Weekly Word

Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas

Climate Change Close to Home

My study group and others have been discussing the book Desire, Darkness and Hope: Theology of Impasse, a collection of essays by and about Constance Fitzgerald. The essays cover very pertinent aspects of our daily life and how contemplation can grant us the hopeful insights we need during some of the dark days in our world and our own lives.

Most recently, my group shared thoughts and ideas around the essay “Impasse and Climate Crisis: A Contemplative View” by Margaret Pfeil. Contemplation is a form of prayer that some people feel would best be left to the mystics among us, but as Dominicans how can we share the fruits without it? This essay, and others in the book, apply the deep awareness that contemplation can bring to us every day and the possibilities for action if we practice it more often. Our group discussion that evening was a good balance of the depth of the contemplative process and the practical applications if we allow them to happen.

Sometimes dealing with the climate is overwhelming and seems daunting. Sometimes we are at an “impasse” to know what we can do. We have Sisters and Associates in our congregation who are persistent in their efforts to change minds and hearts about the needs of the earth around us and have worked in their own part of the country and elsewhere in the world to make a difference. Sometimes we let the notion that the whole world is in climate turmoil get the best of us.

This essay referenced two different cultures of people living worlds apart, the people of Papua New Guinea and those living in Isle de Jean Charles, LA. More words were allotted for the people of Papua New Guinea than the Isle de Jean Charles, LA. OK, I know I am somewhat biased these days to all things Louisianan, but there is another reason Isle de Jean Charles hit some nerves and made me wish the author had spent more time on that area.

Some of our Dominican Associates are impacted heavily by what is happening in that part of the state, and it is happening because of the import and export shipping business that is a huge part of the Louisiana economy. Between dredging canals and creating new shipping lanes, the wetlands of Southern Louisiana are eroding almost completely. There is also tremendous oil extraction taking place in this area and causing subsidence to worsen. Isle de Jean Charles was and still is home to many members of the United Houma Nation and the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribes. Father Roch Naquin, a member of the BCC, has been a Dominican Associate for about 30 years and his original land is almost gone. Other Associates live in the Houma and Reserve areas and the impact of Hurricane Ida was one clear message that the wetlands are not able to do their job of holding back the waters of the Gulf and protecting the towns around. Father John Marse is another Associate and has a parish in Reserve, LA and the church was heavily damaged by Ida. Some of our Sisters know the area well. Through congregational grants, we were able to provide some relief to Father and some of the other Associates down there who are still trying to recover.

Isle de Jean Charles measured 22,000 acres in 1955 and now measures 320 acres. There is one road in or out, right down the center of the island from the mainland. Imagine Long Island Sound growing deeper and deeper and encroaching on the cities on the island with only the Long Island Expressway available and maybe down to two lanes in or out. Yikes!! Lots of beaches but no way to get there quickly at all. Imagine all those people without their homes, McMansions or otherwise.  Or consider New Haven without “the Green” and Yale University only approachable by boats. And Boston…! Well, an awful lot of Boston is already built on landfill so what could be next when the harbor overflows? Since we have the example of what has been done through human destruction of natural waterways in the name of the economy, what can be done now? This is not something that can be eliminated but does it really have to continue?

I guess we could just leave this with the question we always ask—what can we do?  Pray and study come quickly to mind. Connect with our Associates; the ones in this area but those right around you. When there is an opportunity to speak in favor of saving our part of the earth, take it.

Posted in Weekly Word

Called To Be A Friend Of Jesus

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald

 I stood next to the shallow bowl of water as each retreatant placed their paper flower on the water.  As the paper touched and then absorbed the water, the petals that had been carefully folded into the center, began to open up.  Slowly at first and then more quickly…


“Look at that!”

Exclaimed one of the retreatants who had just placed her pink paper flower on the water.

We all watched as the flowers unfolded, revealing the names of loved ones and friends which had been written on each petal.  In the center of the flower, each had written, either Friend or Jesus. You can see how the flowers unfold in the video below.

Our hearts were full and our eyes spilled over as we watched the unfolding – not just the unfolding of the flowers, but the unfolding of the lives around us in the circle.  These precious children of God who were gathered for this special retreat for persons with disabilities, or “people of determination,” a term used in the United Arab Emirates.  (A term I would like all of us to adopt.)

Twelve retreatants, their caregivers, and a variety of helpers, including several Dominican Sisters of Peace, were together for this weekend, held annually at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, New York. The sisters, staff and volunteers have offered this retreat for the past 65 years.  Many of the retreatants need lots of help while others are self-sufficient.  For this weekend, each is just a regular retreatant and not whatever label others put on them.

Just as we are seen in God’s family, we are first and foremost, “Children of God,” beloved and precious in God’s sight. During this weekend that is what all of us were – living into the fullness of that name.
Sr. Lizette Hoevel, SND led us in reflecting on and praying with the theme, “Jesus, my Friend.”  We shared who our friends were, what a friend is, and how we are friends of God.  Through it all, people shared their stories – of triumph, loss, accidents, and faith in God.

In the sharing, their lives unfolded before our eyes.  People who would have never gathered in the same place were together laughing, praying, worshiping, crying, and living.  As I looked around, I realized that this is where God wanted me to be at this very moment. I knew it to the core of my being. I know that if I had not answered the call of God to become a Dominican Sister, I probably would not be here at this moment. Yet here I was companioning a woman who could not get in or out of bed on her own.  A woman who knew every Bible verse and story we talked about during the retreat and who went horseback riding at the special stable for exceptional people like herself.  Our lives were connected for this brief time – such as it is with friends of Jesus, isn’t it?   Our common friend, Jesus, brought us together to be friends with each other.


Look at that!

Who are you called to be friends with?  Is Jesus calling you closer to himself, perhaps as a Dominican Sister of Peace?  Even if you’re not sure, but think, “Maybe” – then, reach out and contact us.  Better yet, why not attend our next, “Come & See” Retreat, September 8 – 10, 2023 in St. Catherine, KY.  Who knows, you may just meet another friend of Jesus on the way.


Posted in News, Vocations Blog

Social Justice Takeover: Week Three: Racial Equality

Week Three: Racial Equality

#SocialJusticeSaturday Video

Growing up in the deep south, Sr. Suzanne Brauer remembers the moment her heart was forever changed. Now in her ministry as a spiritual director, the faith she witnesses encourages her personal growth with God. In today’s #SocialJusticeSaturday, hear Sr. Suzanne speak in a panel discussion that was part of our multi-year congregational study of racism and how to overcome its effects in our society.

Posted in Peace & Justice Weekly Updates