A New Year of Our Sacred Journey of Life

Your life is a sacred journey. It is about change, growth, discovery, movement, transformation, continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply, listening to your intuition, taking courageous challenges at every step along the way. You are on the path… exactly where you are meant to be right now… And from here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph, of healing, of courage, of beauty, of wisdom, of power, of dignity, and of love.

Caroline Adams Miller

Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

Recently, I came across this wonderful quote. I thought it would be an excellent addition to our prayer for the recent gathering of all the women in formation for our congregation. During the year, as the Formation Coordinator, I often meet or have conversations with the women in formation individually, or with their sister mentors and their local communities. However, because of their full-time ministries, studies, and other factors, coming together as a group, occurs less frequently.   The January gathering seemed the perfect time to share with each other the blessings, hopes and challenges of their sacred journey during the previous year—while also looking forward to the new year. The quote by Caroline Miller, provided a prayerful gateway for sharing around the joys, learnings and questions encountered during their formation journey.

Sharing in the process of helping another person deepen their relationship with God, or seeking to understand God’s movement in their life, is really a privilege. Whether their discernment leads them to confirm their vocation call as a religious sister or leads them to their discovery of a different call, neither the time nor the journey is wasted. It is still, “a sacred journey…about change, growth, discovery, movement…and expanding the vision of what is possible.”

Discerning a call about religious life or discerning any significant decision about our path in life, requires some basic skills.  It requires understanding important things about yourself.  Additionally, since “discernment” involves making God an intentional part of the process—it requires understanding of your own relationship with God. It is also helpful to have someone you can talk honestly with, like a mentor. Understanding these basic principles and learning other discernment skills can be helpful in navigating the sacred journey of your life. Click here for some helpful ways to begin discerning.

I find it to be a wonderful experience to journey with those in the formation process, as Candidates, Novices and Temporary Professed sisters.  I am, indeed, grateful to continue this new year of discerning and companioning them on their journey into religious life. The current formation group of eight women—diverse in age, culture, race, and background—shared their hopes, dreams, and, yes, challenges experienced during this past year of their journey. However, gratitude and deep faith was also expressed and was evident in their sharing.  They expressed openness and hope for this new year of mystery and possibilities. I feel compelled to also acknowledge my own gratitude for being part of their sacred journey. In fact, who among us would not be grateful to witness the Spirit’s transformation at work in both their own lives and in the lives of others?

In this new year, I pray that each of us may know the truth of Miller’s words, “You are on the path, exactly where you are meant to be right now…From here, you can only go forward, shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of healing…of courage…of beauty…of wisdom…of power…of dignity…and of love.”

If you feel you are being invited to explore the journey of becoming a Sister, contact us or give us a call. We have a number of ongoing virtual discernment groups and we you invite to consider attending our next Come and See Discernment Retreat, March 17-19, in Columbus, Ohio. Click here to register.

Peace,
Sr. Pat Dual, OP

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Unexpected Joys of Religious Life

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

One of the supreme joys of religious life is the opportunity to engage in ministries that you might never have expected.  If someone told me five years ago that I’d be working in a hospital, I would have told them that they were crazy. I was a teacher. Hospitals made me uncomfortable.  But God has a sense of humor and the phrase from Jeremiah, Chapter 20 “You duped me, oh Lord” comes to mind when I think about how I became an Emergency Room Chaplain. I guess my chaplaincy calling started when the call came to accompany sisters from our skilled care center, Mohun Health Care Center, when they had to go to the hospital. I signed up, and during these experiences, I met some amazing sisters and heard their problems, their stories, their fears.

At around the same time, my Spiritual Director suggested that I take a unit of CPE. CPE is Clinical Pastoral Education and it’s a training program for chaplains, but it’s also a tool for ministers of all types and religions to come to grips with their feelings and the feelings of others. It’s a program about listening – to one’s own heart and to the fears of others. I was very hesitant, but after many months of reflection, I attended the program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  And yes, it did change my life!

Three years ago, I had an opportunity to move to New Haven, Connecticut and to enter the CPE program at Yale New Haven Hospital, where I took three more units of study. Each unit was about 100 hours of classroom work and 300 hours of clinical work in the hospital under the supervision of a certified chaplain.  It was challenging, but at the same time a blessing, as I learned more about my own biases, fears, and strengths – some I didn’t even know I had.  I was hired by the hospital during my fourth unit to be a casual chaplain and work weekends and overnights. I had the added advantage of being able to take Holy Communion to the many Catholics in the hospital. Mostly, I listened and affirmed the vulnerable patients and comforted families when their loved ones died.

About a year ago, I was hired as an Emergency Department (ED) Chaplain. There’s a sense of urgency and intimacy in the ED that comes from the trauma that impacts patients, their families, and also the staff.  The trauma of COVID still lingers and there is a brittleness in us all as we seek to care for all those affected by the effects of this pandemic.

Indeed, my ministry as a chaplain has been a blessing and one that would never, ever have happened had I not entered religious life.

If you want to explore religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace, please contact us. We are here to help you with your discernment.
Also, you might want to join us for our March 2023 Come and See Retreat.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

New Year, New Commitment, New Attitude

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

During the Christmas break, I was busy with preparations for two events—vocation outreach at the FOCUS #SEEK23 conference in St. Louis and our mid-January Mission for Peace event. Instead of a time of rest, I quickly found myself feeling like a working bee running from one place to another place. Then, on New Year’s Day, I traveled to St. Louis for the #SEEK23 conference that focuses on inspiring college students “to dive deeper into the Gospel and discover how to answer Jesus’ call to leadership, relationship and discipleship.”

Driving from Great Bend to Wichita, Kansas to catch my flight to St. Louis on the first day of the New Year, I felt a little resistance inside me about attending this conference. I wanted to stay at home, to rest and to enjoy this New Year.

Luckily, driving alone, I had a chance to settle myself interiorly. I was suddenly aware that I was not ready to welcome the year 2023. Because of my busyness at the end of the year, I felt that 2022 left me before I was ready, like lightning that happens so quickly and is over. I felt an emptiness and shock at the arrival of the new year 2023. I wished I had more time to reflect and close out the year of 2022.

As I was driving, a Bible quote spoke to me, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Act 1:11) A scripture passage we usually hear on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord in the Easter season. This question invites us to ponder how we intend to live our faith in the moment. This question brought me back to the reality of life.

As I was staring into the sky while driving, I knew I had to let go of what I wished happened at the end of 2022 and focus on embracing this coming of the year 2023. So, I found myself asking “How should I live and what can I do better in my life for this coming year?” Listening to my deepest desire, the word “mindfulness” came to me, something I wanted to practice more. So, I refocused my energies and decided that during this two-hour drive, I would pay more attention to what I was seeing in the moment.

I became immersed in the beauty of the natural world around me, giving me moments of awe! I marveled at the many distinct shades of blue in the sky, and the subtle shades of brown – from the deep brown of the recently turned earth to the soft mocha of the fur on the cows.  I marveled at the flying formations of different groups of birds as they flew in harmony. There were two times when I wanted to stop off the highway to observe these formations, making me say “WOW!” and praise God for the magnificence that my dancing heart was feeling.

I praised God, blessed God, and gave thanks to God for giving these beautiful gifts to me for this New Year Day. As I travelled through the flat plains in Kansas, I was grateful for the wide-open scenery that cleared a path for me to see the beauty of God’s creation around me. The different major landforms–mountains, hills, valleys, desert, plains—of Mother Earth can reveal the beauty of the creation. The grace of God is everywhere and can be seen when we change our attitude and are more attentive to what is around us.

Now that the new year is here, how are you welcoming this new year? Are you ready to look beyond the sky and explore what God’s call is for your life?  How might you respond to your call with a new perspective and new attitude for the year 2023?

One way you can explore the call to religious life in 2023 is to join us for our January Mission for Peace program or our March Come and See retreat. Or, visit our vocation website to learn more about religious life, more about the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and about entering a process of discernment …  of determining God’s desire for your life. Contact us to walk this journey with you.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Are you the One, or Should I look for Another?

Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

Twice during this third week of Advent, we have heard in the scriptures the haunting question asked by a jailed John the Baptist, to Jesus, “Are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?”  Both Matthew and Luke share the story. This exchange between Jesus and John the Baptist is one of my favorite scriptures.  One reason this story is striking to me is because of who is asking the question. John the Baptist, after all, had lived his whole life fulfilling his call to prepare others for the promised Messiah. He eventually recognized Jesus as the fulfilment of this promise. What changed so drastically for John, that he now questioned if Jesus is the Messiah?

John the Baptist understood his call was to prepare the way for the coming of God’s promised Messiah. But as John’s ministry and life is ending, he realizes that Jesus’ ministry does not reflect what he had envisioned.  John preached about repentance and the wrath that would follow at the coming of the Messiah, but he came to realize that Jesus’ ministry did not reflect this reality.  Jesus spoke of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. John’s vision of the Messiah did not match the reality revealed in the ministry of Jesus.  His vision of the Messiah was different from God’s plan.  Hence the question, “Are you the One who is to come, or should I look for another?”

It is interesting that Jesus did not give John a yes or no answer but pointed to the fruits of his ministry as his response — “the blind see, the deaf hear, lepers are cleansed, the lame walk, the dead are raised…and the poor have the good news preached to them.”  Jesus allowed the fruits of his ministry to identify him as the One who was promised by God.

Like John, we may also fall into darkness and doubt.  We may not be able to see God’s presence in situations or understand God’s plan in our circumstances. Like John, we too, hold opinions and perspectives that we may have to let go of, to accept a new reality. What resonates with me about this scenario between John the Baptist and Jesus is that I can identify with John in his time of uncertainty, as well as in his time of darkness and doubt. And like John, I can identify with the reassurance and renewal that comes when I seek my answers from God. Jesus’ response to John in this gospel is a joyful reminder, that when we ask, we too, are given what we need to restore and renew our hope.

Lastly, I was intrigued by how Jesus allowed the fruits of his ministry to identify him as the Messiah in his response to John’s question— “Are you the One…?” For us who are called to be disciples of Jesus, could we be identified by the fruits of our ministry of discipleship?  Disciples of Jesus are called to help make a difference in the lives of others. Disciples are called to share the light and truth of the gospel. Disciples are called to share the love, compassion, and mercy of Christ. Would the fruits of our ministry of discipleship reveal who we are? Perhaps an even better question might be, “Are we the ones who will make a difference in someone’s life, or should He look for another?”

If your reflection on discipleship is leading you to consider religious life, give us a call for help and resources.  You may also want to consider our Mission for Peace event to be held January 13-15, 2023, in three locations.  Click here for the flyer.

Wishing you peace, hope and joy this Advent season!

Sr. Pat Dual, OP

 

 

 

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

How Do You Read the Signs of the Times?

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

Throughout the church’s history, since religious life emerged as a viable life option for the faithful, there have been questions about whether it will survive or if it has a future. These questions have been raised by many, sometimes with curiosity and wonder, other times with concern and worry about where the next harvest of laborers will come from. Before I stepped into religious life 23 years ago, I wondered about the state of religious life then and what it might look like in the future.

Those who have been living in religious life know in their heart and by their faith that there is a mystical component to saying “Yes” to this life.  God calls and we respond affirmatively, not knowing what the future holds.  We live this life based on faith, trust, and prayer that God will lead us and show us the way through even the darkest times. Our history as religious gives us strength and examples for the journey because of the pioneering spirit and passion of those who came before us.

For those discerning a call to live in religious life today, these two questions about the present and future status of religious life may be stumbling blocks to considering this life.  Most sisters are older; fewer new or younger members are entering. Young women may or may not find a sister their age in the community that they are interested in joining. These factors may contribute to a young woman postponing or pursuing another path in life.

Faced with such uncertainty, we are confronted with asking again if religious life is ending, or is it evolving into something new? I believe that religious life has a future, even though it will be lived differently from what we know today. This is based on my lived experience of religious life and looking back on our 200-year history as Dominican Sisters in the United States. It is a history of pioneering women of the past who forged a future for religious life. And today, there are religious women who are shaping the future of religious life. To learn more about our past and hopes for the future as religious sisters, listen to a presentation by Sr. Joan Scanlon, OP on Pioneering Women of the Past, Innovators Shaping the Future.

What I admire about religious sisters from the past is the way they lived out the four pillars of Dominican life, prayer, community, study, and ministry. One by one, these sisters carried out God’s mission with faith, wisdom and consistency. These pioneering women met the challenges of their time and embraced the beauty of religious life and praised God for their call. They responded to the needs of their time with trust, faith, confidence, and passion. They moved beyond their comfort zone and the status quo for God’s mission. They shaped and paved the way for a future to unfold for years to come. They truly lived and preached the Gospel of peace.

Looking at the pioneering spirit of women religious from the past helps today’s women religious to focus on responding to today’s needs, to be grounded in the Gospel’s teachings, to trust in God and the call within. Today, women who are joining religious life are deeply aware of the challenges facing religious communities, and at the same time, feel impelled by the love of God to live a consecrated life.

With a great passion for the mission, today’s women religious are opening new doors of collaboration and connection, both within their own congregations and across other congregations. There are more opportunities to use our individual and group gifts, talents, and wisdom.  Also, more connections are possible with peers across the country and globally, inviting more opportunities to embark on missions together.

We may be living in transitional times, but religious life is not coming to an end. Instead, religious life has gradually shifted to a new way of prophetic living in mission.  In my community of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, our prophetic mission is noted in our prologue and direction statements and guides our mission work, which I invite you to read and reflect on here.

What are the signs of the times that God may be calling you to respond to? Do you desire to connect with God profoundly and live a life fulfilling God’s mission?  If you want to explore these and other questions further, contact us and together, we can discern your prophetic calling.  Visit our website also to learn more about our community.  You may also want to join us for a Winter Mission for Peace event, January 13-15, 2023, which we are offering via Zoom and in person at three different locations.  Click here for more event information and to register.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog