The Annunciation: A Moment of Unparalleled Courage

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

This week, the Church’s celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation occurred in the middle of the more subdued season of Lent.   Yet, it seemed very appropriate to celebrate the event that set in motion God’s plan of salvation for humankind.  Without Mary’s “yes,” the Paschal Mystery, as we know it, would not exist. What a phenomenal decision for a young, unmarried Jewish girl to have to make—with no certainty about how her answer would affect the rest of her life.  Recently, I learned of a beautiful poem that focuses on the courage of Mary in that moment.

We do not often reflect on the courage of Mary in giving her “yes.”  The poem, Annunciation, by Denise Levertov, offers a beautiful image of Mary and this moment in salvation history.  Of this decisive moment in Mary’s life, Levertov writes, “God waited.  She was free to accept or to refuse, choice integral to humanness.”   The poet then asks a question that is relevant for each one of us today.  “Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives?”  The answer is a resounding, “yes!”

Think about the significant times of discernment and choices in life.  These occasions might include choices about health, careers, marriage partners, or religious life discernment.  The moments of choice or “annunciations” in our lives come with no guarantees and the path forward is often not clear.  The only guarantee we have is the same one that Mary had—faith that God could be trusted.

How have you responded to the “annunciation moments” in your life?   For me, there have been times when I have said “yes.”  There have also been times when I have turned in fear, a time when as the poet said, “God waited.”  It takes courage to say “yes” to the “annunciations” or invitations from God in our lives.  Nevertheless, God is persistent, constantly inviting us to grow, to live and to love.

Mary is an example for us of both grace and courage.  The beautiful words of Denise Levertov’s poem, Annunciation, blessed my spirit.  I look forward to praying with it during times of personal discernment.  I invite you, also, to take time to sit and reflect with Levertov’s poem and consider the “annunciations of some sort or another” happening in your life.

May we all be blessed with the courage of Mary during times of discernment, uncertainty and when facing the unknown.

Perhaps, an “annunciation” in your life is feeling called to consider being a Sister.  Call us, our Vocation Ministers would be happy to speak with you.

Peace.

Pat Dual, OP

Posted in God Calling?, News

Trust in the Lord With All Your Heart

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

What does trust in God mean to you?

In January, I had the privilege and challenge of preaching a retreat on the theme of, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” from Proverbs 3:5.  This was before the coronavirus invaded our lives.  It was before we learned there was a St. Corona or that Lysol wipes would become something I carry in my purse.  Even though some things have changed since January – many things stay the same and for me, trust in the Lord is one of them.

What does trust have to do with our Vocation blog, God Calling??  Well, I think it has a lot to do with discernment, prayer, making a commitment to religious life and living our vows each day.  I know that when I was discerning my call to religious life, I had to learn to trust God and to trust myself also.  I did this through prayer and through experiencing God’s abiding love and presence in my life.

Now, I would challenge you to pause for a moment or longer in your reading and think about a few questions:

  • What does trust in God mean to you?
  • Do you trust God? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Think of the people in your life. Who do you trust?
  • Who trusts you?
  • Do you think God trusts you?
  • How can you grow in trust?

A definition of trust is:  “It is a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”  Similar words that convey trust are: confidence, belief, faith, freedom from suspicion/doubt.

So, to answer a few of the questions above –

  • What does trust in God mean to me? I believe that to trust God means to know that God will always be with me, even if I can’t feel that presence.  It is based on faith – which is similar to trust but deeper because it is based on things I can’t really see. I believe trust is a gift.  I pray that God helps me to grow in faith, especially in times like now that are difficult and challenging.
  • Do I trust God? Yes, I trust God.  Well, most of the time.  I must admit though that at times I have doubted.  One time, in particular was when I was on retreat in preparation for my first profession of vows. I was in the chapel praying before the tabernacle.  The scripture verse was from Jeremiah 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans for a future full of hope” (paraphrased).  As I prayed, I felt empty and that God was far away from me.  I stuck it out and stayed for the full hour, as my retreat director had recommended.  I stood to leave and said to Jesus, “Where are you?”  In that moment, as I turned from the sanctuary, I felt a warm presence envelope me, as if I was being hugged by a person who was right behind me.  I knew it was God in the person of Jesus embracing me.  I stood there for a long time savoring the consolation before thanking him for his abiding presence with me.  I knew in that moment that Jesus was affirming my decision to make my vows.  This is one of those “touchstone” experiences I recall whenever I need reassurance or lack trust that God is with me.
  • Who do I trust? Who I trust and who trusts me have become life sustaining and lifesaving in this time of social distancing, caring for one another by adhering to hand washing and other disease reducing protocols.  Today, as I ventured to the store for some necessities, I washed my hands several times, kept using sanitizing wipes and thanked those who were working in the store.  Another sister and I picked up some essentials for our sisters in a neighboring convent so they wouldn’t have to venture out.

I’m still working on the other questions I posed above.  So, I will end here, but I encourage you to continue to reflect on the role trust plays in your life and to think about the faith of St. Joseph which we read about in today’s Gospel from Matthew 1:18-21.  Pray with St. Joseph and ask him to help you and all of us to grow in faith and to trust God to lead us in all ways and always.

In the meantime, if you feel God calling you to religious life, contact us to begin a conversation with one of our Vocation Ministers.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Message in a bottle…. I mean around the chocolate

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Have you ever found a message in a bottle that was floating in a river or ocean? Naturally, people are curious, and a message in the bottle allows us to peek into other’s thoughts that they wish to communicate. Just a few days ago, I was munching on chocolates on my way to a meeting in Cleveland. Each chocolate was wrapped in a message. After a few pieces, I caught myself realizing that while I loved the creaminess and smoothness of the chocolate, I was eager to open the next one because I was curious about the message that it contained.

The first message I read was: “Compliment someone…” (LindseyL., Indiana) Rather than complimenting one or two people, I choose dedicate this blog to all Sisters around the world on the occasion of Catholic Sisters Week.

“Smile, someone is thinking of you.” (Sherry A., Iowa)

Yes, if you are a Sister, know that we are thinking of you and praying for you, especially during this week.

“Be fearlessly authentic.” (Sotiria S, New Jersey)

Every six years, Sisters and Associates come together to prayerfully study and evaluate the needs of our times. Then, together, we create ways we would (fearlessly) respond to those needs, even if it requires us to take risks (i.e. founding the Peace Center in New Orleans just a few years ago.)

“Throw kindness around like confetti!” (Molly B., Kansas)

Above the door at the motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, it is written: “Peace to all who enter.” This message of peace is extended to all of our motherhouses, convents and communities. No matter which part of the congregation I visit, Sisters always radiate God’s peace, kindness and care.

“Dare to cross the line.” (Dove)

Sisters are mission-driven. It is about making God’s love known as we build the kingdom of God. At times, we dare to cross the line – in persevering to push for more just laws, making this world a more peaceful place, or going out to help the sick and those in need. Sisters, thank you for your witness of faith.

“Always time for love.” (Shannon B., Washington)

One of our Sisters in New Orleans always had boxes of twinkies in the trunk of her car – for the times when she encountered homeless people. Or, another example, our Candidate, Annie, who ministers full time as a professor of English, also found time to volunteer at the YWCA on a regular basis. I have learned from our Sisters’ example of faith that there is “always time for love.”

“Be with people who make you laugh.” (Lucy K., California)

I consider myself as playful and someone who has a sense of humor. When I looked at congregations to enter, I knew the congregation I chose would have to have a sense of humor as well. I certainly found that in my Sisters; our community life reflects this with many moments of joy, laughter, and companionship.

The message I chose to send you off with is: “It’s your call.” (Jenna L, New York)

Is it? It’s your call whether you just munch on chocolates, or whether you are open to the message that these Dove chocolates offer to be communicated. Similar to God’s call, we can only feel or hear God’s nudging, if we are open to it. A vocation to religious life comes from God, but certainly, it’s our choice whether we respond to it.

Sisters, thank you for your Yes! to God’s call and your witness of faith, and I’m raising my glass to toast you and our collective future full of hope.

 

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From a Bible to an Album: Mission Continues

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Last week, while searching for one of my resource books on the Bible, I found an album that I created in 2008 after my involvement in the congregation’s “Ministry of Presence” in New Orleans during the Katrina recovery. Even after three years of this hurricane, there was still a much-needed ministry. I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in this ministry with Dominican Sisters in the summer 2008.

As I paged through the album, I still felt strongly the Dominican spirit of preaching, itinerancy, pioneering in these sisters. Among seven Sisters of Peace who participated, one is already united with God, another moved to a health care facility, and the rest are scattered around the country in New Orleans, Akron, Columbus, Wichita, and Great Bend.  My album of pictures for 2008 also reminded me of our January 2020 Mission Immersion experience in New Orleans that I was involved in. During this most recent trip, we shared with the discerners about Katrina and how the Sisters responded to the needs of the people in New Orleans and how they helped to rebuild their lives in the city. Reflecting on these two events, I see the continuity of our ministry and mission extending from the past to the present.

Sometimes, God leads us in a different direction than what we expect. Like me, I did not find the Bible resource that I was searching for. Instead, I found this album. In finding the album, I enjoyed reflecting on our mission work in the past and in the present. I hope that our mission for peace and the pioneering spirit of Dominicans will continue to flourish, not only in the present time, but also into the future. For this to happen, I invite you, sisters, associates, friends, and discerners, to reflect on these questions:

  • How can we pass our charism, our spirit, and mission on to the next generation?
  • How do we inspire each other to be pioneers for a mission of peace?
  • How do we encourage each other to think outside the box so the pioneering and itinerant spirit can grow in us and in future generations?

If you are alive with the desire to further our congregation’s mission of peace, we invite you to help us to promote vocations among young people and let others know what our lives and mission represent.

If you want to explore more about the Dominican Sisters of Peace, please visit our website or contact our vocation team.

Consider attending Come and See retreat March 13-15 in Columbus, Ohio for Catholic single women, ages from 18 to 45 years-old. Come and be peace with us and let God lead you into the future.

 

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Becoming a Compassionate Presence Through Change and Acceptance

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

I’ve been thinking lately about change and acceptance, how hard it is to change my habits, my way of thinking and to accept that I need to change not only for the sake of my relationships with others but also for my own well-being.

Accepting that change takes time and requires patience with self and others is like waiting for a flower to blossom.  As we all know, a flower can only grow when planted in fertile soil and is nourished with water and sunshine to reach its full fruition. A flower, of course, starts out as a seed and as it grows roots, it begins to take shape and develops into a beautiful creation.

If I carry this flower analogy to myself, I see that my roots need to be grounded in God, and that prayer becomes the seed to nourishing my being.  Prayer becomes the bedrock and sustenance for changing and accepting whatever life presents.

What started me thinking about change and acceptance is an encounter I had with someone that I was afraid to enter into dialogue with for fear of making matters worse.  I was filled with much anxiety and was avoiding this crucial conversation because I did not want to be vulnerable.  Fear was becoming my enemy and I was starting to regress into silence and recoiling in anger.  It was time for me to embrace a more loving attitude towards myself and the other person. In the end, we both received the blessing of understanding and a better awareness of building rapport between us.  What made this understanding possible for me was changing my attitude from being hurt to being receptive to new possibilities for compassion to grow.

In Joyce Rupp’s book, Boundless Compassion, she writes that “Compassion is a way of life-an inner posture of how to be with suffering, both our own and others, and a desire to move that attitude into action.”  She explores three essential components to becoming compassionate—awareness, attitude, and action.  The first step in changing ourselves and adopting a compassionate response is to be aware of such attitudes as judgment, intolerance, or impatience.  In so doing, Rupp notes that “With our awareness of suffering, and an attitude of wanting to alleviate it, we [can] then choose to act in a positive way for the benefit of all beings.”

Cultivating compassion, of course, is not easy.  Instead, as Nouwen states “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish.”  Compassion can be learned though and Joyce Rupp seeks to provide her readers with the tools for being “a compassionate presence” and “to nudge, encourage, and inspire each reader to be a beloved, Christlike presence.”

Practicing compassion with ourselves and with others, as a way of life, has the potential to change us and how we respond to others.  When we can come to an awareness that, as Nouwen asserts, “nobody escapes being wounded,” then we can accept that we can be “wounded healers,” extending compassion both to ourselves and others.

So, let us pray for the gift of compassion, to be rooted in God’s love that we may be “a compassionate presence for all who struggle with life’s pain” and hurts.

If you want to be a compassionate presence with God’s people, responding to each person’s joys and sorrows, we invite you to contact us about exploring religious life.  We are holding a Come and See retreat at our Columbus Motherhouse, March 13-15, 2020.  You can learn more about this retreat here.

 

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