Advent Thoughts


Blog by Associate Director Ceil Amendolia, OPA

As we enter the season of Advent, I have been thinking about some of the words that are used during the Advent Season… words like darkness, light, expectation, wonder, waiting, joy, hope, prepare, and gratitude.

These words describe the feelings that I have been experiencing as I have traveled around to meet you, the Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Many of you I have met in person, while I have met others by zoom, facetime and phone calls. Of course, there are still many of you that I have not met and I long to do that soon.

This year, I see Advent as the perfect time to wonder, to prepare, and to build wonderful expectations of what is to come.

I have also heard from many of you – your wonder, your hope, and your expectations.

As 2021 draws to a close, our hope and our joy are the possibilities that a New Year will bring.

Recently, Sr. Linda Lee Jackson, OP, and I were talking about the journey of being an Associate. Over our lunch at the Columbus Motherhouse, she asked me a challenging question: “What is my mission statement,  and what is my vision”?

This led to a discussion about the importance of each of us knowing our personal Mission and Vision as an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

As we talked, Sr. Linda introduced me to the concept of “savoring”- actively enhancing our appreciation of the good in our lives. She shared this reflection to help me understand the importance of savoring our walk with God.

My Advent gift to you is the gift of savoring. Of allowing your heart to expand and fully enjoy the Season of Advent and the gifts of our faith.

I hope that you will read this reflection and hold the thought of Savoring close to your heart.

In the days and weeks to come, I will invite each of you to create your own Mission and Vision Statement.

May this Season of Advent encourage you to wonder, anticipate and be Joy to all you encounter. I wish you Peace, Love, and many Blessings.

Posted in Associate Blog

Gardening For Life

Blog by Karen Martens, OPA

Laudato Si calls each of us to action. Mother earth needs our help. Gardening for life is one way each of us can do our part. Much of the natural habit has been lost. But we can change that, one yard at a time.

Gardening practices have changed. Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that each fall, gardeners cut perennials to the ground and raked all leaves out of the garden. We are now encouraged to embrace a “messy garden” and to make sure the garden has native plants of many types (trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, vines, and ground covers). Plants that produce fruit and seeds are attractive to wildlife. Such plants are a magnet for birds and chipmunks. Recently, I saw eight goldfinch feasting on dried seed-heads of black-eyed Susans. Plants that have hollow stems at the end of the growing season are also attractive to many insects who nest in these cavities. All of these resources are lost if gardens are cleaned to the ground.

Our gardening practices forever changed in 2009 after reading Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home. Our garden now may look messy to some, but to us, it is filled with life. In the fall, our gardening practices include leaving leaves in the garden where they fall and not cutting back plants that have dried seed heads on them (grasses, asters, goldenrods, coneflowers, sunflowers, coreopsis, and black-eyed Susans).

Wildlife needs gardens that provide a habitat with food and water and a place to live or reproduce. Pollinators such as native bees often overwinter in our garden and are doomed if we cut plants back. Some butterflies also overwinter as adults amazingly in garden debris such as fallen leaves or bark. Other butterflies overwinter in the chrysalis form in dried leaves. In the spring, birds rely on having an abundance of caterpillars from moths to feed their young and our plant choices encourage these insects. Come spring, we will wait until the temperatures have been in the 50-degree range for at least five days. That will give all our wildlife friends a chance to wake up and begin a new season. We are gifted in return by seeing our garden come alive each spring with pollinators, birds, mammals and occasionally spotting a toad or snake.

Posted in Associate Blog

When you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are….

Blog by Director of Associates Ceil Amendolia, OPA

Good day to each of you!

I am writing to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The sun is shining, and the sky is so blue, but the temperature is just 46 degrees. I am sitting here thinking about the past 132 days and all that has taken place. Being a dreamer, it delights me that many of my dreams have come true.

On June 1, 2021, I began to see the dream of a few years ago start to become real. Being selected to be the Associate Director of a group of women and men who are part of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace made my heart sing with joy.

So far, it has called me to become tremendously aware of my senses. My eyes have been opened to so many wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of meeting in my travels. My ears have heard stories of accomplishments that people have experienced, concern about our future, questions about who we are and what is expected of us. I have tasted food as I break bread with fellow associates and discuss about what is next for the Associates. I have experienced new smells as I have travelled down new roads in our beautiful nation – the farms, the flowers, the trees on the properties I have visited in these days. Most of all I have been able to touch the sacred, without being able to really touch one another.

Associates have thanked me for stepping into this position, for which I am grateful. I have felt at home each time I have visited a new place. I hear the questions that many of us are asking. “Where do you think we are going?” “What can we do differently, how can we make what we do better?”

My response is it will take some time to look at all the possibilities of the directions we can go.

I hear your questions – one hundred and thirty-two days ago, I sat among you wondering the same things. Now I am in a position to hear your questions and feel comfortable enough to say to each of you, we can do this together.

I am a hope-filled person. I believe with all the avenues of communication we have available to us and a tremendous prayer community, nothing will be impossible! Our future is wide open.

What will it take to bring us to a new future?

It will take each of us to completely embrace our commitment to the associate lifestyle. We must be open to new ideas and new areas of involvement. We must be willing to let go of “the way we have always done it.”

When you wish upon a star, what is the wish you are asking for? Have you expressed that wish to someone? Are you prepared to get involved with seeing your wish come true?

Wishing for something requires risk… the risk of acceptance or rejection. But don’t be discouraged by rejection … rather, re-think it. Re-plan it. Be prepared to present it again in a new way.

Each one of us brings something to the table we have joined. We are over 600 Associates committed to Dominican Spirituality, to the of the Four Pillars of Prayer, Study, Community and Ministry.

It is time for us to remove the fences that keep us in our places and be open to the larger community of associates, to be involved and invested in our associate group.

It means that a group that meets monthly for prayer would feel open enough to invite another group to join them for a prayer.

When a group has a need for a resource, other Associate groups should be willing to step in.

We are strong in our numbers, but we need to open our doors and share our gifts. If Dominic had only stayed in one area, what would we look like today? He traveled the roads, he spoke to all he met along the way, he shared his gifts.

If the women and men who founded the Dominican congregations only stayed in one place, many of us would not be a part of this organization.

We are at a time and place to bring our stories, our commitment and most of all, our shining star to a world so in need of peace. Yes, most of us are doing this, one by one or in small group settings. I want to see what is possible when people of good spirit gather and bring the goodness of what we have to offer to anyone who is willing to listen.

I say to each of you, are you with me on this journey? Can you wish upon a star so that our dreams will come true?

In Dominic we claim to be….so let it be.

Posted in Associate Blog

Heartland Retreat Center – Great Bend, the Four Pillars

By Linda Covey, OPA, Great Bend, KS

As a Dominican Associate, my goal each day is to imitate Christ and as a Dominican Associate, I understood the words prayer, study, community, and ministry as mundane. I actually try to live my life putting these words into action every day never really thinking about them or ever owning them. But somehow, at the retreat, these words came to life for me.

Pillars are able to stand alone or stand together to strengthen the structure they support. The pillar of prayer builds a relationship with God through Jesus in order to love by way of communication. As the old song goes, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you,” is exactly what happens when you look up to God and say, “Hello God! I love you Lord and I want to know you better.”

It is interesting to me that God actually created us to study. God designed us to desire and study him. Yes, we are thinkers by nature and need to ask questions. We will naturally study the things or beings that we love. The more I know about a subject or someone special in my life, the better I am able to understand, appreciate and become equipped to tell others about it or them with passion. Love of something actually drives a person to desire to study in order to draw closer and become more like what you love.

The third pillar, community, comes alive when an individual leaves their personal space with the intent of being in community with others, such as a retreat or meeting. Coming together as a community is a natural connection that occurs. It is a mutual strengthening among those who are present to one another that causes a forever bond by learning something that is shared and then, knowing you are not alone, and then returns as a full vessel ready to share with others looking beyond fences and breaking down boundaries without feeling alone.

We are not meant to hide in a cave or remain behind closed doors. Ministry, the fourth pillar, is putting into action prayer, study, and community. Ministry should be the reason we get up in the morning. It helps me thrive when I am aware of the one great thing I am called to do. As a Dominican Associate, I am about truth, teaching, and preaching the Good News to a world darkened by sin.

I am strong in prayer. I can learn something new every day. I will support my community and I will minister by standing tall along with my community. I am a pillar, a bridge between heaven and earth just as St. Dominic did in his lifetime. We are all brothers and sisters in mission.

Posted in Associate Blog

That Day in July

Blog by Rev. Ron Kurzawa, OPA

It was a Sunday . . .  the 24th of July, 1967.

And almost as usual, life began to unfold in the parish early on that Sunday morning.

Our schedules in hand, we, the clergy began to enter into our last-minute preparations for the Masses over which we would preside on that Sunday morning.

The early Mass folk were already beginning to arrive at that modest-sized, Westside, mostly Polish parish.

It was beginning as just another Sunday.

Or so most of us thought.

But that morning there was one difference.

There was a police car outside, directly front of the front entrance to the church. And a couple of the occupants were asking to speak to the clergy.

Alone . . .  apart from the gathering crowd . . .  somewhere somewhat isolated so that what was about to be said would be spoken in a degree of secrecy.

At least for the moment.

Clergy gathered (and remember, this was 1967 and many parishes back then had more than a single priest!) and the officers spoke to us.

No need for alarm and certainly there is no need to alarm the congregation. However, there is some “trouble” in the streets somewhat nearby. Because of that, keep things as brief as possible and simply, calmly at the end of the Mass encourage everyone to go directly home. Tell them not to linger, socialize or head out anywhere for breakfast.

Straight home . . .  and immediately.

Some “trouble” in the streets somewhat nearby!

July 24 is the anniversary day of the founding, the establishment of Detroit. 1701 was the day. And here it was – another July 24 only this year, 1967, Detroit was taking a different turn in its identity.

Late night or early morning, depending on your sense of time, something had happened that set tempers flaring and unleashed long pent-up frustrations.

And there was violence in the streets.

Some ‘trouble” somewhat nearby!

Masses went on as usual and as scheduled. Folks were encouraged to not linger but rather head straight home. As the morning progressed, folks arriving were hearing something of the news of that “trouble” somewhat nearby.

And a bit later that Sunday, I had the opportunity of hosting a gathering of a handful of faculty and students from the University of Detroit. At that time I was a student in the graduate program there, taking courses in education and counseling. Our gathering consisted of some like minds, folks who could name trends and issues impacting society and analyze and speculate possible results.

One of the items that came up was the current condition of Detroit’s black population. Several of the faculty spoke about how surprised they were that something had not yet erupted, given the prevalence of racism and its effects.

The discussion continued along those lines on into the evening.

The time came for my guests to depart. The sky was darkening. Night was descending.

And as we emerged from our gathering in that rectory, we could see something more.

Flames were tearing through that darkness.

Somewhere not too distant from where we were, neighborhoods were ablaze.

It was then that I remembered that early morning visit from those law officers. It was then that I realized that the time had, indeed, come.

A people had been dehumanized for far too long.

Now much pent-up anger was emerging, erupting, tearing through the streets.

Langston Hughes captured it so very, very well. What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun?… Or does it explode?”

Every human being has a dream, a God-given dream and that is to be treated as, respected as a human being, made in the image and likeness of God.

And when that dream is deferred . . . it does not dry up like some raisin in the sun.

July 24, 1967 – the results of a dream deferred!

Posted in Associate Blog