A Special Bible

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

Who planted the legacy of the Catholic faith in your
life?  For me, it was my mother. Mom came
from a long line of family members with Protestant roots, mostly Baptist or
Pentecostal.  While the family religious
background was basically Protestant, Black parents knew the value of education. When they were able, many enrolled their
kids in the neighborhood Catholic parish schools that many religious orders
established in Black neighborhoods.  My
mom attended St. Joseph Catholic School and eventually, as a teenager, she was
baptized into the Catholic faith and later insisted on raising her family in
the Catholic tradition. So my roots in the legacy of the Catholic faith were
planted with my baptism as an infant in 1951 and my relationship with the bible
was planted during my early childhood.

For as long as I can remember, there had always been a bible
in the living room. The one that I most remember growing up with was a large
print, huge bible that included a section in the back with stories of the lives
of the saints.  As a child, I liked to read the stories about the saints but often
wondered why these friends of God seemed to be disliked or often killed.  I outgrew this childish thinking about God
during my youth.  However, as a young
adult, I distanced myself from the institutional Church for about 10 years.  When I returned to practicing my faith, I
wanted to buy a nice bible to, perhaps, symbolize this renewed relationship
with God.

The bible I found was beautiful.  The cover was a rose color with silver
lettering on the cover and pages with silver gilding around the edges.  However, after I had meticulously put on
bible book tabs, I decided to give the bible to my mother as a gift and to buy a different bible with study notes for me. Over the
years, I did not necessarily see this bible again when I would visit mom, but
there was always a bible in her living room.

Over 20 plus years had passed before I saw this rose covered
bible again. I was packing up my mother’s belonging when she was no longer able
to live alone because of dementia.  The
bible was in a clear plastic bag and literally coming apart.  The cover was worn.  The pages were marked and dog eared.  There were notes in the margins and in empty
spaces on various pages. Some of the books in the bible near the end were
separating from the binding. This was clearly a bible that had been used for studying,
praying—and in general—living.

Recently, I sat reflecting with this bible some five years
after rediscovering it.  I thought about
all that has transpired in my mom’s life since I gave it to her many years ago.
I thought about the comfort and wisdom it must have provided to her over the
years. I thought about the deep relationship with her God which she had
developed throughout her life that spilled out over these worn pages of God’s
Word and promises to us. These thoughts led me to clearly see the deep
faithfulness that God has shown in her life.

Mom has been faithful in her relationship with God over the
years and God has been faithful to her. Even as she has lost much of her mental
capacity and memories to dementia, God has continued to be faithful to her.
Being in a place where she is being well cared for and close by where I can
visit is, to me, a tangible sign of God’s continued faithfulness to mom—even  though she does not know where she is or even how
God has been a consistent part of her life. 

This worn bible has helped me to reflect on the truth of
God’s faithfulness to both my mom and to me. God is faithful to all of us.  This is a deep truth of our faith and is
revealed over and over again in the Word. 
While my own bible is important to me, this worn, marked bible is,
indeed, very special to me.  You see, in
looking at some of the marked passages, I learned that Psalm 27 was a favorite
psalm for both of us.  We even marked
some of the same lines within it.

Do you have a special bible? What story does it tell about
you and your relationship with God?   More
importantly, is your relationship with God, perhaps, calling you to consider
the possibility of a vocation to religious life? 

Posted in God Calling??, News

The Transformative Power of a Smile

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Have you ever caught yourself smiling when asking others to smile while taking a photo?

I have a yellow bowl with a smiley face sitting on my desk and sitting on top of the bowl is a stuffed smiley face figure. When I need a ‘lift-up,’ I look at these inanimate objects, and magically, I catch myself happier and able to reciprocate this smile toward others.

A simple smile has such transformative powers, changing how we feel about ourselves and how we see others.  When we visualize smiling from within and share this positive energy with others, we create a welcoming and accepting atmosphere around us.   A smile directed to others can spread like wildfire and light a path of joy and peace among its recipients.  This kind of power is life-giving and can be far-reaching.  Just imagine how the spark of a simple smile has the power to ignite a glow of positive feelings.

Think of the people who bring smiles to your face.  What characteristics exude from them when they smile? Cheerfulness?  Warmth?  Calmness?  Optimism?  How do you feel when someone smiles at you?  Special?  Recognized? Affirmed? Hopeful?   Smiles have a way of connecting us to each other, whether we are exchanging or giving a smile to a familiar acquaintance or a stranger.   If we all smiled more, we might be able to keep the spirit of peace, hope, and happiness lingering longer.

There are many benefits to smiling.  Smiling is contagious and can lower your blood pressure, relieve stress, and strengthen your immune system.  Even in perilous times, smiling can lessen the pain of suffering and give you strength to deal with whatever ails you.

In Proverbs 15: 13, we are told that “A glad heart lights up the face, but an anguished heart breaks the spirit.”  While life can be filled with moments of sorrow and sadness, we can begin to find relief by striving for a cheerful disposition.  In Proverbs 17:22, we are cautioned to recognize that “A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.”  Although circumstances can cause us to despair, our faith teaches us to have hope and to believe that God smiles upon us.  We can smile back in gratitude for how our God carries us through the good and the difficult times of our lives.

If we start each morning with a smile, we might experience more fulfillment in what we do and how we see things throughout the day.  So, every day, think of the people, places, and things that make you smile.  Then, light up your surroundings with your smile and watch how you and others are transported to a happy place by this simple, powerful and meaningful gesture.

One of my friends’ Skype greeting is this quote by Lawrence G. Lovasik, “Nobody needs a smile so much as the one who has none to give. So get used to smiling heart-warming smiles, and you will spread sunshine in a sometimes dreary world.” How true! A good reminder of God’s call to share God’s love and smile.

Are you ready to share your smile with God’s people and to bring hope, peace, and love to others as a religious sister?  If so, I invite you to contact one of our Vocation Ministers.

Posted in God Calling??, News

My Own Song to God

Maidung Nguyen OP

My soul is showered with the love of God,
My spirit is dancing in You, my Companion.
You are God, who has looked at me deeply,
Behold, from now on, my life is resting in You.

You have been with me always
Your Name is in my heart forever.
You have heard my deepest desires
leading me into my innermost thoughts.

My empty soul, you have filled with your abundant graces.
 My dried and anxious heart has been replaced with your peace
You have given me new eyes and inspired me with vision
missioning me to be the instrument of your fulfillment.

Your words, people, and your creation
have come to light my life and strengthen my faith.
Let your love and peace continue to nourish me,
And let me be your light and salt for the world. Amen.

I wrote this ‘magnificat’ and edited it several times during my discernment and formation process, and I still edit it occasionally. As a Dominican Sister of Peace, I realized that the call of religious life is God’s call for me to allow God’s love and peace to be magnified and glorified through every moment of my life.  It is a call to be loved unselfishly, to be peace, to share love, and to build peace no matter what. It sounds inspiring but living authentically with such a call is another story.  It is so because I want to control the outcomes of my life, which often leads me to fear.

God understands our human weakness.  “Do not be afraid” is the common phrase that God has sent out to affirm people whom God has called for God’s mission. This includes Mary, many others, you and me.

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Mary sang her Magnificat to glorify God and to be Co-Savior, teaching us how to live in love and peace. I’ve been using my Magnificat to praise God as a Dominican Sister of Peace. How about you? What would help you move forward with God’s call? What would your ‘magnificat’ look like?

If you feel you are being called to a more intimate relationship with God and to bring God’s love and peace to the world, yet are unsure of how to live out this call, “do not be afraid” to contact us. We will help you and journey with you through your discernment process. Please consider attending our next Come and See retreat weekend in March 2019. Call us for more information.

Posted in God Calling??

What is your hope for the future of religious life?

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Recently, we had a “Come and See” Retreat. (Click here to see a short video of the event.) The event included communal prayer, witness talks by Sr. Margie Davis OP and Sr. Mary Vuong OP about their vocation and ministry, conversations with Sisters who live in the motherhouse, an interview in the form of ‘burning questions,’ a guided tour exploring the history and heritage of the first Dominican Sisters in the USA, personal reflection time, social time and games.

I chose to share one conversation from the weekend for this blog. We interviewed a candidate, a temporary-professed Sister and a final professed Sister during one of the sessions. Although they didn’t have the time to ‘craft’ a response, I still found their responses very meaningful. I share one of them here below.

Annie Killian, retreat participant:
“Can you talk about your hopes for the future of religious life?”

Ellen Coates, 2nd year candidate:
“Thinking of ourselves as global congregations and working together, I really think that the power in numbers, the power in diversity of thinking and of experience, the power of prayer, as well as the power of ministry, and creating peace, all together, that we can do more that way globally. And I think that it will help strengthen and enrich religious life and it can help us make a bigger difference in the world.”

Sr. Ana Gonzalez OP, Temporary Professed Sister:
“I don’t know what the future of religious life is going to look like. We are not the mission; we are part of the mission. My hope for the future is: to be reliant and grounded in God. As long as we hold on and are rooted in God, we will be able to continue the tradition and mission of our 800-year old [Dominican] order.”

Sr. Carol Davis OP, Final Professed Sister:
“I hope we continue to be people of great passion and compassion; living the Word, preaching the Word, and continuing to be agents for change in the transformation of the world as we continue to evolve. That has ebbed and flowed over the years and God has continued to call people, men and women, to religious life. I think it will continue because I think the Church and the world needs us.”

Ellen Coates:
“Yes. And I don’t think God will let this resource die. I think that the future is going to be bright. It will probably take a lot of work, but the future is going to be bright.”

Sr. Carol Davis OP:
“[It’s] evolutionary

We invite you to pause for a second…
What is YOUR HOPE for the future of religious life?

If you feel God calling you to be part of this future, please contact our vocation team at vocations@oppeace.org .

Posted in God Calling??, News

I Stole a Bible From my Brother

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

True confessions, yes, I did steal it from him.  He was not using it.  That was my 10 year old self trying to rationalize my actions.  He had received it from a summer Bible camp he attended with some of his friends from the Baptist church.  It was green leatherette with gold lettering, “The New Testament and Psalms”.

From the moment I saw the small three by four inch New Testament, I was itching to get my hands on it.  Somewhere along the way, I had sensed the fact that if I had my OWN Bible then I could read and finally understand some of the readings we heard in church on Sunday.  In addition, all the grownups in our neighborhood – most of whom went to Protestant churches – had their own Bible they carried around on Sundays.  My parents carried their Missals to Mass and so, I figured I needed a book of my own to be a legitimate Catholic.

I hid the book under my pillow and only brought it out before bed to read a little bit at night.  My little sister, Amy, laughed at me and said, “When your husband sees you taking that Bible out from under your pillow, what do you think he’ll say?”  “He won’t say anything.”  I retorted, “Because, he’ll have one too.”   Now, I am not sure where that assurance came from.  I did not grow up in a family where my mom and dad read the Bible before bed and I was not even sure other people did this type of thing at all.  Nevertheless, I was quite adamant that it would not be a problem.

Looking back on my life and this hunger for the Word, I now realize that there was something, or more precisely someone putting that hunger for the Word into my heart.  God was calling me to come closer.  It was the beginning of my call to religious life.  I read and devoured the Word, like the psalmist of old.  Then, I shared it with others.  (Sounds a bit like the Dominican motto, “To contemplate and to share with others the fruits of my contemplation.”) My first audience was my sister.  Thank you, Amy.  Sometimes I would read bits and pieces of scripture to her in the late evening.  I am sure I did not preach to her or share with her how the scripture touched my heart.  I didn’t have the vocabulary for it back then.  However, what I do know is that something was taking root deep within me and the hunger was growing.

Today, my Bible has a beautiful cover from Guatemala and has many worn pages, notations, and is home to many prayer cards and special notes from friends.  I received this Bible from my parents the year I graduated from high school.  It was my constant guide and companion as I discerned my vocation, entered to and completed formation and made my final vows.

Discerning and living religious life involves listening to and reflecting on the Word of God.

  • Are you feeling a hunger for something more?
  • What Word of God is resonating in your life right now?

P.S.. In case you are wondering, yes I did returned the stolen New Testament and Psalms to my brother.


Posted in God Calling??, News