Parties in the Convent?

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Our “House of Welcome” community likes to have parties.  We look forward to gathering our sisters, friends, co-workers, and families to celebrate life whenever we can.  For example, each year we have a Kentucky Derby party.  This year it was a “Cinco de Derby” party, as the Derby just so happened to coincide with “Cinco de Mayo.” We created and wore festive “Derby” hats, sang “Our Old Kentucky Home,” had a festive meal and cheered for our horses as we watched the Kentucky Derby.  Later in the spring, we had a farewell party for Sr. Bea – where we enjoyed party games on the lawn, ate picnic food and laughed well into the evening.  Some would call us a “Party House.”  One way we build and celebrate community (which is one of the pillars of our Dominican Life) is through our celebrations.

Just last week, we had an “Ethnic Advent party,” where each person brought a dish that represented their ethnic/cultural origins and highlighted old family recipes.  We had tamales, shepherd’s pie, Irish soda bread, Italian cookies and pastries, Mexican hot chocolate with chili, German mac’n cheese and a smorgasbord of other tasty offerings.  It mirrored the diversity of our community, anchored by our common bond of religious life and faith.  It began and ended with prayer and was sprinkled with laughter, song, and stories of life’s joys and challenges.

These parties remind me of the many parties Jesus and the disciples attended over the years of their ministry and lives.  Each of those gatherings mirrored the diversity of community and celebrated their common bonds of faith and hope.  Jesus ministered to and with the people around him in simple everyday kind of ways.  He gathered at tables, beside wells, and in places of worship.  This is what we do in our lives as disciples of Jesus. We do not have a party every day, but each day holds the potential for transformational encounters in the presence of our God who knew how to gather others at table and celebrate life.

When I first heard and began considering God’s call to religious life, I wondered if I would be lonely or if I would have to disappear into the “melting pot” of community.  My life as a Dominican Sister has been anything but lonely or melted into “sameness.”  In fact, I have been encouraged to become my best self as I grow into the unique person God created me to be.  I am amazed at the opportunities and challenges I have received in this life.  Thank you God for giving me the courage to say, “Yes” to your invitation.

In this season of Advent, take time to encounter the other – to be transformed – and to consider what God might be calling you to with your “One wild and precious life.”

Posted in God Calling??, News

As We Await in Joyful Hope…

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

The season of Advent begins a new year for the Church.  During Advent, the world accelerates into the busyness and commercialism that attempts to define Christmas. In contrast, for the next few weeks, Christians are called to wait in hopeful anticipation for the coming of Emmanuel—“God with us.”  During Advent, the themes of hope, peace and rejoicing ring throughout the Scripture readings for this special season.

Each year, the coming of a new season of Advent helps give me a better perspective on the current times, which are usually in need of a renewed sense of hope, peace and joy. Advent offers us the chance to once more focus on the promises of God with the coming of Emmanuel.

Last week, on the First Sunday of Advent, I experienced a wonderful sign of hope and joy as Sr. Elizabeth Jackson, OP, professed perpetual vows in the Dominican Sisters of Peace.  Monsignor Frank P. Lane celebrated the Mass, reminding the Sisters and all who were present that consecrated religious life, in all its forms, is, indeed, a joyful sign of hope for the world. Through their service to God and the people of God, they can help witness to the world the transformation that is possible because of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Dominican Sisters of Peace rejoice and celebrate this Advent sign of hope in Sister Elizabeth Jackson’s profession of perpetual vows and service to God for her whole life. I invite you to enjoy a few of the pictures from the Mass and the Rite of Profession.

As we prepare to enter this second week of Advent, I also invite you to consider the question: in what do you rejoice and find hope in this season of hopeful anticipation?

Posted in God Calling??

Searching for Answers in Jesus’ Life and Teachings

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

I remember in my senior year of undergraduate college
browsing through the library shelves searching for an author or a title that
resonated with me for writing my Senior Thesis.  As a serious student, majoring in Religion and
Philosophy, with burning questions about God and Jesus, I was determined to
find the
book that would satisfy my thirst for knowledge and give me answers to my
searching questions.

After many agonizing weeks of combing through books in the
religion and philosophy section of the library stacks, I discovered a trilogy
of works combined into one book by John Knox. 
This trilogy was entitled Jesus
Lord and Christ
and included these three titles:  The Man Christ Jesus, Christ the
Lord
and On the Meaning of Christ. What delighted me about this book was that it easy to read and
understand, with language that spoke to my intellectual interests at the
time. 

What I explored ultimately
in my thesis was the question of how the historical Jesus relates to the Christ
of faith based on John Knox’s writings. 
I still have this thesis as the writing of it was significant in my
faith journey.  The question of Who
was this man Jesus?
intrigued me and was at the core of my searching.  This question still offers moments of
reflection, but my ponderings now take me from an intellectual search to a contemplative
quest for understanding the life and teachings of Jesus.

So, who was this man Jesus?  What in his life and teachings is the most powerful message to us?  Of his life, I find that Jesus’ work with the marginalized (the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised, the sick, the imprisoned) is both an example and challenge for how we are to live individually and communally.  It is in helping the marginalized where we can find Jesus and experience a transformation of heart and mind. Being with the marginalized teaches us not just humility but also about having faith and hope,despite our circumstances.

We are told in Matthew 25:35-36 that Jesus can be found in the marginalized:  “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” And then later, in verse 40 of this same chapter, we hear Jesus’ words “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  So,when we are looking for Jesus, it is to the marginalized where we will find him.

Of Jesus’ teachings, two Scripture passages communicate to me Jesus’ message for how we are to live our life:

“Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

“You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
 The second is this: ‘You shall love
your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
” Mark 12: 30-31

Love is clearly the
central message in Jesus’ teachings. 
Story after story in Scripture, we hear and see how Jesus’ actions
spring from a place of love.  From the
story of the women caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) to the story of the
‘sinful’ woman who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears
(Luke 7:36-50), Jesus conveys a
message of forgiveness, compassion, and love for the person.  By his example, Jesus teaches us to live a
life free of condemnation and judgement. 
We do not see Jesus burdened with guilt or tormented with
second-guessing his actions because he is grounded in God’s love.  It is this trust and belief in God’s love
that empowers him to minister to so many and to advocate for justice for all
people.  And when  Jesus needed to be refueled with this love or
to understand the path he was called to follow, he went away to a quiet place
to pray.

And so we pray that
in our search for answers to life’s struggles that we turn to Jesus’ life and
teachings for answers and take time to pray and listen to God’s unfolding
message of love to us.

Are you searching
for answers to what to do with your life? Why not consider exploring the
religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace? 
Come and be the feet and hands of Jesus. 
Our Vocation Ministers are
happy to walk with you as you seek to answer God’s call in your life.

Posted in God Calling??, News

Religious Life: A Journey to Self-Transformation

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Some people are called to live in married life
and others choose single life or consecrated life. Compared with religious
life, married life is easier to understand because many of us were raised in a
two-parent home. We observed the joys and challenges of married couples. Religious
life, on the other hand, is often surrounded by myths. Many people think that
religious life is without fun, focusing on sacrifice and prayer. When I first
began discerning, I thought religious life that way because I didn’t truly know
what this life offered. How about you? What myths do you believe about
religious life?  Can you name opportunities
that religious life has offered to those who live that call?

For me, self-transformation is one of the many gifts that religious life has brought to me. I
would like to talk about this gift in this blog;
the other gifts from religious life will be discussed in my future blogs.

As a human being, I tend to think I know myself
well, but in reality, I don’t really know who I am from a faith perspective. St.
Catherine of Siena said; “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world
on fire.” How can I know and accept what God intended me to be?

I know some of my gifts and dreams, but the
hidden potentials are not easy to recognize. Even when I recognize them, I may
not know how to develop them fully for the sake of a fulfilling life and God’s desired
mission for me. Have you ever had such an experience?

In religious life, I have been gifted with time
for daily reflection, more time to pray, more chances to attend inspiring and
challenging workshops, and more time to be focused on self-development and
mission.  I have had chances to share
life and dreams with sisters and associates in my community, and more time to reflect
on realities of ministry and what has been happening around me. These valuable
experiences create great opportunities for me to see more clearly and to be deeply touched by what
is going on around me.  I begin to see
and act differently.  With all the support from the community and
with God’s grace, I have more courage to open myself for potential gifts as
well as understanding my weaknesses.

The journey of self-awareness, acceptance, and
development brings so much growth in me. 
The more I accept and value myself and allow God to work in me through
others, the more respect and gratitude I have toward life, people, and all
creations. All are gifts from God. I become more peaceful, joyful,
compassionate, and active. I begin to touch and accept the vision that God has
planted in me that at first, I did not understand. Now, I feel more
confident and strive to share these fruits with the world.  

I am humbly convinced that with religious life,
I can be who I am today. Even though the journey of self-transformation is an
on-going process, I am willing to stay on this journey and I feel blessed to be
on the journey that God has paved for me. If you truly want to enter this
on-going transformative journey to find out what God is calling you to be, contact us at vocations@oppeace.org or check out our
webpage here.
We also have a “Come and See” retreat weekend coming up in Akron, Ohio on March 15-17, 2019.

Posted in God Calling??, News

Can you hear God in the music?

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Most
of us like to listen to music, right? There are several motivations why we
choose to listen to music: it can provide a good pace/rhythm for exercising, it
can soothe the soul, it can help us be more creative, it can even affect an
unborn baby as well, and the list could go on.

Listening
to music helps me deepen my relationship with God. A few years ago, when I got
very frustrated, I would get in my car, and blast the song, “Lord,
I need you
” by Matt Maher, until my frustration dissipated and his
words became my words as well.

Other
times, I heard God in the “still small voice”, like Jenna Woods sings in “Still
small voice
”, or in “The Wind” by Cat
Stevens when he sings: “where I’ll end up, well, I think only God really knows.”
Singing songs from Taizé does the same for me.

I recently heard: “Set a fire
by Will Reagan. The song says it all: “so set a
fire down in my soul that I can’t contain and I can’t control. I want more of
you God.”

To be able to preach in a way that
sets the world on fire with God’s love, like St. Catherine of Siena said,
starts with recognizing the fire of God’s love in us, and then, we can spread
it.

Music
can help us tune our ears and hearts to God. It can move us into a direction
that helps us discover God’s desire with us. I asked a few sisters, “What song would you choose
to describe religious life?” Here are a few responses:

  • Heal
    the World
    ” by Michael Jackson, because it is about making the world
    a better place, and as vowed religious, we also are missioned to do so.

  • Be
    God’s…
    ” by Danielle Rose, because it inspires us to bring God’s love
    to others.

  • Where You Lead
    by Carole King, because God is calling us to follow God wherever God leads us,
    knowing that God will always be with us along the way.

  • Thankful” sung by
    Josh Groban, because religious life provides so many people and opportunities
    to be grateful for, especially those who call, encourage, and support me to be
    the person God wants me to be. 

  • The Same Love” by
    Paul Baloche, because the same Love, which set captives free and opened the
    eyes of the blind to see, called me by name and keeps calling.

  •  “Go Make a Difference
    by Steve Angrisano and Tom Tomaszek, because it really speaks to what we do and
    what religious life is about.

  • We Are
    Family
    ” by Sister Sledge, because we are family in the Dominican
    Order, and it’s a song that speaks of unity.

  • Every Praise
    by Hezekiah Walker, because it has a lot of energy and it helps to motivate us.

  • All My
    Days
    ” by Dan Schutte, because it is our deepest desire to praise
    God.

Do
you hear God’s voice in any of these songs?

What
songs do you like to listen to that help you tune your heart to God?

Posted in God Calling??, News