Pieces of the Puzzle

Blog by Director of Associates Ceil Amendolia

Happy New Year! We Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace have just completed 2022 – a year of beginnings and endings for each of us.

While I spent most of the last year working at my office in Akron, Ohio, I have also had the opportunity to travel across the country, and to meet many Associates in person or via Zoom. One of my goals for 2023 is to connect with even more of our Associates.

One of the experiences that have enjoyed this past year was walking through the Loggia, in the Akron Motherhouse. This space enjoys beautiful views of Akron Motherhouse grounds, and there are chairs to allow you to rest and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. Sr. Mary Jakubiak, OP, helps to bring the outside in by caring for the many lush plants in the Loggia space.

Also in this space is a table with two chairs on each side. This is the puzzle table – where a “community” jigsaw puzzle is being completed by the Sisters, sometimes a staff member, and sometimes myself. These puzzles are continually in process – as one is finished, the next one is begun. And this is where my story begins.

There is a process to starting each puzzle. The picture of the completed puzzle is in plain view so all can see what it will look like when finished. A few dedicated Sisters sort each piece of the puzzle by color and shape and place them into plastic containers shaped like puzzle pieces. During this process, other Sisters stop by to assemble the straight-edged pieces of the puzzle, creating the frame that will hold the puzzle together.

I found myself stopping by each time I walked through this area – sometimes to place a piece of the puzzle into its proper place and sometimes just to watch the process as it was happening. I was not always successful when I tried to place a piece in the puzzle, but I began to think about these jigsaw puzzles and the people whose hands are assembling them.

I began to see my role as the new Director of the Associates as the person who had the box with the pieces of the puzzle. The picture of who we are – or who we want to be – is on the front of the box. This picture is a little vague as we are still exploring who we are – how many, where, and what each group is doing. We are not a finished picture; we are evolving.

The difference with this puzzle is that all of the pieces were not included in the box. The pieces to this puzzle are each one of you, living across the United States, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand.

At the beginning of 2022, our Associate database said there were 750 pieces to this puzzle – and we needed to “touch” each of those pieces – each of you – to put it together.  Our picture would be determined as the pieces were put into place.

I began to pray for guidance as to how we could complete this puzzle… and God began to answer.

The first answer was the realization that the Associate Jigsaw Puzzle would not be completed in the typical “hands-on” way because the hands were not all in one place.

The hands that were going to put this puzzle together would be from many different parts of the United States. Different categories would make up different pieces of the puzzle.

The most eye-opening message was that instead of assembling the straight-edged pieces to create a border, our puzzle would be assembled from the inside out. We would start from the center of the jigsaw puzzle – identifying each Associate’s time, talents, and treasures -and work our way out to the edges. All our gifts would be part of this puzzle.

So how would we accomplish this task?  Last January, the Associate Council and I started to discuss how would we accomplish this task. The first was to confirm the status of those who were in the Associate database.

Because of COVID, many of us were not meeting on a regular basis. Many of us were aging and no longer able to be active associates. We had to determine who among us were active Associates, who wanted to remain an Associate but in a capacity of prayer, and who were no longer wanted to be an Associate.

The Associate Council started work on a survey in cooperation with Congregational Leadership. We all believed that it was to know how many Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace there really are. “Who are you? How are you? Where are you?” were some of the questions that we posed. We also asked for thoughts on how our Associates thought the program should move forward in the future,

We worked with Alice Black, OPA, and the Communications Department to write and launch our survey in June of 2022. We sent it to all 750 Associates in the database and gave them 30 days to respond to the Associate office. We received 350 responses to the survey and were able to determine who considered themselves to be active associates, who considered themselves prayer associates or who wanted to be a prayer associate, and who no longer wanted to be part of the program.

But this was just the beginning.

We sent a second survey to the 400 members of the database that had not responded and heard from 140 more people.  By December 2022, we had heard from a total of 490 Associates, and we are still looking for those of you who have not responded.

The Associate Council and I would like to hear from all of the members of our Associate database by March 2023. We’re asking for your help too – if you are an associate, and you know someone who seems to have fallen away, encourage them to respond to the survey. Only by hearing from everyone will we be able to know who is active, who is a prayer associate, and who is inactive. Only then will we know exactly how many puzzle pieces we have, and what the final picture might look like.

Here is what is clear.

We are Christian women and men committed to Dominican Pillars of Prayer, Study, Community, and Ministry, living across the United States and around the world. Our ages vary, our cultures vary, our ethnicities vary, and our commitments vary.

Many of us have been Associates longer than the Congregation of Peace has existed, and the creation of Peace has helped attract new Associates to our ranks.

We are the Associates of The Dominican Congregation of Peace.

We are Sisters and Associates in Mission.

We are committed:

  • To foster and create cultures of inclusion
  • To treasure and reverence Earth
  • To foster lives of prayer and contemplation
  • To Prophetic Preaching of the Gospel message
  • Toward the future of Dominican Life

I can hardly wait till this puzzle is completed. One by one the pieces are being assembled When all is said and done, we will have all the borders in place – the borders that remind us that we are all ONE.

I am grateful for each of you, and I thank you for helping to complete our puzzle.

Cecelia Amendolia OPA
Director of Associates. Dominican Sisters of Peace

Posted in Associate Blog, News

10 responses to “Pieces of the Puzzle

  1. Thank you Ceil for saying Yes to your call to lead us. I look forward to experiencing life as an Associate for years to come.

  2. Beautiful explanation to help us all understand how important we are as Sisters and Associates of Peace. Everyone is important to the whole group. Thank you for being our Director. Blessings to all.

  3. I too have stopped many times at that puzzle table. The next time I am there I will have a new perspective as I approach that puzzle table. Thank you Ceil for your perspective on us associates as parts of a beautiful puzzle.

  4. My love for puzzles goes back to my early childhood — — making them with my Daddy. I love your analogy – keep up the work of accumulating the pieces so they can be put together.

  5. Very good analogy, Ceil. Good thing you like to travel. Over the years I have put many a piece in the Loggia puzzle….brought back many fond memories.

  6. Dear Puzzler ~
    I can see you sitting at the puzzle table, as you examine and mull over each piece. May God continue to give you the patience, grace, and insight as the picture takes shape.
    Thank you for being a piece in our congregational puzzle.
    Blessings and much peace,

  7. Such an inspiring piece, Ceil! We are fortunate, grateful, and very blessed to have you as our Director of Associates!

  8. Ceiling, I love your comparison of the puzzle and all the associates who are out there somewhere
    in the states… I can’t think of a better way to describe our associates and their decision of what’s next.
    I’d like you to help me any time I found myself un
    decided on an question
    concerning my associate decision!

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