The Joys, Assumptions and Challenges of Intercultural Community Living

 

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald

Are you drawn to life in community?

Are you wondering if you could live with 5, 10, or 60 other women in the same house?

You’re not alone.  Most of the women we walk with in discernment feel a strong call to community, yet wonder what it will really be like and if they can truly live it.

It was the same for me.  When I was discerning religious life, one of the big draws for me was towards community.  I saw the sisters with whom I volunteered and interacted as having a loving, vibrant, faith-filled and healthy community.  I admired their dedication to each other and to their mission as Dominican Sisters.  As I celebrate my 25th Jubilee as a sister, I continue being drawn to live, minister, pray and be in community.

Community is one of the four pillars of Dominican religious life. When we enter a congregation, we never know with whom we will live and minister.  That is part of the great adventure of religious life.  Community is where I have found my greatest joy, reconstructed my assumptions about others and have been challenged to be truly welcoming and inclusive.  In our Constitutions (#18) we read: “Together we pursue our common mission, values, and goals. As members of a community, we share in a diversity of gifts and challenges, joys and hardships. We value the uniqueness of each sister and offer one another companionship and loving support. We celebrate our strengths, accept our weaknesses, and acknowledge our need for healing and reconciliation.”[1]

One of the great joys of living in a multicultural community is that we are all different.  It is in community that I have been challenged to try various cultural dishes, prayed in another language or in another way unfamiliar to me.  I have been enriched by the gifts my sisters bring to community.  I hope they have been enriched by what I have brought and shared.

We all come from different cultural perspectives formed by our ethnic, generational, national and families of origin.  As we mature, we become more aware that assumptions can cause many misunderstandings, hurt feelings and broken hearts.   One of the biggest ones is when we group people together and expect them to think and behave in the same way.  The way you interact with one person may or may not work well with another person. Therefore, like any human being, living or working with a multicultural community, on-going awareness and on-going learning are the keys.

As Dominicans, study is a primary part of our life.  St. Dominic taught that all of the members of the Order needed to study in order to preach, teach and to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel and to the life to which we have been called.  Last year, in community, we studied a book called, Living Mission Interculturally[2].  In that book, I discovered that there are a myriad of factors making up one’s cultural identity.  It has led me to see that getting to know others is a great adventure and offers an opportunity to be stretched, enlightened and challenged in new ways.  I thank God I was called to this congregation and have the opportunity to live and minister with sisters of many different cultures.

Are you open to living in a multicultural and intergenerational community?  Are you willing to cast your net out into the deep?  Then, contact one of us to begin your discernment or attend our  Come and See Discernment Retreat that will be held September 13 – 15, 2019 at our Motherhouse in St. Catharine, KY.  For the flyer and to register, click  here.

[1] Constitutions of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, 2010.

[2] Living Mission Interculturally:  Faith, Culture and the Renewal of Praxis by Anthony Gittens,

Posted in God Calling??, News

Butterflies and what they can Teach us about the Stages of Discernment

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Recently, I visited the Butterfly Garden in the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio. Between March and September, each day a specialist releases a variety of butterflies. This summer, I have enjoyed three different presentations there. However, there was something else I observed. Visitors in the butterfly garden kept chasing butterflies with their phones/cameras to capture images. I was smiling, because I could resonate with that feeling. I did that, too, during my first trip to the conservatory. Nowadays, I just wait, knowing that in each few seconds a butterfly would fly nearby, and I could just take a snapshot then or simply savor the moment.

The butterflies, these gentle creatures, can teach us a lot about ourselves, and about how to live out our mission that is lifegiving to others.

There are times when we chase butterflies: trying to chase an ideal that we cannot catch. At the beginning of my discernment, I wanted to deepen my relationship with God. I started to participate in more prayer opportunities, such as a prayer group at our school, Theology on Tap, Lectio Divina, centering prayer, and a small faith group. However, I felt like a headless chicken trying to go from one group to another. Needless to say, it never felt enough. If I had just savored and deeply entered into only a few of those prayer experiences instead of just trying to go to all of them, I believe I would have had a deeper outcome.

Then, there is a time when we get butterflies in our stomach, which simply indicates that we anticipate something with some anxiety. Whether it’s making a big step in discernment, whether it’s contacting a vocation director, whether it’s asking for an application, etc. And that’s totally ok, because in vowed religious life, there are many moments when we are called to dare to be bold and dare to do something bold as we meet the needs of our times.

Caterpillars transform into butterflies. One way to think of that is that the caterpillar was maturing into its mission. Just like caterpillars go through a major transformation to become pollinators, we, Dominicans, study with a purpose: for the sake of the mission. Butterflies have an important role in helping the ecosystems by pollinating flowers. If you feel like you are like a caterpillar, what can help you mature into your mission?

Butterflies face many challenges due to climate change, pollution, and the destruction of fields, yet, they continue their life-giving mission of pollinating flowers. There are so many needs in the world. As Dominicans, we are called to tap into the uneasiness of our world, and bring the Good News joyfully, especially to places that are more in need.

When analyzing dreams, dreaming about a butterfly that goes from one flower to another means, that one will hear good news. What if you are the one who is called to bring good news to others?

If you think you are chasing butterflies,

– slow down and God will lead you where you are meant to be.

 

If you think you have butterflies in your stomach,

– dare to be bold.

 

If you feel like a caterpillar,

– persevere in faith, and pray where/for what God is calling you.

 

If you feel like you are stuck ‘in a cocoon’,

– get out of your ‘cocoon’ and explore God’s call.

 

If you think you are a joyful butterfly, when your actions are lifegiving to others,

– continue to bring joy to others and inspire others.

 

If you would like to talk to a sister,

– contact us at vocations@oppeace.org

Posted in God Calling??, News

All You Who Are Thirsty

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald

All you who are thirsty, come to the water.  Is 55:1

These words of God spoken through the Prophet Isaiah are both an invitation and a command.  Ever obedient (sic) I have accepted the invitation and O’ so willingly embraced the command.  Thus, I have come away on retreat this week to St. Mary’s by-the-Sea Retreat House in Cape May Point, NJ.  Before I totally unplug, I wanted to share some thoughts with you . . .

“Each sister makes an annual retreat.” Constitutions of the Dominican Sisters of Peace

My room is simple, ‘by design’ (so says the brochure on the small desk); with a bed, bureau, old clothes tree and a Morris chair facing an open window.  Through the window, I can see the Atlantic Ocean.  A strip of sand, protected by a sturdy sea wall, is all that lies between the house and the sea.  Ahh…to rest here in God’s love is a great privilege and joy.  Retreat is a time for me to renew my relationship with God, to recharge my spiritual batteries and to give thanks for all that has been and that will be.

Retreats by the sea hold a special place in my heart and in my vocation story.  One of the places I discerned my call to religious life was at the Jersey shore.  The year was 1988.  It was January and I was on retreat with some friends in Sea Isle City, NJ.  The other women, along with my friend Jean’s dog Trinity, and I had prayed Morning Office together and the scripture had been Isaiah 55:1, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.”   Coincidental?  I do not think so.

So, later that morning, there I was walking along the beach asking, “Ok God, here I am, I’ve come to the water, now what?”

I listened.  The sea air buffeted me and the waves continued to move in and move out . . . nothing, no answer . . . then, it began.  I felt a warmth in the center of my chest growing and radiating out.  With it, a certainty that this light/warmth in my heart was God calling me to something more.  To embrace the call to religious life that I had been feeling for some time now.

“Yes!” I screamed into the wind.  “Yes!” I said to the women when I entered the house.  “Yes!” I said when I returned home and called my vocation director.

That was a few years ago.  This year, I am celebrating my 25th Jubilee as a Dominican Sister.  I continue to journey deeper into the heart of God – which is my center.  I continue to say, “Yes!”

Are you being called?  If you feel that God is calling you to religious life, contact us to begin the conversation.

You are in my prayers in a special way this week as I make my retreat and “come to the water.”

Posted in God Calling??, News

Openness

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George

During a reflection day with the Vocations team, where we pondered what it means to be open, open to God, self, and others, I found myself writing a poem, which I’d like to share with you for your reflection.  Perhaps it will speak to you or elicit other meanings for you on being open.

What does it mean to be open
to be free,
free to be,
free to be as God wants me to be.

To be open is to
discover life anew,
be willing to change,
see life differently,
see with God’s eyes,
be God’s servant.

To be open is to
ponder God’s ways,
give ourselves back to God,
find a new beauty,
uncover a new path that unfolds in its own time and place.

To be open is to hear new sounds that fill us with God’s love
for the journey that awaits us.

To be open is to
listen to the voice within,
that stirs us into action,
from a life of complacency.

To be open is to
allow God to move us and to move in us
breathe in new hopes and dreams,
so that we can fulfill God’s ways through our works.,

To be open is to
place our trust and hopes in God,,
knowing we may not always walk a smooth path,
that we may have to walk up long hills
and run down steep curves to be transformed.

To be open we must
let God come and be with us,
be still,
listen,
respond and become a gift to each other.

Are you open to hearing God’s call to become a religious sister?  Why not spend some time reflecting on this question at our next Come and See retreat in the foothills of Kentucky.  Join us September 13-15, 2019 in St. Catharine, KY!  Or, if you just want to talk with someone about your vocation, contact one of our Vocation Ministers.

Posted in God Calling??, News

Resistance or Restlessness in Prayer

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

What happens when we feel unsettled or resistant during prayer?

This question is one of the common questions that a retreat director asks a retreatant. One day, I brought this topic to my community as a spontaneous topic for conversation around the table during dinner time. Here is some of what we shared:

  • We don’t always have a smooth peaceful prayer, do we? Some people think that we don’t have struggles with prayer.
  • We do love prayer, but we have struggles sometimes because we are human beings.
  • Sometimes we run into a stumbling block of resistance, which makes us very uncomfortable and restless.
  • It is not important that we bump into resistance or have a restless experience. What is important is how to be aware of it, why it shows up, how to process it, and how to respond.

We began to list our potential or common causes of resistance or restlessness during prayer based on our own experiences or from other people’s experiences:

  • Sometimes because we are so anxious about something in our life, we cannot live fully in the moment with God and ourselves.
  • There can be too many noises in our heart and mind, and we cannot know how to start to be still.
  • It can be that we don’t like a particular way of prayer or don’t want to pray with this group or with a person in this group.
  • Resistance can be from being tired and needing more rest.
  • Our own stubbornness and wanting to control things can cause resistance in prayer too. It can block our openness to God’s working in us and our flexibility to change from what we hear in prayer. Our mind can think ‘I trust in God, I will let God do God’s will in me,’ but the reality is my heart is not open.
  • Sometimes the resistance is actually a nudging from God calling us to something, but we don’t have time to respond.
  • It can be a new invitation from God, and we don’t want to hear or accept this invitation. This invitation may interrupt our comfortable routine or interfere in planning for our future. This invitation can open a new horizon for us, but we won’t dare embrace it because it is not in our comfort zone. The more we want to avoid, the more restlessness we have.

So, you see, sisters often struggle with their prayer life.  We encounter resistance and restlessness and yet we persist in prayer.  We know that God is calling us to be faithful and to trust. To trust that God is with us even in the resistance and restlessness.

How about your prayer? Do you have any resistance or any restless moments in your prayer that you have experienced recently?  Have you paid attention to the underlying reason why these resistances and restlessness show up in your prayer? What do these experiences tell you?  Is it possible that you are resisting God calling you to discern your vocation to religious life?

God Calling??  Come and visit us. Check out our Vocations Facebook page, or one of our other discernment opportunities, including our Come and See Weekend Retreat (September 13-15 at St. Catharine, Kentucky), monthly Emmaus Discernment group (at our Motherhouse in Columbus or on-line–coming back this August), and more. Contact us for more information.

 

Posted in God Calling??, News