Prayer for the Laudato Si’ Action Platform

Creator, we are embarking on a journey
towards greater love for You,
our brothers and sisters, and Your creation.

Holy Spirit, we humbly ask that You guide us on our journey,
that You bring us Your illuminating and warming fire
as we seek to discern and respond to Your will.

Redeemer, we thank You
for the new hope that unites us with all those
who are healing their relationships with God,
creation, and the human family.

We pray for commitment and unity
as we live out an integral ecology
to protect all life on earth.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

An Update from Ukraine

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Recently I’ve spent most of my time sending letters. It was hard to find spare time to do it sooner, but it’s very important to me that thank-you notes from the brothers in Ukraine find their way to all the people supporting the Dominican mission in the country at war. Many people and many institutions around the world help us, so the work of sending letters will still take some time. Writing addresses, signing letters, and attaching post stamps might seem boring and purely mechanical. It isn’t so, however. For me, all these actions became emotionally absorbing, stirring my curiosity and, above all, bringing forth an enormous gratitude. I know that behind every name, address, priory, province, and institution are good and generous people. You are our friends — our sisters and brothers. Unfortunately, we don’t have the addresses of all our benefactors, so if any of you don’t receive my handwritten letter, please be assured that we remember all of you in our prayers. We are in Ukraine, and we serve all those in need on your behalf as well.

Two days ago Father Misha, with the help of volunteers from the House of Saint Martin in Fastiv, organized a picnic for the inhabitants of Borodyanka. Borodyanka is one of the most devastated cities around Kyiv. I’ve already mentioned it a few times because our brothers in Fastiv have been helping its citizens for a while now. Last year, Father Misha finally fulfilled one of his dreams and bought a food truck. It’s a truck that can be used to prepare and serve hot meals. This ancient vehicle, with two large propane tanks attached to the back, drove the 70 km between Fastiv and Borodyanka surprisingly nimbly. And the children weren’t the only ones who were excited. Although we didn’t manage to provide french fries, we were capable of making delightful hotdogs and hamburgers. I fully shared everyone’s enthusiasm. Nowadays it’s hard to find good fast food, even in Kyiv, because the most popular of these chains are closed. How much worse it must be in Borodyanka, so tragically destroyed by Russian bombs and tanks, where it’s hard to find even a grocery store.

The menu of our food truck, which offered everything free of charge, also featured coffee: real, delightful, and aromatic. That was the biggest hit among the adults. Only a few months ago, coffee was absolutely normal, and nobody paid attention to it. Before the war, while driving overnight from Kyiv or Fastiv to Warsaw, we would stop in the morning for coffee in this very city. Today you can’t buy coffee in Borodyanka. I learned that while trying to find one for myself. “If I could find the money, I would immediately open a coffee house in this place,” said Father Misha when we talked about it last night. “People are longing for it. They want to go back to normal, everyday comforts.” I agree with him wholeheartedly; I’m very happy that, apart from building materials for renovating destroyed houses and necessary items like medicine, flour, oil, canned meat and bread, the volunteers from the House of Saint Martin make a huge effort to provide some token of a different, normal, pre-war world for those who have been suffering. Mrs. Natalia, who lives in our Kyiv priory with her elderly parents, told me how much she longs for this lost, normal world — how much she would love to simply sit down in front of her house in the morning and peacefully drink a cup of hot coffee.

Over the last week, I traveled a lot on trains. Partly out of comfort, partly out of necessity due to the lack of gasoline. Many trains in Ukraine consist mostly of sleeping cars. Each of these cars has its “providnyk”, a railroad employee who serves the passengers. “Have you been working throughout the whole war?” I asked the woman responsible for my car. “Yes, I’ve been riding all this time,” she responded. “I would like to thank you. You are a real hero to me.” She was a little surprised by what I said. She immediately stopped what she was doing and called over her colleague. I listened to their stories about how they served on the evacuation trains in the most dangerous moments of war. They showed me pictures of bullet-ridden cars and rockets flying over the Kyiv train station from the first weeks of war. People like them are real heros. Without their work, millions of human beings wouldn’t be able to evacuate to safety. Many Ukrainian railroad workers suffered as a result of war. Mr. Volodymyr showed me a picture on his phone of his relative whose face was covered with wounds after one of the most recent rocket attacks. As we were finishing our conversation, I ordered a coffee. The paper cup had an advertisement with a beautiful slogan: “Ukrainian things are becoming the best.” I don’t know how to say it better.

On the way to Kyiv, I overheard the conversation of the children running around in the car. They were traveling home with their moms. They didn’t know each other before, so they were describing their houses while they were playing. In their conversation, they mentioned alarms, explosions, artillery barrages. I wondered how deep the psychological wounds are, in all of us and especially in the young Ukrainians afflicted by this war.

The Institute of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Kyiv, run by the Dominicans, is operating online just like all the other schools and universities. It allows students who are spread around Ukraine, or even the world, to participate in the classes. Father Thomas, who moved to Kyiv about a year ago, recently started his topics course on the concept of a person in the writings of Romano Guardini and Joseph Ratzinger. The course is attended by seven people. That’s pretty good for our school and wartime. Father Petro, the director of the institute, has already opened a recruitment campaign for the new academic year. I’m very curious how many people, and who, will apply to begin studies in September. Among the prospective students, we have one soldier. He asked if we offer remote classes, since it will be very difficult for him to travel to Kyiv. I’m glad that in such a difficult time in Ukraine there are people willing to study theology.

Today our Dominican community in Khmelnytskyi is celebrating a unique solemnity of the elevation of the relics of Saint Dominic. A year ago, the brothers expressed their desire to have the relics of our Father and the founder of the Order in their house. These dreams were supported by Father Wojciech, the theologian of the papal household, who advised us to make a request for relics to the Roman monastery of the Dominican nuns on Monte Mario. The nuns responded favorably, and the relics of Saint Dominic and Saint Sixtus arrived in Khmelnytskyi. As preparation for the solemnity, Father Oleksandr from Kyiv preached the retreat at the parish of Christ the King in Khmelnytskyi, which is the parish of our priory. Today’s Mass will be presided by Bishop Nicholas. It’s another chance to see this Dominican brother who recently ordained Father Igor. Bishop Nicholas praised the pastoral work of Father Irenaeus in Mukachevo, who was evacuated from Kharkiv along with his parishioners at the beginning of the war. “Nicholas made me a confessor at the cathedral,” said Father Irenaeus, who spends a lot of time in the confessional but also helps the bishop by celebrating Masses in the neighboring parishes. God assures that people have access to the sacraments in this difficult time of war.

There’s a saying that you help more by giving a fishing rod than by giving a fish. Our sisters, brothers, and volunteers from the House of Saint Martin de Porres preferred to bring the people from Andriivka and Krasnohirka chicken rather than eggs. Both towns still look horrible, although their residents fixed a lot and cleaned up what was left by the unwanted guests from the east. Most of the household animals were lost during the war or were eaten by the Russian soldiers stationed there. That’s why a long line of smiling people quickly formed around our car to receive small chickens. We gave away over two thousand of them. After all, it’s Easter, and chicks symbolize new life, hope, and rebirth.

With warm greetings and request for prayer,

Jarosław Krawiec, OP,
Kyiv, Sunday, May 22, 10:45pm

Posted in News

Holy Spirit Moments

Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

In a couple of weeks, we will be celebrating God’s gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. As I read through the Easter readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel readings where Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, I began to reflect on my own experiences of the Spirit.  Holy Spirit moments are unmistakable.  They are moments that bring clarity during a time of confusion. They are moments that bring peace during a time of chaos. They are moments that bring comfort during a time of suffering.  No matter how we may experience the Spirit’s presence in our lives, we are not likely to forget it.

One such moment occurred during the early years of my discernment about religious life.  During a weekend retreat, I recall earnestly praying and asking for clarity about discerning religious life.  While the participants on this retreat were contemplating their entrance into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, as their RCIA Coordinator, I was silently praying for an answer about this inexplicable idea of a religious vocation.

The retreat had been a wonderful experience for everyone.  But I remember feeling disappointed that my prayers that weekend had seemingly not been answered. As I prepared to leave, I noticed a small bible that had, seemingly, been left behind by one of the retreatants. When I picked it up, a slip of paper fell to the floor with the words, “I choose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.  The kind that endures.”  I never did find the owner of the bible, but the note helped me to find my way during a time of uncertainty. In fact, these words have turned up unexpectedly often in my faith journey.  Over time, the full discernment process for me included talking with good friends, with vocation directors, along with spiritual direction. The discernment process helped open my heart to God’s invitation to religious life.

Our faith tells us that the Holy Spirit is always present around us and within us. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Pentecost in the next few weeks, I invite you to recall those “Holy Spirit” moments in your own life. Recalling these moments of grace helps to remind us that despite the circumstances in our lives and in our world, God is here. The Spirit is here. Hope is here.  I also invite you to listen to one of my favorite Holy Spirit songs.

If the Spirit has invited you to consider religious life, why not give us a call.   Peace.

Pat Dual, OP

Posted in News, Vocations Blog

John 10:22–30

Reflection by Pat Schnee, OPA

“My sheep hear my voice…They shall never perish… No one can take them out of my hand. “There is a great deal to unpack in today’s gospel but I would like to focus on these few words at the end. What does it mean to be in God’s hands?

A very good woman, hurting from a great loss in her life, once said to me, “Why is this happening to me? I’ve tried to live a good life.” And she had.  So maybe it’s good to begin with what does being in God’s hands not mean.

It does not mean that we will be protected from the losses that come with living: Family members and friends die. Work we love comes to an end. Our bodies becomes less and less reliable.

But I suggest that there is a difference between safety and security. A seatbelt is a safety feature; it is an attempt to protect us from harm. Covid vaccinations and face masks are safety features designed to protect us from a serious illness. And all those safety features are good things. But I don’t think that is what being in God’s hands is about.

It is security that God’s hands provide for us…the security of knowing that no matter what happens to us we are not alone…that God is with us, holding us closely, and will never let go.

Julian of Norwich is quoted as writing:  He [Jesus] did not say, ‘You will never have a rough passage, you will never be over-strained, you will never feel uncomfortable,’ but he did say, ‘You will never be overcome.”

This of course is the long view. In the short run, things can be pretty rocky. And we can help each other with that. We can, and should lend a listening ear, the comforting embrace.  We can help each other over those rough passages that inevitably come. We can be part of a safety net for each other.

But for real security, nothing beats knowing that we are in God’s hands,
…that nothing can take us out of God’s hands,
…and that in the end, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well”

Pat Schnee, OPA

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare (To Praise, to Bless, to Preach): Early Work of the Dominican Sisters

Articles by Marilyn Rhodes, OPA
The opening pages of the Dominican Constitutions, adapted from Latin by Father Samuel Wilson. Father Richard Miles instructed them in Dominican spirituality.

This article is the second of twelve, one per month, celebrating the Bicentennial of Dominican Women in the United States.  This series celebrates highlights of the history of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, whose history hails from Washington County, Kentucky.

The courageous women who first wore the Dominican habit encountered many challenges in their early years. Their schedule alone was quite demanding, waking at midnight to pray, then up at five each morning for prayer, meditation, Mass, more prayer and study, and the work of the day. The daily work of the Sisters included gathering firewood, tilling the land, making clothing from flax and wool, and doing the construction and repairs needed to convert the property’s old stillhouse into their first school – and then they took classes from the Dominican Friars to prepare to become educators themselves! Gratefully, the Sisters received special permission to change their hours for prayer to prevent sheer physical exhaustion from fulfilling their goals.

The Dominican Sisters lived in the one-room convent at Bethany for about a year. At the death of their parents, the Sansbury sisters, Angela and Benvin, inherited 106 acres with three buildings, which of course became property of the Congregation. Their new home boasted three rooms: the chapel, a kitchen with dining area, and a room for work and study, with a loft for sleeping. This land along Cartwright Creek, called Sienna Vale, is known as the cradle of Dominican Sisters in the U. S.

In August 1823, the Dominican Sisters opened St. Mary Magdalen Academy to fifteen young women. The students brought provisions intended to last for the entire school year, however, the Sisters needed to farm the land to continue to feed the students and themselves.

The founding Sisters worked in the fields, taught school, wove their own cloth for their habits, made soap, and preserved fruits and vegetables.

The academy was successful and grew. The Sisters also began teaching young boys before those twelve and older “graduated” to the St. Rose school run by the friars. But as the number of students grew, the Sisters realized that they would need to build a new school building. This caused the Congregation to incur a substantial debt, which was disturbing to the Friars. The Friars considered dissolving the Congregation and selling its land assets to pay the debt, but Prioress Angela Sansbury would not hear of it. With the support of the community and much prayer and hard work, including making and selling soap, candles, and cloth, the Congregation was able to pay their debt.

In 1839, the Sisters were incorporated as the Literary Society of St. Mary Magdalen. As the number of Dominican Sisters grew, they expanded their mission of education. The Dominican Sisters eventually opened more than 100 schools across the United States, Puerto Rico, and Vietnam.

Please click here to see this article as published in the Springfield Sun, Springfield, KY.

Posted in Celebrating 200 Years, News