Why Stay?: Peace and Persistence on the International Day of Peace

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As North Korea continues building and testing its nuclear arsenal, as Dreamers are threatened by the rescinding of DACA, as white supremacists march in our public spaces, and as relief efforts continue for those impacted by Harvey and Irma, it’s hard to hold on to hope as the International Day of Peace approaches on September 21st.

We all know brave women and men who have been working toward peace and justice for decades, many of whom are members of our congregation. Yet, it often appears that decisions continue to be made and actions continue to be taken that send us backward on our march toward justice and peace.

As we come together in community and prayer on the International Day of Peace, may we all reflect on the reasons we continue in our work to be peace, build peace, and preach peace. In her book Perseverance, Margaret Wheatley articulates well the frustration, the hope, and the reason we continue working toward peace, each and every day.

“Why Stay”

It’s normal to reach the point where we start questioning our motivation: “Why do I work so hard?” “Why am I dedicating so much time to this?” “Why do I stay in this work?”

And if we don’t ask these questions, our friends and loved ones surely will. Usually, if they’re confronting us with these, they already have the answers in mind: Stop working so hard; get a life; notice that other people aren’t nearly as dedicated as you.

Asking “Why stay?” can be an invitation to reassess not our work load, but our original commitment that brought us into this work. Especially when we’re overloaded, burned-out and exhausted, it’s extremely helpful to pause occasionally and reflect on the sense of purpose and potential contribution that lured us into working for this cause. Doing this with colleagues who also are working much too hard is a well-tested means for deepening our relationships and strengthening our resolve to keep going.

But there’s also a significant element of irrationality in why we keep going, even in the midst of defeat and exhaustion. The question “why?” doesn’t lead us to any personal clarity or reassessment, because there really isn’t an answer.

We’re doing the work because we’re doing the work.

If we try and develop an explanation beyond this simple statement of fact, we get into murky waters. Yet even though it’s the truth, it’s a statement destined to promote either anger or confusion in our loved one.

It’s an insufficient answer, and sometimes it’s the only one available.

-Margaret Wheatley, Perseverance 2010

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

What Sets Us Free to Be All We Can Be?

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I enjoy watching America’s Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and the Olympics—winter and summer events whenever they come on and I have the time. I am intrigued and inspired by performers who push their limits to be all they can be: a woman completely deaf but singing in perfect pitch and rhythm; a lone survivor of a fiery plane crash bravely standing before millions in her disfigurement  and sharing her gift of song. And break dancing blows me away—the way they defy gravity—spinning on their heads, bouncing on one hand, summersaulting mid-air from the floor. Just to mention a few… As I watch and marvel, I imagine God within me also delighting in these performers breaking through usual limitations to realize their human potential.

But even more, this past week my heart was warmed and inspired by the “Hand in Hand” Hurricane Relief Telethon in which stars and celebrities of every ilk performed and called on everyone to donate to help rebuild and restore Houston, raising over 44 million dollars in one night. There were endless pictures of persons who themselves were losing everything to the flood waters but reaching out to save others—using whatever specific gifts they had to offer. Again, as I watched these, though saddened to see all the destruction and human suffering, a quiet joy welled up within me to see people freed up to be all they (we) can be.

As more hurricanes, storms, floods, fires, oppression, wars, isms, and every kind of disaster continue to leave a path of destruction and suffering, we humans will always be called on to be all we can be for others. “What sets you and me free to be all we can be? and what holds us back?”

As Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates, we challenge each other to be and do what we can to bring healing and peace to the world, empowered by Christ and the Good News, calling forth and activating the gifts we hold individually and communally.

A few weeks ago Jolene Geier OP sent me a link to a YouTube that she received from someone else, saying “Take a look at this video. You’ll be glad you did.” So I watched it,, and I was glad I did. I was humbled and inspired by Chris Koch, from Nanton, Alberta, who spends his spring, summer, and fall working on a farm near Torquay, Saskatchewan.

What’s so inspiring about that? For one thing, he looks like a happy, good natured man not unlike many men I know. But as I watched the video I soon realized Chris is no ordinary person. It became obvious that he grew up armed with something that set him free and unleashed his human potential.

Chris’ life can inspire, challenge, and encourage us to be all we can be, no matter what we see as our limitation. Watch it here:  https://www.youtube.com/

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Storms of Life

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Seeing pictures of endless miles of flooding, of people displaced from their homes from the devastation wrecked by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I am reminded of both the fragility and preciousness of life.  Such images of toppled homes and cars show us the fragile nature of things and when we see strangers helping each other and the disabled and elderly given appropriate care and concern, the goodness of humankind shines forth and we witness the preciousness of life.

Being safely tucked away from the hardships of these storms, I wonder how I would cope with such conditions. How would I handle staying in a shelter with so many other people with no quiet space or privacy?  Even having mundane routines disrupted can be unsettling; or, not having the comforts of home, where I can sit in my favorite recliner and watch sports, use my laptop to check emails, or sew my quilt designs is disconcerting. What if my home was demolished?  How would I start over again and rebuild my life?  I have the privilege of asking these questions from the comfort of my office, but so many are struggling to answer these real-life questions as they find themselves in the eye of a life storm reaching highs and lows perhaps stronger than a physical storm.

To lose all your possessions, some holding special memories of a person or event, would be difficult to bear.  Of course, we know that material things can be replaced and that our hearts can heal from the storms of life, but the path to get to new ground is not without obstacles and challenges.

All of us experience storms in our life and how we weather these storms reveals much about how we respond to change.  Change is not easy, whether it happens by choice or by uncontrollable circumstances. How do we respond to change?  Do we embrace or resist change when it comes knocking on our door?  Do we give up on what change can teach us or do we give over our controlling nature to God to transform us?  Are we able to ride the tidal wave of uncertainty to see where it will lead us and what will unfold before us?  Change certainly tests our faith, our beliefs, our values and calls us to ponder anew what is important.

As a people of faith, we entrust that God will provide for all our needs, maybe not in the ways we might see fit, but in ways that are fitting for us. When we are attuned to God’s ways, we can see the angels in our lives who offer help, encouragement, and hope.  As a people of faith, we believe that God can make good things happen from seemingly impossible situations.  Faith teaches us to believe in possibilities and to entrust our life to a loving, compassionate God who desires the best for each of us.

Let us pray to be open to change and to being transformed for the better when we encounter the inevitable storms of life.  Perhaps you are being called to a change in lifestyle of living a consecrated life, serving God’s people.  Why not talk with one of our Vocation Ministers about how you feel led to follow this call.

Posted in God Calling??, News

Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Misery

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting, OP

Houston had been swamped by Hurricane Harvey, her recovery a gargantuan task.  Irma was approaching in all her ferocity. North of her, U.S. meteorologists and their technology were predicting her wrath and her path, and thousands were kept informed by the weather channels. Plans were made for protection, evacuation, resources and responders. But a Haitian woman, in a desperately poor country in the eye of the storm, having been pounded again and again by earthquakes, cholera,  Hurricane Matthew last Fall and no money or infrastructure for recovery,  summed things up  in these words: “I guess we are worried, but we are already living in another hurricane, Hurricane Misery.”

Spin the globe. Stop it anywhere and put down your finger. Chances are, you will land on misery. A huge hurricane of Misery in its pervasive circling of our world. Human misery, ecological misery, you and I know too much of its geography and its causes, and while not exactly indifferent or complicit, we are at a remove that leaves us feeling shameful at our own good fortune, and inadequate in our response.

We hurt for them, we pray for them, we donate cash, for we are unable to take them casseroles or shovel mud. We cannot physically comfort or cradle them, or speak whatever the right words would be to honor their losses and renew their hope.

We know our call and our charism, and seek to be witnesses to the truth and voices for reform, and ambassadors for peace. We also are aware of our physical limitations and the fluctuations of our energies that wear away at our vigilance, our resolve, our hope in God’s faithfulness and promise, and even our daily civility to one another.

I suggest that here is our mandate: Joy. It seems to reason the most unlikely of responses– both counterintuitive and certainly countercultural. But Joy is not born of innocence or comfort. It is not a feeling of happiness, a veneer of pleasantry, or the result of life dwelling on the sunny side of the street. This Joy is the fruit of the Spirit of Hope working in and through us, the gift that blossoms from other gifts–humility (an amused toleration of our own creaturehood) and growing Wisdom, who played before God at the dawn of creation. This Joy is the “most infallible sign of the presence of God,”(Leon Bloy) and we do it together by giving it away. Right here at home.

This mandate to be joyful and to share that joy is not about denying harsh reality, but taking a stance against fear and despair, as sign that God loves passionately and is at work in the world with a promise rooted in the cross and resurrection of Jesus and renewed constantly in the Spirit among us.

This week, along with the aftermath of hurricanes, we remembered 9-11, and will observe the liturgies of the Triumph of the Cross and the sorrows of Mary, a massive meeting of agony and ecstacy, which can only be held together in the unfathomable heart of God. And we assent in becoming, in Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words, ”a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around us.”

Posted in News

Reclaiming the Freedom to Marry

Blog by Justice Promoter Kelly Litt

As a young professional, I have arrived at the point in my life when many of my friends are getting married and starting their families. It’s a beautiful and exciting time to see so much joy and life blossom. As I work to plan my own wedding, I find myself stepping back to think of the young girls who perhaps dreamed of getting married one day with the beautiful dress, the union of families, and the celebration but instead are forced or coerced into marriage at much too young an age.

Child marriage strips young girls of not just dreams of a perfect wedding, but also often denies them further educational experience, threatens their health and wellbeing, sometimes locks them in a life full of violence and abuse, and leaves them with the idea that girls are inferior to boys. According to Girls Not Brides, each year, “15 million girls are married before the age of 18. That is 28 girls every minute. 1 every 2 seconds.”

Child marriage further propels gender inequality and poverty. In developing countries, tradition intertwined with generational poverty can persuade a family to marry their daughter off sooner to alleviate economic hardships. Surprisingly, child marriage is also prevalent in the United States. According to the Tahirih Justice Center, “researchers estimated that over 9.4 million U.S. women had married at age 16 or younger, and that nearly 1.7 million had married at age 15 or younger.” (For more information and statistics, click here). The majority of these child marriages are between a young girl and an adult man.

In a world where we view marriage as a beautiful commitment and covenant between two individuals, it’s important to remember that child marriage can be dangerous and unjust. Child marriage often leads to family instability, reduced educational opportunities, linkages to human trafficking, and high rates of intimate partner abuse and violence.

In the United States, most states have set the minimum age for marriage at 18, but there are numerous exceptions to the rule that make it possible for girls as young as 12 or 13 to be married to an adult man. Click here for a report about child marriage and an analysis of state laws. As we work to foster God’s web of life, let us continue advocating for girls so they can reach their full potential with justice, freedom, and dignity.

Are you concerned or moved by this issue? Consider calling your legislators to discuss this issue with them and ask how they are working to ensure girls are protected and treated with dignity and equality.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog