased. A supernova event, signaling the death of that first-generation star’s life, created the gold that eventually became my grandmother’s wedding ring!  This final violent explosion of this first star released that gold into the universe at large.  Now gold, but still no earth!

Slowly over time, gravity regathered this gold and other elements then present in that locality of the universe into a new solar system, whose third planet, earth, became the residence of at least some of that gold. (Perhaps, too, other nearby suns produced gold in supernovae of their own, which also became part of the gold on the earth.) Now gold in the earth, but it is inaccessible to humans!

That gold then migrated inside the earth in the viscous circulation of the mantle for a long time until it migrated near the surface and became part of the crust of the earth.  Sometime in the early 20th century, miners extracted it. Gold now near the surface of the earth, but still no ring! (Ironically, my mother’s family produced a number of coal miners who worked in Wilkes-Barre, PA.)

After an artisan purified it from other elements using fire (see 1 Peter 1: 3-9, especially verse 7), s/he carefully mixed with other elements to form a more durable 14K gold.  After shaping it and sizing it to fit my grandmother’s ring finger on her left hand, the artisan etched it with delicate, beautiful designs on its outer surface and a message of eternal love on the inside: “F.P. to A.P”…from Francis Puseman to Anna Puseman.  Finally, a gold ring, symbol of perpetual love, one that I wear today as a sign of permanent commitment to my religious congregation, continuing my grandmother’s sense of loyalty to love!

Sr. Margaret Uche, OP, (53), right, receives the Congregation’s shield from Sister Pat Dual, OP, left, at her Profession of Temporary Vows in 2018.

In the coming days it will be my happy privilege to attend the final profession of one of our sisters from Kansas, Sister Margaret Uche, OP.  She, too, will receive a ring, a symbol of God’s everlasting, faithful love to her and to her commitment of love to God’s people and to the Dominican Sisters of Peace. As she commits to our religious congregation, I and others there will pledge our own support of her commitment.

Please join us for Sister Margaret’s perpetual profession, on Sunday, July 31 at 10:30 am CST/11:30 am EDT by tuning into the live-streamed Eucharistic Liturgy and Rite of Perpetual Profession of Vows from our Great Bend Motherhouse Chapel in Kansas. Please click here to watch live on YouTube. Or, you can click here to join the celebration via Zoom or copy and paste the following link into your browser: Webinar ID: 874 8367 7310.

What tugs at your heart this summer?

Is God tugging at your heart?  We invite you to come and listen with others who are in discernment about religious life at our next Come and See Retreat in Akron, Ohio on September 23 – 25, 2022.  For more information and to register, click here.


Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Coral Reef Awareness Week

Blog by Associate Judy Hardy

Coral reefs are important ocean habitats and offer a compelling case of the risks of climate change. Reefs provide a large fraction of Earth’s biodiversity—they have been called “the rain forests of the seas.” Scientists estimate that 25 percent of all marine species live in and around coral reefs, making them one of the most diverse habitats in the world.

Coral reefs are a vital part of the ocean ecosystem. Coral reefs help to keep our planet’s carbon dioxide levels under control by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Coral reefs are fragile and sensitive to changes in water quality and temperature. When pollution causes changes in water quality or temperatures exceed their natural tolerances, corals will become stressed and may die if conditions don’t improve.

Stressors to coral reefs include:

  • Bleached areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Photos from The Guardian.

    Rising water temperatures: Corals thrive in relatively warm water, but when water temperatures rise too high, the zooxanthellae are forced to leave. Since these algae give the corals color, when they leave the coral becomes white, appearing bleached. This coral bleaching can cause the reef to die.

  • Ocean acidification: Ocean acidification can affect coral health by making less calcium carbonate available in ocean waters, making it harder for corals to form their skeletons.
  • Predation: Some species can cause damage to coral reefs, like damsel fish and crown of thorn starfish. While they may not be invasive, outbreaks of these species can wreak havoc on reefs.
  • Overfishing: Coral reef ecosystems support an abundance of species, but overfishing can deplete these populations and affect the entire ecosystem.
  • Recreational Impacts: Boat groundings and anchors can harm corals by breaking or scarring them. Sunscreens that include certain chemicals, harm coral reefs and other plants and animals that live in the ocean. Protect yourself and the reef by covering up or wearing mineral-based sunscreens.

While coral reefs are a wonderful sight when on vacation in a tropical area, it’s important to remember that overfishing or recreational use can put significant stress on these delicate micro-environments. Treat them with care – don’t walk on them or try to take a “souvenir.” Our life – and those of future generations – depend on it.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Mission for Peace Program

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

June 22-26, we joyfully opened our doors and welcomed in five participants (two discerners, one candidate and two novices) to our Mission for Peace Immersion program.  This five-day event took place in Wichita and Great Bend, KS, and gave the participants an experience of ministering with and praying with us as they continue to discern their call to religious life.

On Wednesday morning, we began exploring Wichita by visiting the Keeper of the Plains and Mid-America All Indian museum.  In the afternoon, Sr. June Fitzgerald introduced us to the practice of theological reflection which we can use to reflect on our experience of service and prayer this week.  We also made one-decade rosary bracelets which incorporate various messages in the beads about peace, such as “build peace,” “share peace,” “pray 4 peace,” or “I love peace.” We ate and prayed with the sisters of our Wichita community: Sr. Lillian Gehlen, Sr. Kathy Goetz, and Sr. Margaret Uche.  Sr. Charlotte Brungardt from Winfield, KS, also joined us today.

On Thursday, after Mass and breakfast, we volunteered at the Lords Diner, preparing meals to combat hunger among our unhoused and poor neighbors. Donning our aprons, we dove into the many activities needed to keep the center running.  From removing the meat from more than two dozen large turkeys, to draining peaches for dessert, sorting donated sandwiches and arranging flowers to make their dining room tables more inviting. The hours went quickly.  After lunch we packed our van and drove to the Great Bend Motherhouse for the next leg of our journey.  The sisters warmly welcomed us.  After dinner, Sr. Martina Stegman gave us a full tour of the Motherhouse and surrounding campus.

Friday morning, Sr. Francine Schwarzenberger and Sr. Rebecca Otter taught us how to make cinnamon rolls to raise funds to support our mission in Nigeria and the poor in western Kansas. Sisters, Associates, and friends joined us in this activity. We mixed dough, rolled and baked, frosted and packed more than 700 yummy cinnamon rolls. In the afternoon, Sr. Francine shared the history of and current reality of the mission in Nigeria where Sr. Rita Schwarzenberger has served for more than 40 years. She also shared the history of the Great Bend congregation. Our day ended with Adoration in a contemplative atmosphere.

On Saturday, we helped sell cinnamon rolls before heading to Heartland Farm. At the farm, Sr. Jane Belanger led us in Morning Prayer in the beautifully renovated silo.  We did farm work, including vine trimming, cleaning, weeding, feeding and cleaning up after the alpacas and chickens.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh veggies from the garden and fresh bread baked by Sr. Imelda Schmidt.  Afterwards, we watched a video about Laudato’ Si and the vision and mission of Heartland Farm.  We then did some fiber crafts such as weaving and braiding and had some free time to hike, walk the labyrinth, and visit the gift shop.  Before saying goodbye, we gathered again in the Silo for sharing and prayer.  Back at the Motherhouse, we closed the day with Taizé style compline.

Sunday was a day of reflection for us.  This gave us time to reflect on and pray with our experiences of the week.  After private prayer in the morning, we gathered in the afternoon for group sharing and a missioning ceremony in the chapel.  The sisters blessed the participants by singing the Dominican Blessing over them.  Then, we visited with the sisters in the infirmary. After dinner, we returned to Wichita for the night.

Throughout the week, we had a good balance of prayer, community, ministry, and time for personal reflection and rest.  Participants and sisters enjoyed sharing stories, morning and evening prayers, meals, and Masses.

The Mission for Peace is not merely a time for volunteering and spending time with sisters. Rather, it is an opportunity to build relationships, to share and break the bread of life together, and to learn how to recognize our call from God through others and the signs of time.  Once we get in touch with God within us, through faith, community and nature, then we can breathe in and out with “PEACE.”

Thank you, sisters, associates and friends, who participated, prayed, and supported us in various ways. Thanks for all of the participants who made a great effort to attend the Mission for Peace together and create a bond with us.

We invite you to join us at our next vocation discernment event – the Come and See retreat at the Motherhouse in Akron, Ohio (September 23-25).  If you feel called to explore this life, contact us to start the conversation.

Click here for photos of the Mission for Peace Program.

Posted in News, Vocations Blog

Paula Danforth Enters the Dominican Sisters of Peace as a Candidate

Vermont Native Inspired by Congregation’s Openness to Change

Dominican Sisters of Peace Candidate Paula Danforth

New Haven, CT – In the Catholic Church, St. Matthew is the patron saint of accountants. He was originally called Levi; however, this follower of Jesus took the name Matthew – the gift of God – when called to be a disciple.

Paula Danforth, a finance specialist from Fair Haven, VT, has followed in her patron’s footsteps, choosing to follow God’s call to enter the Dominican Sisters of Peace in a July 14, 2022, ceremony.

Paula worked in the Finance Department of the Slate Valley Unified Union School District, Fair Haven, VT, for more than five years. She began to attend retreats at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, NY, where she met members of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, who founded and still run the Center.

“I found myself inspired by the ability of the sisters to respond to the needs of the times,” Paula said. “I wanted to be a part of a community that was open to change.”

Paula holds a degree in Business Administration from Castleton University in Vermont and believes that her professional and spiritual skills will be of use to the Congregation and its mission for peace.  “I have always belonged to God and have a strong desire to use my Spirit-given gifts to serve God’s people,” she says.

Like many of the young women who have entered the Congregation in recent years, Paula was attracted to the obvious joy of the women who are part of this religious community. “I saw their joy and passion for their ministries,” Paula said.

New candidate Paula Danforth is welcomed by Prioress Pat Twohill, OP, at a ceremony on July 14.

Paula is the daughter of the late Warren and Rejane Danforth. She has four siblings: Carol Saltis, Susan Beayon, Cathy Genier, and Brian Danforth, and one adult daughter, Janelle Cahee. She grew up in the Our Lady of Seven Dolors parish in Fair Haven, Vermont. She plans to continue her professional practice in school finance or accounting while living at the Dominican Sisters of Peace House of Welcome in New Haven, CT

The Dominican Sisters of Peace have an active Vocations and Formation ministry, with four women candidates, two Sister Novices and four having taken Temporary Vows.

To view a video of Paula Danforth’s Entrance Ceremony, click here.

To view a copy of her Entrance Ceremony program, click here.

Support the Dominican Sisters of Peace in their efforts to increase vocations to religious life!

Posted in News

Shingai Chigwedere Enters the Dominican Sisters of Peace

Shingai Chigwedere

The Dominican Sisters of Peace are excited to welcome Shingai Chigwedere, a native of Zimbabwe, to the Congregation. Shingai officially joined the Congregation as a Candidate in a July 14, 2022, ceremony held at Albertus Magnus College, one of two post-secondary schools founded by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

Shingai, a human resource professional recently based in Indianapolis, IN, chose to the Congregation headquartered in Columbus, OH. She holds a bachelor’s in Psychology from Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona, CA, a Master’s in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago, and a Master’s in human resource management from the Keller Graduate School of Management. She worked in human resource management for companies including Aramark Uniform Services and DeVry University before hearing God’s call to, as she says, “do more with the Catholic Church. All I knew for sure was that a big change was going to happen in my life in the future,” she says.

She took her human resources skills to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, but even as she was working in and for the Church, she felt that something was missing. “Even though I could now be my full self in the workplace, openly praying with colleagues in meetings or attending Mass daily onsite, that integration did not fill this deeper longing I felt. Through lots of prayer, spiritual direction, and many hours in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, I started visiting communities in 2019. During the pandemic it became clearer that God was asking me to serve as a religious Sister and eventually to take the next step by applying for candidacy.”

Shingai found the Dominican Sisters of Peace through the Vision Vocation Network. She was impressed by the growing cultural diversity of the Congregation. Of the ten women in formation, four are from multicultural backgrounds. She shared that “Even in the discernment retreats, the Vocations team encourages us to pray in our native languages,” she says. “As a Black African woman, appreciation of cultural heritage is important to me, and it is wonderful to see it actually being lived.”

Shingai also admired how the Dominican Sisters of Peace look ahead to the future and adapt to the current state. She stated that, “The fact that seven Dominican congregations came together in 2009… shows me that they value the broader Dominican community and are not afraid to make changes in order to better serve the world.”

Shingai is the daughter of Lilian and the late Stan Chigwedere, of Harare, Zimbabwe. She has two sisters, Farai Chigwedere and Tendisai Chigwedere. Shingai was an active member of Christ the King in Lombard, IL and moved to the Dominican Sisters of Peace House of Welcome in New Haven, CT this spring. At the end of July, she will begin working in the Office of Dominican Mission, Campus Ministry and Meister Eckhart Center, at the Congregation’s post-secondary school, Albertus Magnus College, in New Haven, CT.

The Dominican Sisters of Peace have an active Vocations and Formation ministry, with four women candidates, two Sister novices and four having taken Temporary Vows.

To view a video of Shingai Chigwedere’s Entrance Ceremony, click here.

To view a copy of her Entrance Ceremony program, click here.

Support the Dominican Sisters of Peace in their efforts to increase vocations to religious life!

Posted in News