What Does Community Living Give You?

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

How do you find life-giving opportunities when living in a faith community of women? What picture do you have in your mind of a faith community of women? What are the pros and cons of community living?  For me, what I have experienced during my years of living with a community of faith has many more positives than negatives. Let me share with you three positives elements that I have experienced in community living.

The first element of community living is faith sharing, which I have greatly appreciated. As Dominicans, we enjoy formal and informal sharing, especially during prayer times. Faith sharing not only deepens my call and widens my vision but also helps me to understand my sisters and takes me outside the box to be in solidarity with others in need.

The second element of community living is a joyful spirit. We often come with a joyful spirit and smiles appear on our faces most of the times. Indeed, we have many spontaneous laughs and jokes, especially at the dinner table, and this joyful spirit is contagious. It breaks down all the tiredness of the day and refreshes our souls, minds, and bodies. What makes us special as Dominican Sisters of Peace is this joyful spirit, which you may not find in other places.

The third element of community living is mutual support. We respect each other and value our wisdom, gifts and talents, dreams, and cultural diversity. I have been encouraged to share my thoughts, ideas, and culture in building a community of mutual respect. When we are happy, we share our happiness together; when a member is struggling, we support that member. When we experience conflict, we sit down to talk, listen and commit to change. We also share our dreams, mission experiences, our ethnic food, and celebrate special cultural occasions. Living in an inter-generational and intercultural community is a mutual blessing and treasure. I always thank God for what I experience from community living, making my daily life more fulfilling.

A spontaneous moment with my new community of Sisters and Associates.
The back row from left: Sr. Lillian Gehlen, Sr. Kathy Goetz, Associate Tricia Wimberg.
The front row from left: Sr. Nancy Jane Kuntz, Associate Rosie Blackburn, Sr. Maidung Nguyen, and Sr. Judy Morris.

Last Saturday, when I moved from Louisville, Kentucky to live with three Sisters in Wichita, Kansas, two associates and a sister traveled with me along with all my personal items. On this journey, I experienced the three elements of community living that I described above, and I felt very much that we were one together. Soon after I arrived in Wichita, I felt at home with my new community because of their great hospitality and joyful spirit.

If you want to explore a community of faith like us, visit us at oppeace.org to learn about who we are and what our mission is about. You can find us also on Facebook and Instagram.  Or, you may want to join us for a “Come and See” retreat weekend in Akron, Ohio from March 15-17, or for a Mission Immersion week in Columbus, Ohio from June 1-5.  We also have a discerning (Emmaus) group on Zoom every second Friday of the month from 7:00 pm- 8:30 pm that we invite you to participate in.  Contact us to learn more about these many opportunities
within our community.

Posted in God Calling??, News

Valuing Catholic Education

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

This week is National Catholic Schools Week (CSW), celebrating Catholic education in parishes and communities; celebrating the students, families, faculty, staff, and volunteers, and recognizing the value of Catholic education. There is a daily theme for each. On our Facebook page, each day we shared something about our schools. Check it out here.

During CSW, today, Thursday, the theme is vocations (how fitting that I’m writing this blog today!) Therefore, I decided to dedicate this blog to Catholic education, since it was the experience at a Catholic school where God’s call was reignited in my heart and started to nudge me.”

Let’s travel back in time to summer of 2006. After finishing my Master’s Degree, I was ready to jump into the field of education. I interviewed for two jobs, then I went on for a vacation to San Francisco. One morning, when I woke up, I saw two voicemails—both messages were about offering me a job. One was in my (middle-class) neighborhood, and the other one was 35 miles away, but it was a Catholic school in an impoverished area. I was blaming God: “Really? Now I need to choose.” I chose to teach at the Catholic school.

Little did I know how that choice would change me. It unfolded day-by-day. The school’s theme was about living the beatitudes for all five years while I was teaching there. I challenged myself not only to expect students to live the beatitudes, but also myself. In the evenings, I prayed the examination of conscience with the beatitudes. However, praying with this prayer and living the Beatitudes more intentionally, I started to long for more: for a deeper relationship with God. At the same time, the recession hit our country and it especially hit the area where I was teaching. Many people lost their jobs and several became homeless as well. The combination of my being hungry for a deeper relationship with God and for being involved with social justice concerns reignited God’s call for vowed religious life that had been present for a long while. God ‘kept tapping on the door of my heart’ until one day while listening to a song by ABBA (Take a chance on me), I decided to give religious life a try. Being a Dominican, I learned how to use my voice for the voiceless. I’m proud to say, that using one’s voice is taught and encouraged in our schools.

When parents visit schools and try to narrow down which school to choose, they look at the school’s academic performance, its spiritual life, its mission and how it is lived out, and they look at the school’s sense of community. Sounds like the four pillars of Dominican life (prayer, study, community and ministry.)

Catholic Schools don’t just educate. They educate for life. Students study current events and learn to speak up for a more just world. The school community witnesses what following God and sharing in Jesus’ mission is about. That witness speaks louder than any teaching. It doesn’t just educate the mind but it leaves its mark on the heart. It is then no wonder that it was through Catholic education where God’s call for me was reignited.

If you attended a Catholic school, what are you most grateful for? If you wish you would have attended a Catholic school, what is it that you long for and how can those needs be met?

Whether you attended Catholic school or not, perhaps you are searching for something more in your life and are experiencing a call to vowed religious life.  One way you can check out this call is to participate in our free Come and See retreat that we are hosting at our Akron Motherhouse, March 15-17, 2019.  The retreat is really an excellent way to learn about religious life and to meet our sisters by joining us for prayer, meals and conversation.  For details about this retreat, please contact me at btiboldi@oppeace.org. Or, if you would like to talk with one of our Vocation Ministers to help you discern whether God may be calling you to be a religious sister, please click here for our contact information.

 

Posted in God Calling??, News

An Interview

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

You do not leave your family behind when you enter the convent.

Recently, I was interviewed about my discernment and life as a Dominican Sister of Peace.  Here is a small part of that interview.  As you will see, we do not leave our family behind when we enter the convent.

  1. Who was most supportive of your becoming a sister? Did anyone try to convince you to take another path?

My sister Amy’s support for my vocation never waved – she was always happy for me and supported my decision to enter religious life. My parents were apprehensive at first, because they wanted me to be happy. They were not familiar with consecrated religious life either and they were concerned that I would be cloistered, away from my family and friends, and lonely.  However, as my discernment and formation continued, and they became familiar with community life, their fears were dispelled and today they support my decision 100%.

In fact, my father recently visited our sisters in Kentucky – and I was not even with him!  These days he knows he is welcome wherever our sisters are.  He is part of the family.

  1. What attracted you to the Dominican order?

Definitely the preaching. I had never seen women preach when I was in college, and honestly, I was a little unsure about it.  However, watching how the Sisters studied scripture, discussed it and broke open the Word from a feminine perspective – it just made me feel alive.

What attracted me to the Dominican Sisters of Peace was their connection to the world – their concern for and involvement in the issues of the day. Their desire to sow peace and encourage justice, in the way that Christ did.

  1. What do you like about being a religious sister?

Being part of something larger than myself. As a Dominican Sister of Peace, I am one of a network of Dominicans and religious around the world. This network of Sisters may not be politically powerful, but we are powerfully persuasive when we join together to take action. As an individual I may feel very small, but with religious Sisters and Brothers around the world, I am part of a mighty voice for the voiceless and hope for the hopeless.

To be continued . . .

If you have any questions for us that you would like us to answer, please send them to us at vocations@oppeace.org

 

Posted in God Calling??, News

An Influential Moment in My Vocation Journey

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

Recently, I read an article by Global Sister’s report where several religious sisters offered reflections about Sisters who had influenced their vocation.  Most of us have memories of people who have inspired us or have been influential in our lives.  When I think of my own life, there are several people who have been significant in my journey into religious life.  There is one Sister in particular though who helped me fully realize the desire and possibility of such a call in my own life.

Some years before I decided seriously to discern a call to religious life, I met my first Dominican Sister. I had met many other religious women, a couple of them I knew fairly well, but I had never met a Dominican.  During the time I met this Sister, I had been secretly pondering the unlikely idea of religious life.   I will never forget the event, the room and the conversation where this Sister, unwittingly, brought this idea about religious life out of the shadows and into the forefront of my thinking.

I met this Sister for the first time during a meeting of a group where I was one of the newest members. The Sister was a returning member, but this was our first time being present together in the group.  As people were milling around, greeting each other before the start of our gathering, I remember noticing the new member as she greeted people, moving around talking, smiling and laughing.  I remember thinking there was something different about her.  Then, when I heard someone call her “Sister”—that really got my attention!  I remember thinking, “She’s a Sister?” I made a mental note to talk to her to find out what religious order she belonged to.  However, as it turned out, she found her way to me first!

The conversation started out as quite ordinary.  We exchanged pleasantries and she complimented me on the prayer service that I had just led with the group. I, in turn, thanked her and asked about where she lived and about her ministry.  I also asked about her community and specifically, if there were any African-Americans in her community.  Now, I was asking that question, simply, as a way to continue the conversation.   But, I will never forget the smile and cheery tone when she responded, “No, but you could be the first!”  Caught off guard, I started laughing, and said, “Oh no, Sister, not me!”  I suddenly found myself asking quite seriously, “Do you think I might have a vocation?”  She looked me in the eye and responded without hesitation, “Yes, I do.”

I never forgot that conversation.  While I was not ready to think about discernment at that time, future conversations, interactions and invitations to visit the community, helped me to eventually discern to say “yes” to the possibility of religious life.   I view that conversation as watering the seed that had already been planted.  It helped inspire the journey that eventually led me to become a Dominican Sister.  There were other Sisters (some from different congregations) and other moments that were inspiring or influential in my journey.  But it was the first Dominican Sister whom I met and our inspired conversation that became an influential moment in my vocation journey.

How about you?  Are there any Sisters who have influenced your life in some way?

In fact, maybe a Sister has even inspired you to think about the possibility of a call to religious life? Yes?  Call us, we can help.J

Peace.

Posted in God Calling??, News

A Daughter’s Reflection

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George

As I write this blog, my Mom is in hospice care at my oldest sister’s place in Texas.  Since I can’t be there, I have pictures of my Mom on my computer screen to keep her close.  One of the pictures is a poignant one of Mom with my sister’s dog, Oreo, resting on her lap and her hand resting gently on his head.  Whenever my Mom visited my sister, Oreo served as a source of comfort to her.  How fitting that he lovingly provides comfort to her now.

I am mindful that in this Advent season of waiting, my Mom eagerly awaits being reunited with her Creator, with my Dad, and with all her loved ones who are with God already.  She has expressed her acceptance of these final days with us and her readiness to be with God.  She is a woman of great faith and trust in the Lord.  Her daily devotion of prayer for her family is something we will all miss and now becomes our gift to each other.  As the light goes out on my Mom’s earthly existence, I can feel God’s presence, knowing that this is a sacred time for our family of seven children.

Since writing the above two paragraphs, my Mom is now in heaven.  She joined the choir of angels on December 26 and her waiting fittingly came after the Advent season.  I can only imagine her joy at seeing my Dad and being in the loving embrace of her Creator.

The night before my Mom died, my oldest sister asked how I wanted to be informed of Mom’s passing—if I wanted to know as the time appeared closer or after she ascended into heaven. I told her I wanted to be notified when the time was close so I could light a candle for Mom.  Of course, when I received the call to light the candle, it was both a sacred and sorrowful moment.  Moments after the first phone call came my sister called again to tell me “Your Mom is in heaven now.”  With my husband at my side, we wept for our loss and yet felt a happiness for Mom that her prayers for a peaceful death happened.

Mom lived for 92 years, the same age that her mother passed away.  Us seven siblings and some of her grandchildren will be celebrating her life at her funeral Mass in Plano, Texas on January 25.  Mom was devoted to saying the rosary daily and to praying for the needs of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  I had a ritual of having Sunday evening chats with Mom for many years and will miss having these chats and to hearing her voice, but she will always be in my heart.  So, it is with gratitude and love that I remember my Mom’s life.  We will laugh and we will cry during our celebration of her life, a life that we are memorializing in a video that all my siblings have contributed to from their collection of photos.

We pray for those who minister to the sick and dying in hospitals, in nursing homes, in private homes, and for those who are in hospice care.  As a community of believers in the resurrection of the body and in everlasting life, we offer our love and prayers to all who have lost loved ones, recently and some time ago.  May God’s mercy, love, and compassion bring us peace.

If you feel called to be a beacon of light, of peace, and of joy in a hurting world, maybe God is calling you to become a religious sister to minister to the needs of God’s people.  We are eager to hear your story and to help you discern God’s call in your life.  You can contact one of our Vocation Ministers by calling, texting, or emailing us.  We also have a Come and See retreat we will be hosting at our motherhouse in Akron, Ohio from March 15-17, 2019, where you can experience and explore community life, and so much more.

Posted in God Calling??, News