A Day in the Life of a Dominican Sister of Peace

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

When I was discerning, I had no clue what sisters did all day.  I knew that my teachers were with us students during the day and that the sisters at the retreat house were busy with programs on the weekends.  What did they do when they were not with us?  Were they ever bored?  Do they pray all day?  What kind of fun things did they do?

Well, if you have ever wondered what we do all day, here is a glimpse into “A Day in the Life”.

Friday, February 28th began like any other day at our convent at St. Stanislaus Parish in New Haven.  I got up, showered & dressed, spent some time in personal prayer and then walked over to St. Stan’s for 7:00 am Mass with my sisters.  Afterwards, we returned to the convent where we prayed Morning Prayer.  After prayer, we have the custom of talking about what we are doing that day, if we will be home late for dinner or if there is anything we need to share with the community.  This morning, Sr. Ana (who works at Albertus Magnus College in International Admissions) shared that she was volunteering to read to students at a local school and she wondered if anyone was interested in coming with her.  I immediately responded, “Yes.”  Then, she told me I would be reading in Spanish to kindergarteners and, “It will be very easy,” she assured me.  Little did I know it would not be easy.

Within 15 minutes, we were in her car.  Ana chatted the whole way about how this was National Read Across America Day and that she was excited to have the opportunity to help out in the community and to encourage children to read.  When we arrived, we discovered we were going to be reading the book, El Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  Did I mention this book was in Spanish?  This was not the “easy” book I had been led to expect.  Yikes!  All for God!  The good news is that the fourth graders and I survived the experience and they even asked me to come back again.

After this, Ana dropped me off at my office to attend to my ministry as Vocation Director.  The first order of business was to speak to a discerning woman on the phone for our monthly session.  We discussed her prayer life, ministry, and specifically, how she feels God is calling her to religious life in our congregation.

My office is in our convent on Lincoln St. and this brings me into contact with the five sisters who live there along with any guests they may be hosting that week.  This week, one of our sisters from Columbus, Ohio is staying there while she is on vacation and visiting her family.  Yes, we do get to go on vacation.  During lunch, we all shared memories about favorite vacations and places we have visited.

Later in the afternoon, I met with my Vocation Ministry Peer Group via video conferencing.  These four religious sisters and one brother are all in Vocation ministry for their respective congregations.  We meet each month to discuss our ministry and to help each other explore issues we encounter with discerners.  We first met when we were training for this ministry over five years ago and we have met almost every month since then.

That evening at dinner, Ana and I shared our experience of reading to the students – much to the delight of our sisters.  Our evening meals are often extended times at the table sharing about our day – the challenges and the delights – and we offer each other support and encouragement.

Evening Prayer follows and as the day winds down we often spend time reading, talking, playing a game or watching a program on television before retiring.  For me, I like to spend some time reading before bed and taking time to prayfully review my day and to read the scriptures for tomorrow.

To answer the questions I posed at the beginning:

  1. What we do each day always includes personal and communal prayer, ministry and some time spent with community along with personal time for reflection or rest.
  2. No, I have never been bored.
  3. We (active sisters) do not pray all day – however, contemplative nuns and monks do pray most of the day along with ministry to support the community and community time.
  4. For fun, we like to play games, exercise, participate in sports, read, do cross word puzzles, hang out with friends, and do a lot of the things other people do for fun.

Could God be calling you to consider religious life?  If so, contact one of us to begin the conversation.  Who knows, maybe one day you will be writing your own “A Day in the Life of a Dominican Sister.”

Posted in God Calling??, News

Becoming a Dominican Sister

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

The process of discerning religious life is an exciting journey!

In the journey of becoming a sister, there are several significant phases of initial formation. In my ministry with the Dominican Sisters of Peace as Coordinator of Formation, I have the wonderful opportunity to journey with women in the various stages of formation until they make perpetual profession. I do this in concert with other Sisters who serve as formation mentors, community members and guides along the way.  Whether a woman has just entered as a candidate or has become a novice or has taken first vows, each distinctive stage of her journey is unique.  Each stage deepens her self-knowledge and her understanding of the call, the congregation, and her relationship with God. I love being a part of this wonderful process.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting our Dominican Sister of Peace novice, Sr. Phuong Vu.  Sr. Phuong is part of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) in St. Louis, Missouri and shares this novitiate experience with a Maryknoll novice, Sr. Rolande Pendeza Kahindo (the Maryknoll congregation is part of the Dominican family).

Phuong and Rolande are mid-way through their novitiate year. The novitiate year is a very busy and special year of immersion into deepening the understanding of the four pillars of Dominican life: prayer, community, ministry, and study. The novices also connect with the wider Dominican family and interact with novices from other religious congregations who are in the same place in their journey.

Celebrating this mid-year mark in the novitiate and sharing some of their experiences with members in congregational leadership and with formation representatives is an annual event for every novitiate group at the CDN. I remember well doing this during my own time in the novitiate over 13 years ago. This year as a formation representative, I was blessed to be present for this wonderful sharing by novices Phuong and Rolande as they did their group presentation about their time at the CDN.

In their sharing, Phuong and Rolande spoke about how blessed and grateful each felt for all that they have learned and experienced. They spoke of how loved and supported they felt by their communities, from their CDN co-directors and from the extended family of sisters and the Dominican family. They spoke about the wonderful learnings they have acquired from their studies that include theology, preaching, the vows, human development and conflict resolution—to name just a few. They talked about learning to live in a diverse community and about the skills needed for good community living, especially good intercultural community living. They spoke about the rich prayer and reflection day experiences that helped support them as they engaged in ministry as tutors/mentors in an economically challenged school.

Phuong and Rolande also shared about what challenged them and about times of fun and laughter. Their presentation spoke volumes about how they are integrating their learnings during this grace-filled time of their canonical novitiate year.

Finally, Phuong and Rolande collaborated on creating a beautiful ritual as part of their presentation.  They helped plan the Mass where the entire group celebrated together.  And celebrate we did, with drums, shakers, spirited singing and preaching.  Each novice played an essential role in the Mass, from Phuong being a lector and writing the intercessions to Rolande breaking open the Word with us with her preaching and leading us all in a Congolese inspired rendition of the Our Father. We were all so very proud!

Walking the journey with women who desire to live religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace is a blessing.  Being with our novices who will help carry on the Dominican tradition fills me with deep gratitude and hope for the future.

I invite you to enjoy some of the pictures from this wonderful event that I was privileged to attend.

I also ask you to continue to pray for our novices at the CDN, Phuong and Rolande, as they continue to journey into this grace-filled year at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate.

Perhaps hearing this story about Phuong and Rolande’s journey stirs something in you and makes you think about religious life.  If so, I invite you to contact one of our Vocation Ministers to explore what being a Dominican Sister of Peace might be like for you.

Peace.

Posted in God Calling??, News

Memorable Words

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George

What three words best describe who you are?  What words would others use to describe you? Take a moment to reflect on these questions to see what words bubble up for you.

In preparation for writing a eulogy for my Mom’s recent memorial service, my nephew, Andy, asked my seven siblings what three words we would use to describe Mom.  The three most meaningful words given were family, sacrifice, and faith.  Andy spoke about how Mom embodied and gave meaning to these traits in her life by telling stories he collected from us siblings about her.  He invited all of the mourners present to “take up the baton of faith, sacrifice, and family,” asking us to answer these questions:

  • Who will serve their families well, even when it’s hard?
  • Who will sacrifice for others as [Mom] did for everyone around her?
  • Who will keep a long prayer list, pleading to God on behalf of family and others who desperately need those prayers?

After noting the family significance of the “wooden spoon” that Mom used only to scare us little ones when we needed to change our behavior, Andy suggested thinking of it now “as a baton that’s being passed to each of us“ to carry on Mom’s legacy of family, sacrifice, and faith.  In his closing remarks, he noted these two Scripture passages in marking the end of Mom’s earthly life and in inviting us to persevere in finishing our own race:  “In 2 Timothy 4:7, St. Paul says to his spiritual son: ‘I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…’ In Hebrews 12:1, it says, ‘And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…’”

We each then received a “wooden spoon” with a purple ribbon (Mom’s favorite color that we were all dressed in) containing the inscription, “Finish the Race.  Keep the Faith.”

How do you want to be remembered?  How will others remember you and what you stood  for? What will be your legacy to pass on to others?  We know in Christ Jesus the fulfillment of God’s legacy of love for us and so I invite you to embrace the words of the song, All I Ask of You, as sung by Gregory Norbet, OSB, of the Monks of Weston Priory.  Let yourself hear and hold onto God’s loving words in the refrain:  All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you.

God calls each of us for a specific purpose in life. Perhaps you are being called to respond to the words, “Come, follow me” by becoming a religious sister. Discerning what these words mean in your life is part of what our Vocation Ministers are here to help you with. You can find Sr. June, Sr. Mai-Dung, or Sr. Bea’s contact information here. They look forward to helping you discover God’s path for you.

 

Posted in God Calling??, News

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