Speed Limits & The Discernment Process

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

Sometimes when we are driving on the highway, we may see the speed limit at 70, then 65, or it may go down to 55 and then go up again to 70 or even 75.  We try to pay attention to the speed limit and adjust our push on the pedal accordingly. We trust the traffic control engineers who set these speeds, believing that the limit specified helps us drive safely.

The discernment process can be similar to what we experience with speed limits on the highway. Sometimes, discernment can be at a fast pace, but sometimes, discernment suddenly moves to a slower pace, requiring patience and attention. When the pace increases, we may have to push the pedal a little stronger to catch up to the new speed, exerting more effort to get to our destination.  Other times, we may feel like we are crawling at such a slow pace that we may never reach where we want to be.

Whatever the pace, we need to keep our eyes on the road, adjusting our vision to follow wherever the path leads or takes us. Sometimes we will encounter curves along the way and be forced to maneuver around unforeseen happenings. In these cases, it is important to be patient, flexible, and focused, and not be distracted from where we are being called and how we are being asked to follow God’s call.

During the discernment process, we may also experience various degrees of intensity. Sometimes, the call can be very strong, and sometimes, the call can be less intense, but still needs attention. No matter what the degree of intensity we experience when we know God is calling us, one thing is certain, God often shows us signs. We will see the signs if we are attentive to how God speaks to us.

We also need to remember that God is in the driver’s seat and just as we trust the traffic control engineer in setting appropriate speed limits, we need to trust that God’s hand is on the steering wheel directing our path.

Discerning God’s call requires attention, trust, action, patience, flexibility, and effort. You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain as you engage in the discernment process. But, remember you are not alone in this process. God is always with you and there are many Saints and sisters who have responded to God’s call who you can ask for help on the journey

We’re here to guide and companion you in your discernment process.  We invite you to visit our vocation website, contact us, or register for our hybrid Come and See Discernment retreat on September 23-25 in Akron, OH.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Protecting God’s Feathered Creation

Blog by Karen Martens, OPA

In the 50 years, my husband and I have been birders, there has been a loss of almost 3 billion breeding birds. These losses have been called “staggering” by scientists. More than 90% of the losses come from 12 families of birds, including sparrows, blackbirds, warblers, and finches. These birds are like the canary in the coal mine. If they are in trouble, so are we. Habitat loss and degradation are believed to be major causes of these losses.

For the last 14 years, we have worked to make our property one that supports life by planting over 100 different varieties of berry-producing shrubs and seed-producing plants and trees such as the serviceberry (as seen in the picture) and oak which are important sources of bird food. Many of these plants attract insects which are essential for baby birds. Doug Tallamy has widely reported that chickadees need 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to feed one clutch of young.

Over the past 20 years, we have had about 70 species of birds visit our yard and many year-round residents have nested in our yard. However, it feels that lately, fewer are nesting on our property and are seen during migration. Some of the favorite species many of us are familiar with, such as Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Eastern, and Western Meadowlarks and the Red-winged Blackbird are among those that have declined greatly.

 

How can we help? Seven simple actions have been suggested.

-Make windows safer by installing screens on the outside of the window or using other measures to break up reflections. Up to 1 billion birds die yearly after hitting windows.

-Keep cats indoors. Cats kill more than 2.6 billion birds each year.

-Reduce lawn and plant natives to provide birds more places to rest and raise their young safely. With more than 40 million acres of lawn in the U.S., there is a huge potential to support wildlife.

-Avoid pesticides. More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the U.S. each year and they contain chemicals that are lethal to birds and the insects the birds consume.

-Use coffee that’s good for birds. Sun-grown coffee results in forests being destroyed which birds and other wildlife need for food and shelter. Shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive the winter.

-Protect our planet from plastic. Studies have shown that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic, mistaking it for food. Avoid single-use plastics and advocate for bans on plastic bags, styrofoam, and straws.

-Watch birds and share what you see. Monitoring birds is essential to protecting them. There are projects such as eBird, project FeederWatch and Christmas Bird Count, to name a few that are fun and easy to do.

Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Your gift can support our ecological ministries in Ohio, Kansas, and Kentucky. 

 

Posted in News

Can Nature heal a Broken Heart?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

Recently, my sister experienced one of the most devastating losses a mother could know, when her 40-something daughter, Chris, died of a drug overdose. Anyone who has experienced the same horrendous loss knows this pain. It’s not possible to describe it adequately and my sister has been almost inconsolable. This is difficult on so many levels: emotionally, spiritually, psychically, and physically.

Addiction is a hideous, cunning, mean, and pernicious disease that impacts everyone around it — well beyond the person trapped in its clutches. I have struggled to find ways to comfort and support my sister who lives quite a distance away —it’s not like I can stop over for a cup a tea.

A few days ago, we talked on the phone. “I just can’t stop crying,” she said. “I think about Chris all the time.”

“I know, I just want to hold your hand. Tears are like medicine, it’s okay, I just want to hold your hand.”

We talked about when our brother, Paul died at 36, and when our sister, Chris died at 55. We thought there would be no end to our grief – those were impossible times then. Nothing helped. No one helped soothe the pain. But these — like other deaths that were expected — we could see their deaths coming after long illnesses and we could somehow prepare ourselves for loss. But this was sudden, like a crack of thunder. Even after years of struggle and darkness and the long-lasting ache of helplessness, the lightning strike came out of nowhere. Despite my thinking that someday we would get that phone call, it still stunned.

Marge sat on the back porch of her house while we talked. She noticed that the weather outside was beautiful: blue sky, cool breeze, the trees were blowing in the wind. Here too, it was a beautiful day: clear skies, dry and breezy. It was as if we shared the same space and time even though we were miles apart. The birds, the sun and sway of trees opened a portal so that we could sit on the same porch, smell the same air. We talked about how amazing the birds are as hundreds of them swarm in the sky all together. How is it that these tiny speedy creatures don’t crash into one another? We sat amazed at the mystery of nature. We saw the same trees swaying, the same blue sky with clouds floating by.

And for one silent, precious instance, there was peace.

Can nature heal a broken heart? I think so, I hope so. I pray for more moments when my sister can simply see God in the sway of trees and the sound of birds. I pray that what is most fearful and broken in her can rest and come to peace.

I Go Among trees, Wendell Berry

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their place
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes.
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Marian Days- Cultural Immersion and Vocation Outreach

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

Last week, August 3-7, six of us—Sisters Ana Gonzalez, June Fitzgerald, Mai-Dung Nguyen, Patricia Connick, Phuong Vu, and Tram Bui—packed a van and a car full of vocation materials then headed to Carthage, Missouri for the 43rd Vietnamese Marian Days Festival. This event began in 1977, when Vietnamese people gathered here to honor Our Lady and to thank her for help in reaching freedom. It has also been and continues to be a time for the Vietnamese faithful to be immersed in their culture and prayers, to attend workshops, prayer services and Mass in Vietnamese. For us, this event is a great opportunity to be present to these Vietnamese Catholics, to promote vocations to religious life, and to have an experience of cultural immersion. This event also helps us see how people from different ethnic groups live out their faith. Even though some of us did not know Vietnamese, we ate Vietnamese food, praised God and gave thanks to our Mother with one heart of faith and love. It was a very enriching experience.

Our Kentucky community has participated in this event since the 1990s with a vocation booth. When we became Dominican Sisters of Peace, we continued the tradition to attend every other year. This year, even though we were soaked with sweat under the extremely hot weather, six of us took turns to be at the booth and interact with people, to listen and share stories, and to pray with them. Sr. Ana Gonzalez was also one of the panelists for the youth session. Each day, we participated in a solemn Mass and procession with all in attendance.

At our vocation booth, we gave out tote bags, backpacks, and fans, all free of charge.  We also gave away Be Peace silicon bracelets, peace rosary bracelets, missionary rosaries, Be Peace pins, and many other vocation prayer cards and promotional materials. All of these items were imprinted with the words “Be Peace,” reminding people that each of us has a responsibility to “be, build, live and preach” peace.

We also had Pope Francis with us (as a standup cardboard poster), wearing a traditional Vietnamese hat called “nón lá.” Our Pope became a drawing card for many people who stopped to have their picture taken with him.  Sr. Ana served as our official photographer.  Before taking a picture, she would say, “We are the Dominican Sisters of Peace, so I would like to invite all of you to say PEACE (not CHEESE) when I take the picture.” They all happily said PEACE with beautiful smiles.

During this weekend, we interacted with thousands of people from many places, including the young, old, women and men, different ethnic groups, religious sisters, brothers, and priests from various congregations and dioceses. We were also happy to connect with sisters, brothers, and friends, especially sisters from different congregations whose members have stayed with us during their studies here in the U.S.

Our presence and participation, along with many other religious, gave people the chance to get to know something about religious life.

Over the years, several of our Sisters first met us at our Vocation Booth during Marian Days. Sr. Mary Vuong is one example. Her father came to our booth in 1996, had some conversations with our sisters, then picked up our vocation material, bringing the material home, and giving these materials to his daughter, Mary.  He encouraged her to write a letter to the vocation director who was Sr. Mary Ortho at that time; and finally, Mary ended up becoming a Dominican Sister, who is now living in South Bend, Indiana.  In 1999, Sr. Maidung met the sisters at the vocation booth also. After having a conversation with them, going home, and reading their vocation materials, she contacted the vocation director (Sr. Binh Nguyen) and entered as a discerner in 2000. Recently, in 2019, Sr. Tram Bui, volunteered with us at the vocation booth and in conversation with Sr. June Fitzgerald, she decided to discern her vocation with us again, after a few years of pause.

There are many ways God reaches out to you to invite you to consider a call to religious life.  Perhaps this call has come to you through an invitation to have your picture taken with the Pope, to scan the QR code, or to read a rack card, newsletter, retreat invitation, personal conversation, or through a friend who brings these materials home to you.  Whether or not you feel a call to religious life, we invite you to take time to read our vocation materials or visit our website so that you can learn more about religious life and our mission. The more you explore and open your heart, the more you can begin to hear the voice of God calling you to consider discerning and entering religious life.  To explore this life, visit our vocation website, contact us, or register for our hybrid Come and See Discernment retreat September 23-25 in Akron, OH.

Click here for photos.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Dominican Sisters of Peace Install New Leadership Team

The new Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace was elected at the Third General Chapter and installed on August 7, 2022. Standing left to right: Fourth Councilor Sr. Susan Leslie, OP, Prioress Patricia Twohill, OP, and Third Councilor Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP. Seated, from left, First Councilor Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, and Second Councilor Carol Davis, OP.

 

 

 

The Dominican Sisters of Peace formally installed their Third Leadership team in a ceremony on Sunday, August 7, 2022, at the Martin de Porres Center in Columbus, OH. The team was elected at the Congregation’s Third General Chapter in April, 2022.

Sr. Pat Twohill, OP, was elected for a second term as Prioress. Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, was elected for a second term as First Councilor. Sr.  Carol Davis, OP, as Second Councilor, Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP, as Third Councilor, and Sr. Susan Leslie, OP, as Fourth Councilor.

Prioress Pat Twohill, OP, served as the Prioress of the Congregation from 2015-2022. Prior to her leadership position with Peace, Sr. Pat also served in Vocation and Formation Ministry, in parish ministry, campus ministry, and as an educator.

First Councilor Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP, will enter her second term of Congregational leadership with Peace. Presently, she is also President of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC) and served six years as President of the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC). Sr. Anne has worked in retreat ministry and as a communicator.

Second Councilor Sr. Carol Davis, OP, has extensive experience in spiritual direction and counseling, and has ministered as a credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor. She has also held leadership positions with US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and the Interfaith Community of Schenectady, NY.

Third Councilor Cathy Arnold, OP, has ministered in Vocations and Formation for many years, most recently as Co-Director of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate. Sr. Cathy has also served as an educator and as a program coordinator for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Fourth Councilor Sr. Susan M. Leslie, OP has served most recently as Mission Group Coordinator of Sansbury Care Center, the Congregation’s licensed long-term care facility in St. Catharine, KY.  Sr. Susan has also served as a physical therapist, a hospital Vice-President of System Mission, a missionary in Peru, and in parish, prison, and retreat ministry.

“This new team brings a wide range of experience and talent to the ministry of leadership,” says Sr. Pat Twohill, Prioress. “We look forward to working with our entire Congregation to continue to preach Christ’s Gospel of peace through our words, deeds, and ministries. We also feel blessed to welcome new Sisters and Associates who embrace our mission.”

“We are all so grateful for the service of Sr. Gemma Doll, OP, Sr. Therese Leckert, OP, and Sr. Gene Poore, OP,” added Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP. “These spirit-filled women were part of the team that led our Congregation through the challenges of the pandemic in 2020 and extended their leadership term for the good of the Congregation. We have been graced by their service.”

The mission of the Dominican Sisters of Peace is to bring the Gospel to the world by being peace, building peace, and preaching peace. They number more than 350 Sisters and many Associates. They minister in 22 states, 29 Catholic Dioceses and in Nigeria, serving God’s people in ministerial areas including education, health care, spirituality, pastoral care, prison ministry, and care of creation.

 

 

 

Posted in News