Do the Right Thing for the Right Reason

Blog by Associate Colette Parker, OPA – Co-Director

Sometimes, I see or hear or read something that makes me wonder:  “What kind of crazy, mixed up world do we live in?”

It happened again last week, when I read several news reports about Stephen Mader, a former police officer who says he was fired because he chose not to shoot and kill a 23-year-old man whom he assessed as being suicidal, during a domestic disturbance call.

“He didn’t appear angry or aggressive. He seemed depressed. As a Marine vet that served in Afghanistan and as an active member of the National Guard, all my training told me he was not a threat to others or me. Because of that, I attempted to de-escalate the situation. I was just doing my job,” Mader said during an interview with CNN.

Apparently, Mader responded to a call around 2 a.m. on May 6, 2016, about a man threatening to hurt himself with a knife.

When he arrived on the scene, he encountered a 23-year-old man, who had his hands behind his back. After ordering the man, several times, to show his hands, he complied, revealing a silver handgun in his right hand.

Mader pulled his service revolver and ordered the man to drop his weapon. The man replied “I can’t do that. Just shoot me.”

Convinced that the man was trying to commit “suicide by cop,” Mader responded “I’m not going to shoot you brother” and continued to plead with the young father to drop the gun. As two other officers arrived, the man reportedly began waving his weapon and was shot dead by one of the other officers.

An investigation into the shooting – which deemed the use of deadly force justifiable — found that the man’s gun was unloaded.

It seems that Mader made the right decision in trying to de-escalate the situation. But his assessment cost him his job as a police officer – he was fired about a month after the deadly shooting because he “failed to eliminate a threat.”

In this day and age, when police officers have kept their jobs despite brutality, corruption, harassment, and questionable circumstances in the use of deadly force, an officer who seemingly shows compassion and takes the time to see others as human beings gets fired?

From my vantage point, there is something wrong with this picture.

Mader (who happens to be a Marine who identified IED’s in the warzone of Afghanistan so that they could be disarmed without harming our troops or the communities they were in) is the kind of cop that I want on the streets – one who fully assesses a problem and uses his/her skill to resolve the problem; one who is compassionate and values life; one who knows how to use critical thinking to gauge whether he/she is in imminent danger; one who operates with calm and poise.

Although the deadly shooting of the 23-year-old African-American man and firing of Mader, a then 24-year-year-old white police officer (and young father himself) occurred last year, the story made national headlines last week because Mader is now suing the Weirton, West Virginia police department that fired him for wrongful termination.

For me, Mader’s story reveals some problems in our criminal justice system. Is there something wrong with a culture that punishes an officer who shows restraint and rewards behavior that results in death and destruction?

Shouldn’t we expect those who put on a uniform and a badge and commit to protecting and serving our communities to respect the sanctity of life?

Mader’s words reveal that he saw more than a suicidal man begging him to shoot. He saw his brother, standing before him, hurting and in distress. He then decided to try to peacefully resolve the situation.

I think Mader handled things the right way. I respect his judgement. I applaud his ability to see others as members of his human family. I commend him for standing up for what he believes is right.

“In the simple moral maxim, the Marine Corps teaches — do the right thing, for the right reason — no exception exists that says: unless there’s criticism or risk.”

― Josh Rushing (Mission Al-Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World)

Posted in Associate Blog

The Zip Line of Faith

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

“It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must!”  –Pope Francis, March 2013

I read this quote the other day in one of the LCWR Prayer Journals, and it struck me as so true. I’m sure most persons of faith can think of times in one’s life when they feel they are standing on the brink of the great abyss of God’s mercy, and know their faith demands that they make that fearful leap into the incomprehensible. It’s a moment that puts their faith in God to test.

It could be during a retreat or moment of grace when one is gripped by a deep realization of one’s sin—whether in thought, word, deed, or omission—and is overwhelmed by feelings of confusion, guilt, the helpless need for forgiveness and mercy. The fearful choice is to stay paralyzed in unworthiness, self-loathing, and condemnation, or to leap into the abyss of God’s incomprehensible mercy. We question: do we dare believe that the God-Who-Is truly loves us unconditionally with infinite mercy, and is not the God-of-my-own-making who waits to punish?

For me, it was a little less than two months ago when I was about to undergo surgery for breast cancer. The doctors and nurses in making sure that I understood all that was going to happen, the risks, the possibilities, and all the choices that I would need to make, plied me with booklets, print-outs, and more information than I ever hoped to have. Having read it all, and making the best choices I could, I then faced the moment of truth, and was admitted to the surgery unit. I remember the feeling of being completely in the hands of others as I watched the surgery staff strap first the left arm, then the right to arm extensions, as others efficiently applied pressure wraps to my legs, and the anesthetist told me he was going to start the medication that would put me to sleep. It was the moment to leap into the abyss of God’s mercy, entrusting all…

Today as I imagine myself standing again and again at the brink of the abyss of God’s mercy, I am aware that I don’t just foolishly presume to leap recklessly from a high place to test God (as the devil would have Jesus leap from the tower, testing God to keep him from dashing a foot against a stone.) No, if I’m going to take such a leap, I want to make sure I have a trusted ZIP line to which I am firmly secured. My ZIP LINE is God’s Word and God’s Promises – especially the God preached by Christ in the Gospels; and it’s my FAITH in Christ, the unfolding Word of God – that attaches me firmly to that ZIP LINE. Only then can I confidently -though maybe a bit nervously – make that leap. And so far it has always proven to be quite a ride!

Posted in Associate Blog

Witnessing for the Both And…

Blog by Marybeth Auletto, OPA, Columbus, OH.

One of the reasons I embrace being a Dominican is our call to study. Long before I became an associate, I was drawn to spiritual and social justice readings and have been blessed with friends who have turned me on to authors such as Richard Rohr, Joan Chittister, and Ann LaMotte. I do not think it a coincidence that these friends are also now Dominicans and together our study has expanded to include Sr. Diana Culbertson, OP, John Dear, and Pope Francis, to name a few.

Often, the most challenging part of study is when you finish it and say, after prayerful contemplation as an individual and as a group, “Ok,  how does what I read fit into my ministry…my faith life…my prayer life…the other parts of the Dominican Charism?” Laudato Si provided a powerful opportunity to grow in how we lived out our mission of caring for the earth.

A few weeks ago, I attended a local gathering/march in honor of Earth Day.  Earth Day events have been happening for years, but I believe this was likely the best-attended event of late, due to the “Science” theme that drew not only environmentalists but teachers, doctors, grandparents – all who believe in “science, not silence!”

There was a sign-making table and I had noticed that unlike most previous marches/gatherings I have attended, there seemed to be a lack of signs that were faith-based.

I am not an artist but managed to come up with what I thought was a meaningful slogan and added some symbols…and then anxiously waded back into the crowd.  I began to feel self-conscious…will the younger people think me weird? Was this sign even appropriate? After several minutes of scanning the signs, I was relieved to see another person of my generation with a sign similar to mine. At the end of the march, a man who looked to be in the millennial age bracket came up to me and told me he liked my sign. I hoped my smile and sincere thanks expressed the gratitude I felt from his affirmation!


Posted in Associate Blog

Something Lost, Something Gained

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

Last Friday, someone asked me (kind of out of the blue): “Do you know what IHS means?” Surprised, I answered: “Well, yes it’s on my Profession Ring and I was told they are the Latin or Greek initials for Jesus Christ Savior.” And I held out my hand to show off the simple gold ring I have worn since making my final vows in 1965. In doing so, I was reminded of how much this symbol has meant to me over the years. Though I don’t think of it a lot, it has always been a quiet reminder that I have been given a special gift of a call to religious life as a Dominican Sister, and that I have given my life gladly in response to this gift, walking with and trusting God with “all I have, all I am, and all I will ever be” in vowed live in a community of prayer, study and service*. (*quote from Timothy Radcliffe, OP).

It was less than a couple of hours later when sitting down with a friend at a restaurant, I just happened to notice the ring was missing on my left hand. I was not aware of it having slipped from my ring finger, and could not imagine how or to where it would have disappeared. Alarmed, I began searching my pockets, my purse, the seat and floor around us. After finishing our meal, we both searched the ground all the way back to the car, around and inside the car—all to no avail. The ring was gone. The search has continued, but with less and less hope of finding it.  It was something precious to me, but now something lost!

As I reflected on my deep feelings of loss around this precious ring, I asked myself why was it so important to me? What meaning has it carried for me? It seemed that losing it was causing me to reflect on my graced life, stirring up deep gratitude as memories of sisters, classmates, friends and family, people with and among whom I have ministered, places where I was privileged to visit, live and/or minister came to my mind. So the shock of this loss was now gifting me with a renewed recommitment and an ever-deepening appreciation for all that this ring has symbolized for me.  Focusing on the countless precious gifts this life has poured on me these past 50+ years, the pain of losing it is receding. Yes, something lost, but also something gained… Is it time for me to simply hold on to the renewed and deepened meaning and let go of the symbol? Could be, but I am still asking St. Anthony to find it and return it to me if he can! And I probably will keep looking for it.

Have you ever lost something precious and find that in the losing, you have gained something more?

Posted in Associate Blog

Faith Lights Our Way in Darkness

Blog by Associate Colette Parker, OPA – Co-Director

The family of Robert Godwin Sr. delivered a powerful message over the last two weeks: Faith is our saving grace in our darkest moments.

In the midst of tragedy and heartbreak, family members were able to clear their heads of emotional poison and forgive the shooter who randomly killed their 74-year-old patriarch and posted his crime on social media for the world to see. The seemingly senseless murder gripped the nation and launched a nationwide manhunt that ended two days later, when the gunman took his own life, after being cornered by police.

I can’t begin to imagine what it took for Mr. Godwin’s daughter to get to the place where she could declare “The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God … how to fear God, how to love God, and how to forgive. Each one of us forgives the killer.”

What I do know is that her statement helped me to manage my emotions – and I didn’t even know Mr. Godwin.

After seeing an image of Mr. Godwin’s face (right before he was shot) on a news report, I felt sorrow, disgust, anger, confusion, frustration and heartbreak all at the same time. I was in shock and disbelief that this father and grandfather was walking down a street in Cleveland, Ohio on Easter Sunday when a seemingly unhinged gunman randomly chose him and intentionally shot him.

Easter Sunday –a day when we are reminded that we can find strength and ultimate hope in Christ, who has conquered death and can sympathize with human suffering; a day when we are reminded to entrust ourselves more fully to our faithful God, no matter what befalls us.

Perhaps it is fitting that family, friends and community members gathered on Easter Saturday to celebrate the life of Mr. Godwin. On that day, our gospel reading reminded us once again of our mission to proclaim the Good News of the Lord to all.

Members of the Godwin family – like the disciples in the scripture reading – have been bold in their testimony that the Lord is with them and that the Holy Spirit is giving them the courage, strength and wisdom to proclaim that there is a hope beyond all other hope when we are in despair and engulfed in darkness.

Like the Godwins, those of us who call ourselves Christians (disciples of Christ) should share the light that we have received with those who are living in darkness. The Godwins even shared God’s truth with the shooter by forgiving him.

My hope is that we can follow the example of the Godwins by living our lives with zeal and devotion to God through prayer, through faith, through charity, and through love. When we bring the light of Christ to others (by showing care and concern and through our just actions), we help them connect with the Risen Lord.

My prayer is that we share God’s love with those who have no one to comfort them, with those who are in need, and with those we consider our enemies and that we always remember that even Jesus forgave his condemners from the cross.

“I promise you, I could not do that if I did not know God, if I didn’t know him as my God and my Savior, I could not forgive (the shooter)”…the daughter of Robert Godwin, Sr.

Posted in Associate Blog, News