Let us be Signs of Courageous Hope!

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald


I want to be a sign of courageous hope in the world.  How about you?

The reason for my hope is Jesus Christ.  One way I live this is as a Dominican Sister of Peace.  I believe that by accepting God’s call to be a religious sister and living my life faithfully, I am already showing others a sign of God’s hope.

In Jeremiah we read, “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future full of hope.” (Jer. 29:11-13) This scripture was given to me on the day I was waiting to hear if I was accepted into candidacy as a Dominican.  I was at work on a cold day in January 1991.  As I settled in for the day, I turned my page-a-day scripture calendar to the new page.  The reading from Jeremiah was written in bold italics.  I read the scripture, closed my eyes and sent up a quick prayer, “Please let it be a yes. God, please let it be a yes.”  Later that day, my phone rang and Sr. Anne told me that I was accepted into candidacy.

At many major milestones in my journey, that scripture has shown up just when I needed it–on the day I was accepted into novitiate, made my first profession of vows and the day one of my best friends died.  This scripture reminds me of God’s presence and the promise of hope and life.

When women and men hear the call of God to consecrate their lives in love as religious sisters, brothers, priests or as lay ministers, it is an affirmation of belief in and a sign of courageous hope, which was reinforced this past weekend at the Religious Formation Congress.  Fittingly, it was entitled, “Being Signs of Courageous Hope.” It was a gathering for young religious and those who walk with them as their mentors, teachers, and guides.  In the course of the weekend, I witnessed great care, joy, wisdom, courage, discernment, and encouragement between the participants in small and great ways.  It was the kind of weekend that keeps us going amidst the difficult times.  It reminded me that God is still calling men and women to religious life and that in answering that call we are witnessing to the Hope that Jeremiah prophesied so long ago.  He did not say it would be easy, but he did say that we are called to a, “future full of hope.”

Come and be a part of that future.

Posted in God Calling?, News

God Calling?

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Thirty-four years ago, some first grade students were asked to draw a picture about what they wanted to be when they grew up. A little girl drew a teacher. Little did she know that she could be a teacher AND a mother, or a teacher AND a vowed religious sister, or a teacher AND a single person volunteering or helping others as an Associate in ministry with religious Sisters. That little girl was me.

It is not unusual when a family member asks their younger cousins what they would like to be when they grow up. Even if they are not asked by others, some people wonder what God is calling them to do with their life when they graduate from high school or college. Some ponder the same question during middle-age, some when they retire, and some when they are at an age when they have four to five generations in their families. The question about vocations might come up occasionally, or might come up on a daily basis upon praying with the Summons song: “What do you want of me Lord? Where do you want me to serve you?…” Through Baptism, all Christians are called to carry on the mission of love and to share the Good News.

Fr. Anthony Gittins, CSsP, encouraged us at the North American Preaching Colloquium to use our baptism as a present power instead of looking at it as a past event. He also reminded us that being Catholic is a life-long discovery and discipleship, allowing God to guide us. One of our Dominican Sisters, Sr. Cathy Hilkert, OP, explored her vocation as a theologian with this question when she was an undergraduate: “how can we speak of God and proclaim Christian hope in a world of suffering?” (Building Bridges – Dominicans Doing Theology Together, p67) I invite all of us to pray with this very question, or to pray with the question from the Summons song above. For what or to where is God calling you to be at this present moment? If you think you are called to be a vowed religious Sister or an Associate, contact us at vocations@oppeace.org.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Friendships in Religious Life

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Last week, at the monthly Emmaus Discernment meeting for our discerners, some of them expressed their desire to know more about friendships in religious life. We all have a variety of different relationships:  with God, yourself, family, and friends, and co-workers. In this blog, I would like to share about relationships with friends when one of us joins religious life.

Before Vatican II, (1962-1965) when individuals entered religious life, they were not allowed to connect with friends or family for their first few years in the convent. Today, there are still some myths saying that sisters in religious life must cut all ties with family and friends. It is not true. Sisters value their relationships with families and friends and are encouraged to maintain them.

Religious life now is different. However, communities are different in their expectations regarding friend relationships. If you enter a cloistered community, you will not go out to see friends or family, instead, they may visit you. If you enter a monastic community, friendship and family connections are physically limited. If you enter an apostolic community, relationships with friends and family are more open; but it also depends on each community. Some communities do not allow members to go home during the formation program for at least three to five years. Most religious communities, on the other hand, like the Dominican Sisters of Peace, allow members to visit their families and friends more often. When you choose to enter a religious community, you should consider a community’s guidelines about relationships with family and friends.

Maintaining healthy relationships in our community is important because one of our commitments is hospitality and we value these relationships. Besides being members of a local community, sisters have wide relationships with family, including extended families, co-workers, sisters, priests, and friends. Some sisters still have friends from their elementary school years. For me, since I entered religious life, I have friends across religious communities and generations. My friends are religious sisters and priests from various religious communities, and people I studied and worked with ranging in age from the 30s to 90s years old.

Having entered religious life, I enjoy a deep level of friendship with many sisters because we share much in common, and we enrich each other through our visions, life experiences, and shared ministry. I also have friends from different religions, from the colleges I’ve attended, from churches where I have volunteered, and with co-workers. We go out to eat and engage in activities together. While my friends may share different perspectives on life, we have built friendships based on trust, understanding, and support of one another.

If you feel called to be a sister, or want to know more about religious life, feel free to move forward. You will be blessed with a big network of support. If you have any questions, please contact us and don’t let your questions/assumptions or your fears block your way. It is a blessed call to live.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Telling Our Stories

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

I remember as a young child of elementary school age wanting to write stories.  I even requested one of those writer’s kits to have my writing evaluated for publication.  I’m sure the publishing house that received my request must have known I was a young child and so they responded kindly, assuring me at my tender age that I had some writing talent.

We all have a story. Stories are an important part of our lives. Wherever we are and wherever we go, we tell and hear stories from sunrise to sunset. Stories emerge from the moment we wake up and recall our dreams to the stories we share with each other throughout the day.  Stories can be told in words, images, laughter, tears, dance, music, art, film, theater, and so many other forms. Each form evokes or conveys emotions that tell us about the human journey and connect us to each other. Stories can be uplifting and inspiring or thought-provoking or heart-breaking. All stories are important and deserve to be told and heard.

From the earliest of times, we know that stories were carved on cave walls to entertain, to inform, and to convey the culture, history, and values held by prehistoric societies. Stories are part of our oral and written traditions, where archives and museums exist to preserve humanity’s stories.  How stories are communicated may have changed over the years, from cave art and paintings to emoji’s and texting in our modern times.  But, it is clear that we have a longstanding, instinctive need to tell our stories and this holds true for the living and the dying.

One of my fondest memories as a hospice volunteer was the honor of assisting a dying man record his stories for his young children. He wanted his young children to know about his parents, his childhood, and his marriage to their mother—as seen and told by him.  He wanted to share his values, what was important to him, and his special memories with his children. Sharing this time with him was both heartbreaking and endearing. In telling his stories, he was finding meaning in his life and reconciling with the loss of not being around as his children grew up.  His life’s stories would give his children a connection to him even after he was gone. What a beautiful gift he was giving to his children!

Biographies and autobiographies are my favorite stories because they take us along a journey, where life unfolds often through poignant revelations and sacred recollections of where a person has been. Two starkly different stories, Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl captivated my attention as a young child and teenager.  Helen Keller’s story as a deaf-blind person and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, gave me hope and confidence in achieving success as a hearing-impaired person. (One person’s story can be a lifeline for another person.) Anne Frank’s journal of her family’s time in hiding during the Holocaust and her experiences as a Jewish teenager taught me not only about the inhumane atrocities that occurred in Nazi Germany but also about the resiliency of the human spirit to forge on even in the midst of dire circumstances.  Courage and fortitude are just some of the characteristics that these woman’s stories tell.

Whether a story is about hope or despair, or survival or loss, we can find meaning in the telling and listening of our stories.  Whether the telling of a story is about the past, the present, or future dreams, there is a liberating, affirming, and healing component to a story’s message.  Stories can empower us or disarm us, paving the way to new possibilities or awakenings.

When the Vocations team hosts retreats, discernment groups, and outreach programs, women participants always want to hear the vocation and ministry stories of our Sisters. The Sister’s stories help them to reflect on where they are, what their gifts are for ministry, and to envision what religious life is about.

Part of the application process for becoming a candidate within this community even includes writing an autobiography, where a woman can share her life’s story and spiritual journey as she reflects on God’s imprint on her life.

Are you ready to tell your story? To use your story to lift up others? To offer stories of healing and hope to others?  Want to know more about our story as Dominican Sisters of Peace?  We’d love to hear your story.  Contact a Vocation Minister today.

Posted in God Calling?

My Discernment Journey

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

The discernment process about a vocation call is unique for every individual because each person is called differently. Individual preferences influence how a person hears this call. Discerners often evaluate a religious community by their prayer life, mission, wearing a habit or ordinary contemporary clothes, vowed living, community living, and more. I know this was the case for me.

I grew up in a traditional Catholic environment that included personal or communal adoration, Mass, rosary, Gospel reading, and rituals. When I was first discerning God’s call, I was only interested in the beautiful habit, growing a deeper relationship with God, and helping the poor. I visited some traditional religious communities where the members wore the habit–and I liked all these visits. I listened to them and followed what they suggested to do when I was there. However, I was not asked to do any personal reflection on what I liked or did not like about this visit, what inspired me (their community life, prayer style, for instance) or what I might be resisting about a call to religious life, etc. They did not ask me whether I had had any spiritual director. One community, after I visited, gave me the application file to apply.

Later, I encountered the Dominican Sisters of Peace. When I first met these sisters, I was shocked by their contemporary clothes because I had never thought a Sister would wear such clothes. However, having a conversation with them at their vocation booth and reading their materials inspired me. The way they addressed my current situation and my questions was so open, making me feel they were listening to me. I came to realize that the habit was not the main factor for deciding whether to join or not join a community. I contacted them to explore their community. Two months later, I decided to move to Boston to be closer to these Sisters for my discernment.

The first weekend in Boston, I was invited to attend a reflection day at one of their ecological centers. The sisters showed me how to connect with God and God’s creation through the process of making, baking, and breaking bread. I have never thought of finding God deeply in these simple daily experiences, I was so inspired with this finding.  Then, the confusion came to me when I listened to the Sister’s presentation about the universe. Even though science and engineering are part of my background, I had considered science and engineering as worldly things, not as “God’s thing.” I thought I would have had to give up science and engineering when I joined religious life.  Thus, listening to this talk, many questions showed up in me: “Are they really Sisters? Why do they talk about such earthly things? How do they get such ideas? Are they not spending time helping the poor or working in the church, instead of learning such “non” Godly things?  Are they following or opposing the Gospel teachings?” It reminded me of the Pharisees and the people around ASKING Jesus when he was showing them something different from what they had been practicing their faith daily.

I felt torn between embracing what I just heard and this new way of practicing our Catholic faith that I was not familiar with at that time.

Instead of making a hasty conclusion that this kind of religious life did not fit me, I reflected and prayed. I appreciated God for “God knows who I am more than I know myself.” I gradually felt a sense of the affirmation between me and what the Sisters said. Then, I wanted to explore more. Whenever I had a chance to be with a sister, I asked her about her stories and how she lived. I took it to heart, reflected and prayed with the insights. I started to recognize God in a deeper sense as I looked around: in the mission and in daily life with a wider view. I decided to join; and my life has flourished since then.  I love every moment of living out my call with the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

We just had a “Come and See” weekend retreat in Kentucky. Looking at the discerners, I can see in the discerners the images of myself in the past and in the present. Believe me, discernment to seek God and to respond to the needs is never ended.  No matter how you practice your faith, I encourage you to keep your mind and heart open, to be reflective and courageous, and to trust that God is working within you and through those who are journeying with you. Contact us if you have any questions.

Posted in God Calling?, News