The Simple Faith and Inspiration of Mister Rogers

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

I just finished reading Amy Hollingsworth’s book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers and saw the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  Both the book and the movie are equally poignant stories about this icon of children’s television, Fred Rogers.  If you grew up between 1968 and 2001, or were the parent of a child during this period, you may have watched this daily, educational show.  The PBS series, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, was a safe place for children to learn about the importance of expressing feelings, how to deal with new and scary moments and to feel valued as human beings.

The persona he showed on camera of kindness, compassion, and friendship was the same persona he showed to others off-camera.  He lived what he preached and the spiritual legacy behind his words and actions are both simplistic and profound.  He always offered hope and encouragement, telling his viewers:

“Don’t ever give up on yourself or your dreams.  You’re worthwhile, and always will be, no matter what.  Just remember to always be who you are, because that person is very special.  There’s no person in the whole world like you.  And I like you just the way you are.”

Though some mocked/ridiculed him and his television show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, he wanted children to hear and believe that they were unique and special.  In the show’s opening theme song, Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” he expresses a desire to be neighbors with his young viewers, immediately extending a caring hand of friendship.  In his closing song, It’s Such a Good Feeling, he affirms what a good feeling it is to be friends with these young viewers. During this closing song, he speaks these endearing words:

“You always make each day such a special day. You know how: by just your being you. There’s only one person in the whole world exactly like you, and that’s you yourself, and people can like you exactly as you are.”

Imagine if every child (and every adult) heard and believed these words daily.  For Mister Rogers believed that “The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”

According to Hollingsworth, even Mister Rogers’ ritual of changing from a suit coat into a cardigan sweater and from dress shoes to tennis shoes was designed intentionally to have a calming effect and to teach children the importance of slowing down.  He wanted children to know the value of feelings, to know that feelings of anger, hurt, sadness were all right and “that you don’t have to hide them and that there are ways that you can say how you feel that aren’t going to hurt you or anybody else.” (Hollingsworth, 61-62)

Walking out of the movie theater, I wanted to stay and see it again so I could soak up the inspirational messages Mister Rogers (played by Tom Hanks) imparts to the man he befriends, Lloyd Vogel, who is an investigative reporter assigned to profile Mister Rogers.  Vogel is skeptical of Mister Roger’s good nature but is changed by the compassion and friendship Mister Rogers extends to him.  Vogel is initially annoyed by Mister Rogers’ gentle questioning of Vogel’s painful past with his father but the support and affirmation he receives from Mister Rogers enables him to reconcile with his father.  Mister Rogers even comes to be with Vogel’s family when Vogel’s father is dying and asks the dying father to pray for him, a moment where he sees the gift of a dying man being able to bring him closer to God.

In an interview with Fred Rogers, Hollingsworth quotes him as saying “And so, for me, being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift.”  Being able to acknowledge his own gifts enabled him to serve others well.  Closely related to this gift of being quiet and slow, was appreciating silence. Hollingsworth notes about Mister Rogers that “It wasn’t just the absence of noise he advocated, but silence that reflects on the goodness of God, the goodness of what and whom He made.  Silence to think about those who have helped us. He knew that silence leads to reflection, reflection to appreciation, and that appreciation looks for someone to thank.”  (Hollingsworth, p.7)

Someone who Mister Rogers appreciated was his close friend, Henri Nouwen, a well-known Catholic priest, author, and theologian, whose spiritual writings inspired and influenced him. Although he was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian faith, Mr. Rogers had ties to Catholicism.  Speaking of his friend, Rogers noted how Nouwen taught him the importance of silence, writing that “Even though most of the world knows Henri by his words, I’ve come to recognize his deepest respect for the still, small voice among the quiet of eternity.  That’s what continues to inspire me.”  (Hollingsworth, p.12)

Whether reading the book or watching the movie, the lessons learned from Mister Rogers’ humility, his sincerity, his authenticity, and his wisdom make you want to be a better person.  His ministry and purpose in life centered on seeing and affirming the good in people and helping those he met to see the good in themselves.  He rarely spoke about his faith on his show, but his inspirational messages flowed from a life of prayer and served to communicate a message of love and compassion for self and our neighbor, just as Jesus did.

Are you eager to be a neighbor to those in need, to those seeking a deeper meaning in life?  Why not consider exploring a call to religious life as a Sister?  Come and be a neighbor to God’s people.  Contact us to learn more about how we can help you discern God’s call in your life.

Posted in God Calling?

Unexpected Gifts

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

The Burren is one of the most desolate looking places in the otherwise lush green landscape of Ireland. Located on the northwest corner of County Clare, the Burren is a limestone (called karst) field, gray and craggy and on the edge of the sea.

The silence is one of the first things you can notice without much coaxing; not too many birds calling or trees rustling from the offshore breezes. Flat as far as the eye can see, there is not much to draw the eyes upward, but downward, well, that is another story.

Obviously one must look down as she walks because of the cracks in the rocks but then…. Looking down also means being surprised. Down between the cracks and the gray stones, something unexpected hits the eye, for growing between the cracks are tiny, beautiful wildflowers of magnificent hues with tender green leaves. They are so small they have to be pointed out to folks or they would just walk over them so as not to trip on the uneven rocks.

The amazement does not stop there. These lovely flowers are harvested, and just down the road and around the bend is a quaint farm place where the flowers are processed and become lovely Irish perfumes. Who would have known? What an unexpected gift from an unlikely looking location.

As the new year of 2020 has begun, what are the unexpected gifts that might come your way? Will they be welcomed or spurned? Will they be fanciful or useful?

God is a God of so many surprises….just keep the eyes of your mind and heart and soul open!

Posted in Weekly Word

Dominican Sister of Peace Adrian Marie Hofstetter

Dominican Sister of Peace Adrian Marie Hofstetter

Dominican Sister of Peace Adrian Marie (Mary Harriet) Hofstetter (100) died at the Sansbury Care Center in St. Catharine, KY, on January 9, 2020.

Sr. Adrian Marie was born on April 6, 1919, in Nashville, TN, the daughter of Marguerite Sanders and Oscar B. Hofstetter.

Gifted from God with a sharp, scientific mind, Sr. Adrian Marie earned her Associate’s Degree in Math from Siena College in Memphis, TN. She earned her Master of Science and Ph.D. in Biology/Zoology from Notre Dame University in South Bend, IN, and her Doctor of Ministry from Creighton University, Omaha, NE.

Sr. Adrian Marie began her ministry as a teacher, serving in Indiana and Tennessee. She worked briefly as a social worker at Holy Name Parish in Memphis before becoming a Professor of Biology at LeMoyne Owen College in Memphis, during which time she worked for racial equality in that southern city.

Sr. Adrian Marie served her community as the Director of Ecumenism and Religion at St. Catharine, then added duties as a visiting professor at Savannah State College. She served as a visiting professor at Knoxville College, as University Chaplain and Religious Education Coordinator at Creighton University, and Director of Ecumenism and Reconciliation at the Resurrection Convent in Brooklyn, NY, before moving to Boughton Place in Highland, NY, to serve in a variety of positions including CCR Chair, Coordinator of Home Sharing, and Director of the Center for Ecumenism. She also authored a book, EARTH-FRIENDLY: Re-Visioning Science and Spirituality through Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Rudolf Steiner.

Sr. Adrian Marie returned to St. Catharine in 2006, where she began a ministry of prayer and study. She began her final ministry of prayer and service at the Sansbury Care Center in 2011.

At her Memorial Mass, Sr. Elaine DesRosiers recounted some of the comments made of Sr. Adrian in the days following her death:
“She was indeed a prophet.”
“Our bright light has been extinguished.”
“She was about the most determined person ever created.”
“She was a great example of living the 4 Pillars of Dominican life.”
“Heaven will never be the same now that Adrian is there.”

Sr. Adrian is survived by one brother, Rev. Robert Hofstetter and several nieces and nephews.

A Vigil of Remembrance Service was held on January 16, 2020, and a Memorial Mass was held on Friday, January 17, 2020, both at the Sansbury Care Center Chapel in St. Catharine, KY. As a final act of charity, Sr. Adrian Marie donated her body to science. Burial will take place at a later date.

Memorial gifts in Sister Adrian Marie’s memory may be sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Drive, Columbus, OH, 43219.

To donate in Sr. Adrian Marie’s memory, please click here.

To download a printable copy of this memorial, please click here.

Posted in Obituaries

Dominican Sister of Peace Rita Imelda Sullivan

Dominican Sister of Peace Sr. Rita Imelda Sullivan

Dominican Sister of Peace Rita Imelda Sullivan (85) died at the Mohun Health Care Center in Columbus, OH, on January 5, 2020.

Sr. Rita Imelda was born in Somerville, MA, to Catherine Clark and Francis Sullivan. She entered the Congregation in 1953 and would have celebrated her 65th year of religious life in 2020.

Sr. Rita Imelda earned her Associate of Arts degree from St. Catharine College, and began her ministry as an elementary school teacher in West Virginia. But she felt called to a ministry in healthcare, and returned to study at the Saints Mary and Elizabeth School of Technology, where she gained certification as a Registered Medical Technician. She worked in the field for a decade, then earned her Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology/Biology from Spaulding College in Louisville, KY.

Sr. Rita Imelda went on to become a member of the National Registry of Medical Technologists and served as a medical professional and instructor in Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Tennessee.

Sr. Rita Imelda was a dedicated medical professional, but she also knew the importance of healing the souls of the sick and suffering. She earned her Chaplain Certificate at the National Association of Catholic Chaplains in 1991 and served as a Chaplain in Louisiana and Tennessee. She brought this ministry to the Sisters in her Community as well, serving as a Chaplain at Rosary Manor in Watertown, MA. She also served the Congregation as the Caretaker at Rosary Manor, and volunteered at the Dominican Academy in New York City.

Sr. Rita Imelda was a true itinerant Dominican, always willing to go where the work needed to be done, always ready for a new adventure in her ministry to God and the Church.

Sr. Rita Imelda Sullivan was preceded in death by her parents Francis and Catherine Clark Sullivan, her sister, Margaret Wenger, and her brother, Dr. Philip Sullivan. She is survived by her sister, Frances Reinfrank.

A Vigil of Remembrance Service was held on January 14, 2020, at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel in Columbus, OH. The funeral liturgy was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel on Wednesday, January 15, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery by Egan Ryan Funeral Home.

Memorial gifts in Sister Rita Imelda’s memory may be sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Drive, Columbus, OH, 43219.

To donate in Sr.Rita Imelda’s memory, please click here.

 

To download a printable copy of this memorial, please click here.

Posted in News, Obituaries

Who is the Stranger at the Gate?

Sr. Barb Kane shares this interview with Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities in New York City, to help us better understand the Church’s call to welcome immigrants.

Jesus taught us to see Him in the displaced. Can we find the courage to let Him in? 

It’s impossible to ignore the heated rhetoric currently surrounding the issue of immigration and refugees in America – and the heartbreaking news of human suffering at our borders. We sat down with Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York, to discuss how Catholic values can guide us.


Illustration by Vinny Bove

Archways: The Old Testament tells us to be kind to the displaced. Jesus, in Matthew 35, says that when we treat a stranger kindly or cruelly, we are doing the same to Him. How can we apply these teachings to the current crisis? 

Msgr. Sullivan: The biblical teachings speak to our attitudes as religious people. We should be welcoming and hospitable to those who are different than ourselves, from different places. At the same time, there’s a need to be very careful. You can’t find in either the Old or the New Testament a prescription as to what the immigration laws, rules and regulations should be in every situation and in every nation. That’s not what the Bible is about. However, our Christian values need to be applied in the way we treat those who are coming to our country for refuge, those who are fleeing violence and extortion and even those simply seeking a better life for their families.

AW: What would you say to Americans (including Catholics) who are afraid or angry about the tide of immigrants and asylum seekers – and want to send them back?

Msgr. Sullivan: From a Catholic perspective, we believe in secure borders. We believe in legal immigration. We don’t encourage people to illegally immigrate. At the same time, we recognize the right of people who are fleeing for their lives – persecution, extortion, violence – to seek refuge in another place. I have visited the Northern Triangle – Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras – where most of the families are currently coming from, and I can tell you that they really don’t want to come. They feel that they have to come for the sake of their lives and their families. Those who seek refuge in our country should be given a fair hearing to make their case.

It is discouraging, at a time when the world has about 25 million refugees – possibly the largest number since World War II – that the United States is decreasing the number of refugees we accept. We can’t take every single refugee in the world. But the fact that we are decreasing the number says that we are going in the wrong direction.

AW: Why should Americans have to take care of people from countries that are dysfunctional? Shouldn’t those people stay at home and fix their own dysfunctional countries?

Msgr. Sullivan: As Catholics, we probably have a broader perspective on migration than others, because we are a religion that is in every country. Our Christianity is not based on a race or ethnicity, but on faith. Our belief is that people in every country, in every land, are made in God’s image and likeness. We believe that people should not be forced to flee their own country, and that we should try to develop the safety, the economy, the educational systems of other countries so that people there can find decent jobs, can be educated, can feel safe. We believe both in a generous and welcoming immigration policy and in assistance in countries that are problematic, where there is corruption, where there aren’t sufficient jobs. That’s part of our Catholic global belief and solidarity.

AW: Critics charge that charitable organizations are promoting unlawful behavior by helping people who are in the country illegally. Is Catholic Charities helping people to break the law?

Msgr. Sullivan: Catholic Charities is following the mandate of Jesus to make sure that basic necessities of food, of shelter, are available to everybody. We don’t encourage illegal immigration. If a person is in our country without the right documents, we still believe they have basic human rights. We work very hard to see if there is a way that they can get the right documents and remedy their situation so that they can come out of the shadows and live a fuller life here.

  • AW: How can the average Catholic help immigrants and asylum seekers?

    Sullivan: The most important thing that we can do as people of the United States is to speak respectfully of one another and of immigrants and refugees and work toward creating a society in which everybody’s rights are respected. Beyond that, there are many ways that immigrants can be helped. In Catholic Charities we do English-as-a-second-language programs. So people who want to volunteer there can come to our website and learn to be conversation partners with immigrants. We also have immigration rights work-shops, and we do a help desk at immigration court.

    AW: How does it benefit us – spiritually and otherwise – to help immigrants and asylum seekers?

    Msgr. Sullivan: It benefits us in two ways. In an altruistic way, we are following the mandate of Jesus Christ to welcome the stranger. The Old Testament says it in a way that is very eloquent: Remember you were once aliens in a foreign land, so treat the resident alien as you would be treated yourself. Jesus says, if you welcome a stranger, you welcome Me.

    From a more self-serving point of view: This nation is arguably the most economically advanced in the world. Again, arguably, we are the most diverse nation in the world. This is a country that continues to welcome immigrants. I think if you put two and two together, you come to the conclusion that immigrants make our country a better place. It really is in the self-interest of the United States to welcome immigrants and those who seek refuge here, because they make our nation stronger.

    AW: What would it look like if this problem were solved? Can it be solved?

    Msgr. Sullivan: Our current immigration crisis is at the border and beyond the border. We do need to deal with the surge of migrants who are at the border in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. But we also need to deal with the countries that are sending them; we have to enhance our collaboration with those countries – with governments, church organizations, nonprofits – so that the conditions there can be improved. Those conditions are driving the crisis at the border.

    At home, we need to update our immigration system. From our Catholic perspective, the values are really simple, although our politics can’t figure out how to get it done. We need secure borders. We need a policy of legal, generous and fair immigration that respects and fosters the unity of families. It’s got to make a provision for decent employment, on a temporary or permanent basis, in our industries that need those immigrants as workers. And we need to figure out a way for those who are here without the right papers – 10, 12 million – to earn their way out of the shadows and become fully part of the United States.

    The blueprint for comprehensive reform is there. We just don’t have the political will to do it. For starters, as I say, every individual can do their part by speaking more respectfully, more decently, not scapegoating people. That will create a context in which we can work together to implement policies that reflect the best of our American values and our Judeo-Christian values.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog