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

Companions on the Journey

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

As
a Vocation Director, I often meet with discerning women over a cup of coffee,
tea or even the occasional bowl of vegan lentil-kale soup.  It does not matter what it is that we are
eating or drinking – it is the conversation and being together on the journey
that matters.  

I
remember such meetings when I was discerning my call.  My sister companion and I would meet in a
local restaurant over steaming platters of Chinese food, wonton soup and
fortune cookies.  We would settle into
the vinyl booth and talk for hours about the vows, what it really meant to live
in community, how it is possible for four women to share two cars and not get
into fights…then in between those topics we settled the problems of the
world. 

Since
entering the congregation I continue to cherish extended community dinners
where we take the time to savor our food and the company of each other.  On any given day the conversation may be
about ministry, a family gathering, the “Nuns on the Bus,” or whether or not
the Sox are going to win the World Series – which they did!  Go Sox! 

Religious life is about many things but, one of the
significant elements that ties it all together is community.  It isn’t always without conflict, but it is
the best place for me to become all that God wants me to be and to do it with
companions on the journey. 

God Calling?? Call us to begin
the conversation with one of our vocation ministers. 

Posted in God Calling??, News

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