Peace In Our Neighborhoods and Meaningful Police Reform

Statement by the Leadership Team, Dominican Sisters of Peace

In light of a guilty verdict handed down by a jury in the case of Officer Derek Chauvin, we feel a deep sadness for both the family of George Floyd and for Officer Chauvin.   It is clear that police practice around the use of deadly force needs urgent and effective reform.  There are countless instances where overreaction on the part of the police during routine police work has ended with the tragic death of an innocent person.

Fear and hatred are driving much of the violence in our society leading to needless death and destruction and heartache.  Fear and hatred have especially put the African-American community (and any person of color) in an untenable position of constant defensiveness and anxiety. A person’s home is no longer considered a safe haven, and what may begin as a routine traffic stop may turn into a lethal encounter.

While the police must be given the resources and training to carry out their role in public safety, they cannot be permitted to exercise a militarized form of police work  A fatal use of force should not be the first action on the part of any police officer, and in the vast majority of encounters, peaceful resolution does result, except when it comes to persons of color.

As we reflect on what might come now, we urge local police chiefs and civic leaders to work to de-escalate the fear and hatred in their local communities that leads to violence. Community building efforts need commitment and funding. We call for action to de-militarize the approach toward law enforcement by police departments

True peace is possible when citizens can feel safe from fear and when hatred gives way to understanding. Peace takes hard work and listening to one another.  Are we tired enough of death? Are we ready to see each other with new eyes? With hearts that have broken so many times in so many families, when will we be ready to choose courage over fear?  In the words of President Biden, “We cannot be a safe harbor for hate in this country.”

Leadership Team
Dominican Sisters of Peace

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Discernment Days Approach for New Core Group of Dominican Leaders

APRIL 20, 2021  — We invite all Dominican sisters and associates to join in prayer for two days of discernment that will take place April 25 and May 16, 2021.  The purpose of the discernment is to identify the Dominican sisters who will serve as the core leadership group for Dominicans under 70.

Our hope is that these women will steward, or shepherd, the common futuring movement of Dominican Sisters in the United States across DSC congregations.

A recent story in DomLife (February 21, 2021) reported on this new development from the Dominican Sisterhood Futuring Task Force, a subcommittee of the DSC (Dominican Sisters Conference) Executive Committee. Jointly, members of the Task Force and Executive Committee are planning the discernment process and about 20 sisters are considering service on this new core group. Sr. Joan Scanlon, OP (Peace) will serve as facilitator.

Our hope for the core leadership group is that they can make real and concrete a shared vision of Dominican Life and Mission. The DSC will offer its full support to these leaders under 70.  We see the new leadership group as a distinctive entity within the DSC who will serve as a catalyst for a yet unclear future. As the Sisterhood Task Force completes its work, the DSC hopes that a new structure will assure a permanent vehicle for moving our Dominican life into the future with whatever vibrant and visionary ideas emerge as we go forward.  Our hope is that the group will act in a way that is strategic, emergent, and relational.

This is no easy task! And it may seem quite formidable to think that any group, no matter how large or small, skilled or capable, can accomplish something none of us can readily see. The future is unclear, and yet, we know the Spirit is working among us.  In the words of Isaiah, “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of those who announce peace and bring Good News.”

This discernment process is a critical event in our common life across congregations.  We all hope that the Spirit will guide and enfold those who are open to this exciting, and expansive moment.  We invite you to join us all in praying for the discerners and those leading the process.

Members of the DSC Executive Committee:

Janice Brown (Adrian), Anne Lythgoe (Peace), Maryann McMahon (Racine), Pam Mitchell (Sinsinawa), Terry Rickard (Blauvelt), Corinne Sanders (Adrian) Dusty Farnan (Adrian – DLC NGO) Mary Ellen O’Grady (Sinsinawa – Interim DSC Executive Director)

Members of the Dominican Sisterhood Futuring Task Force:

Diane Bridenbecker (Mission San Jose), Michaela Connolly (Blauvelt), Elise Garcia (Adrian), Rebecca Ann Gemma (Springfield), Toni Harris (Sinsinawa), Pat Sieman (Adrian), Pat Twohill (Peace), Mary Ellen O’Grady (Sinsinawa – Interim DSC Executive Director)

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Harvesting Peace: Heartland Farm takes hands-on crafting online

 

 

The Great Bend Tribune, Great Bend, KS

 

For 10 years, Heartland Farm in Pawnee Rock has been home to a secret gem. Each year, Heartland Farm, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, held FiberSpace, a two-day celebration of spinning, knitting, crochet and weaving. FiberSpace was usually conducted in January and February and was attended by local “fiber folks.”

The COVID-19 pandemic turned plans for the 2021 FiberSpace upside down, but as members of an 800-year-old mendicant religious order, Dominican Sisters are not ones to give up easily. Although the pandemic grew worse in the fall of 2020, Dominican Sister of Peace Jane Belanger and Heartland Farm Marketing/Media Coordinator Teresa Johnson Heartland Farm staff were determined to use a new approach to move forward with the 2021 event.

“The Dominican Sisters of Peace have been utilizing technology like webcasting and video calls for national meetings for several years now,” said Sr. Jane, a long-time member of the Heartland Farm community. “We actually had to move one of last year’s traditional events to a drive-through format and taking FiberSpace to the virtual space seemed like the next logical step.”

Sr. Jane and Johnson began planning three months before the planned date of the 2021 event. Given Facebook’s popularity with people in the event demographic and the many Facebook groups devoted to fiber arts, they determined that a Facebook Live platform would be the most effective medium for broadcast.

“Facebook was a real cross-platform solution for us,” said Johnson. “Participants could attend on phones, tablets, or desktop computers and all enjoy the same experience.”

Johnson asked a small group of former FiberSpace attendees to be part of the new “virtual” version. “Fortunately, many of them are either close friends or family members who were already in each other’s “COVID-cones,” Sr. Jane said, “so they felt comfortable spending a day inside at the Farm. Of course, we were all masked and maintained social distancing for the event.”

Johnson invited past attendees via email and used targeted Facebook advertising to promote the live event. She also asked the in-person participants to promote the event in their personal and crafter-centered networks, creating more viral organic outreach.

“We really didn’t know what to expect,” Johnson said. “Our first Facebook live event was basically a six-hour live instructional video – we had no idea how it would go over with participants.”

The team got their answer on Feb. 27, when more than 400 participants from around the U.S. began to log in to the event. Crafters from as near as Wichita and as far away as Maryland watched, asked questions, and learned new techniques. Participants were also treated to a video tour of the 80-acre Heartland Farm, where the Sisters and staff raise alpacas, organically grown vegetables and chickens.

“It was surprisingly personal,” said Sr. Jane. “People sent questions to us through Facebook, and the crafters were able to talk and respond to each other in almost real time. Fortunately, everyone was very patient with our little technical glitches.”

Suzi Rife, a novice crafter from North Carolina, found the event online and attended throughout the day. “I loved the weaving class,” she commented in the video’s chat. “It’s good to see how to manage the problems on the loom.”

The recorded videos will be used by the Farm for pre-recorded craft classes. Sr. Jane Belanger is looking forward to using these videos to make the classes available to other ministries of the Dominican Sisters as well.

“The Dominican Sisters of Peace have seven ecological and retreat centers across the country,” Sr. Jane said. “Using new technologies will let us each expand our reach and offer a wider variety of programming to all of our audiences.”

The unedited FiberSpace videos can be viewed on the farm’s Facebook page by searching for @HeartlandFarmKS.  Learn more about Heartland Farm by visiting HeartlandFarm.org.

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Finding hope… Where is it, what is it, and how to find it

DAVE MYERS, Southwest Kansas Catholic

 

 

When the strife of daily life increases, it can seem like hope becomes exponentially harder to come by.

Dominican Sister of Peace Rose Mary Stein

Fears of becoming sick; mourning friends or family; losing jobs; suffering the depression of isolation. It’s easy for hope to take a back seat to these tough events and emotions.

Enter Sister Rose Mary Stein, OP.

Since 2018, Sister Rose Mary has been presenting morning retreats across the diocese, one of the most recent of which focused on that illusive feeling of hope, and how it’s never far from our grasp, despite our circumstances.

She and Marty Niedhart presented the March 13 retreat at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“We need to always keep hope alive, and know that even in our suffering and loss there is always Resurrection,” Sister Rose Mary said. “We shouldn’t lose that longing and that desire that God will see you through all this,” she added. “It’s that virtue of hope that gives us the strength we need. We have faith and love, but sometimes we lose sight of hope, that ability to hold on to that trust, no matter what we’re going through.”

When she retired from ministry at the cathedral in 2018, Sister Rose Mary took on the new retreat ministry, for the Dominican Sisters of Peace under the auspices of the Heartland Center for Spirituality in
Great Bend. For each retreat she brings along another guest speaker, a lay person, in hopes that participants will be empowered to share the gifts of their own faith stories.

“I want to empower our lay people to use their gifts,” Sister Rose Mary said. “Maybe others can recognize that their gifts need to be proclaimed for the love of Christ and the world.  There will be fewer sisters and priests, and our lay people have got to step forward and carry the message.”

Marty Niedhart speaks at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe on suffering, loss, and the Resurrection. Photo by Sister Rose Mary Stein, OP

At the March 13 retreat, Marty Niedhart spoke about suffering and loss, and how we must hold on to the gift and the hope of the resurrection, a topic which understandably hit home for the participants of the three-hour retreat during this tumultuous time.

Readying the Soil for Spiritual Growth
A week later, on March 20, Sister Rose Mary and cathedral parishioner Linda Klaus spoke to a largely non-Catholic crowd at the United Methodist Church in Dodge City, the theme for which was, “Readying the Soil for Spiritual Growth.”

Sister Rose Mary created the apt topic prior to speaking in Ashland a few years ago. The more urban participants in Dodge City took well to the soil analogies.

“I spoke on spiritual growth, what spirituality means, and how we grow spiritually,” Sister Rose Mary said. “I offered some ways to help them grow spiritually, such as by keeping in touch with positive people, by praying, by trying to live a wholesome, positive life by keeping themselves around people who are wanng to grow spiritually, too. It’s who you associate with. It’s what you listen to; what you read.”

It’s easy to parrot others — voices in the media. But without study and personal interpretation,
they can ring hollow when in discussion with those who might disagree.

“The symbol I used — and all the people brought — was a coffee or tea cup,” she said. “We are like a coffee or tea cup. God lives within us and we are refreshed by God just as cup of coffee or tea refreshes us. We need to think of that as a way of fulfilling our lives — by sharing and giving of ourselves to others as we continue to fill our cup.”

Speaker Linda Klaus shared her “faith story”, both in speech and by using
her gift of song.
Photo by Sister Rose Mary Stein

The second speaker, Linda Klaus, treated those gathered to her unique gift. “Along with her presentation, she sings as her way of offering her liveliness with the group,” Sister Rose Mary explained. “She might be talking about something when it promotes a song. It’s her charism. She is full of energy and life in her singing ability. She shared her story based around her spiritual life. It is her faith story.”

Fees for the retreat go to support Sister Rose Mary’s travel and the ministry through the
Dominican Sisters of Peace.

Sister Rose Mary invites churches across the western part of the Diocese of Dodge City to contact her about presenting the Saturday morning retreats in their parish. While they typically run from 9 a.m.-Noon — beginning with coffee, juice and doughnuts — times can vary depending on the schedule of the parish.

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Notre Dame Death in Our Family: Sr. Elaine DesRosiers

“I thought I’d spend my life in the little triangle of a parish: living in the convent, teaching in the school, praying in the church, and, if lucky, getting to the dentist twice a year.” That’s how, late in life, Sister Elaine Virginia DesRosiers, O.P., ’66M.S, recalled her embrace of her religious vocation as a teenager in 1948.

Her first 15 years as a Dominican nun went according to plan. Then the Second Vatican Council — and six summers studying biology as a graduate student at Notre Dame — changed everything, transforming the former grade-school teacher into a TV host and audiovisual expert who would lead the University’s trailblazing foray into the world of the computerized classroom.

The former director of educational media at Notre Dame, known as much for her oil paintings, her summer film festivals, her effervescent warmth, her hope and her heart for the poor as for her landmark contributions to campus technology, died December 16, 2020. She was 90.

Having completed her master’s degree, DesRosiers returned to the Boston archdiocese where she grew up, creating The World of Biochemistry, a televised course for high school students broadcast by the Boston Catholic Television Center. The experience led to doctoral studies in educational media and skills that landed her back at Notre Dame in 1976 as head of a small unit that mostly dispersed students and their AV carts through the halls of classroom buildings, but in time would oversee the genesis of a campuswide computing network.

By 1992, DesRosiers and associate director Michael Langthorne had spearheaded plans for DeBartolo Hall, with 84 classrooms wired into a centralized system that enabled professors to use the latest digital and visual media in their courses. As of her retirement in 1997, representatives from more than 650 universities around the world had toured the building.

“Everything concerning people and their betterment — she was into it,” recalled her friend, Gerald Gingras, professor emeritus of Spanish literature at Saint Mary’s College. “She had a total commitment to humanity and saw goodness at every level.”

Returning to her motherhouse in Springfield, Kentucky, DesRosiers’ artistic talents garnered commissions to paint historic and religious buildings — and a Fra Angelico Award from the Dominican Institute for the Arts.

“I recognized that this life of mine has been one big act of gratitude,” she once wrote. “St. Catherine’s teaching, ‘Of myself I am nothing. With God’s gifts I am everything,’ has imbedded in me a deep, deep sense of gratitude to God, the giver of my gifts.”

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