Starting Over

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Have you ever baked cookies or a pie and realized that after all your preparations and work — that the delectably sweet thing you created burned to a crisp in an overly hot oven? Cookies are susceptible to overbaking, so I suspect that most of you have eaten an extra crispy cookie or they came out of your own oven, making you ready to pitch them in the trash.

Then you start over. Sooner or later, you find yourself back in the kitchen, ready to start again and pay attention in a different way.

I love cookies and I never met a pie I did not like. But I do not bake – I throw clay. Recently, over the Christmas break, my kiln load of four months’ work overfired. By a lot. So my beautiful large serving bowl — my favorite of the whole group – looked like a cake whose icing had melted and the flowers and swirls of color dripped down like rain on sidewalk chalk art, into an unredeemable mess. Other pieces that were supposed to be a bright and cheerful aqua celadon were dull greyish green. I was devastated and felt like I wasted a precious week in the studio, a time for renewal of spirit, mind and body. Like I said, it took me four months to create enough work to fill the kiln and most of it was a disappointment. To say I was grumpy is to put it mildly. I was baffled and obsessed and found myself talking about it way too much.

The problem was I did not know why the kiln fired so extremely hot since there was no evidence of anything wrong until after it had cooled. It takes about ten hours for the kiln to get to the desired 2228 degrees and then another 12 hours to cool, so we are not talking about an afternoon. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to get a kiln technician to examine my equipment and help me find a way out of this enormous funk.

Enter Chris Powell, a former production potter, teacher and genius kiln fixer. He saw the problem right away and with a few adjustments to the digital readout on the control box, all was well. This avoided my worst nightmare — that I would need to replace essential parts to the kiln.

After an hour of stimulating conversation about the technical aspect of our common craft, Chris left and I had a new leaser on my potter’s life, as well as a plan to make some corrections in my studio practice.  A new start, another chapter was about to begin.

Starting over can happen any time under any circumstances: baking cookies, making pots, in our spiritual life, in our relationships. Starting over is the beautiful thing about being a human being. Mistakes do not have to define us, they help us become more of who we are meant to be. Starting over is a gift we give ourselves, and a gift we can give each other. Starting over says that what I made is not really all that bad, it’s not the end of the world. Just do it again, better the next time and don’t torture yourself over small things. Encourage each other.

Starting over gives everyone another chance to get it right, whether it be in cookies, clay or people. So the next time you bite into an overly crispy cookie, tell the baker, “It’s delicious.”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Palestine and Human Rights

Blog by Sr. Roberta Miller, OP

In the beginning was Al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) in May 1948. The Zionist forces (Irgun and Haganah) invaded Palestine to establish the Israeli state. The conquest is now an occupation in 2018 of the land.  The Zionist ideology formulate by Theodore Herzl back in 1897 was to have a Jewish nation-state to counteract European anti-Semitism.

The Israeli state models England’s government set-up with Prime Minister, Parliament and several political parties vying for voting power.  Jewish citizens are governed under Civil law    and Palestinians under Military law. The list of violations of Palestinian human rights (Muslim and Christian) over the 70 years of Israel’s existence would be a book now with the blatant disregard for human rights getting worse as the U.S. exercises its protective power on behalf of Israel in the United Nations and here at home. As former Israeli soldiers are coming forth to speak out publically to the world (“We were the Terrorists”), egregious acts of disregard of human rights and violence have been committed against Palestinians as they are pushed off their lands, out of their homes, deprived of the basic necessities of life such as water, privacy and safety. Medical care in hospitals and formal education become non-accessible with the roadblocks, check points, and secure roads only for Jewish settlers and citizens. Under military rule Palestinians live in an apartheid state, one in which the lives of their children are always in danger. Youth between 12 and 17 are arrested, detained, questioned in Hebrew not Arabic and without counsel or family, kept in solitary confinement and tortured either physically or verbally. Children under 11 have been shot by soldiers coming home from school.

We stand up for of justice and mercy for the Palestinians by understanding protesting Zionism is not anti-Semitic; by supporting the peaceful movements such as BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) to pressure international corporations to not benefit from the systemic deprivation of Palestinian land and resources; by becoming more informed and active to stop Israeli violations of the basic human rights of all peoples in Israel.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Becoming a Better Person

Blog by Director of Associate Colette Parker

History will be made on Friday in our nation’s capital when the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March takes place.

The march, organized by the Indigenous Peoples Movement, intends to bring awareness to the injustices affecting Indigenous men, women and children from North, Central and South America; Oceania; Asia; Africa; and the Caribbean.

Organizers plan to raise alarm about human rights violations and the global climate crisis. They plan to lift up a number of issues, including voter suppression, divided families by walls and borders, an environmental holocaust, sex and human trafficking, and police/military brutality”

“Our people are under constant threat, from pipelines, from police, from a system that wants to forget the valuable perspectives we bring to the table,” said Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project.

He continued: “We must remind the world, again, that Indigenous people matter. We are all made better when we respect one another and lift each other up.”

Those words from Chase Iron Eyes got me thinking about what our world would be like if we truly believed that all human beings deserve equal respect because of their innate dignity.

If we really valued human dignity, we would not be plagued by injustice and unfair treatment — there would be no need for grassroots movements (like the Indigenous Peoples Movement) to raise our collective conscience to see those injustices and take action to right the wrongs.

Perhaps what disturbs me the most is that we have to, once again, be reminded that Indigenous people matter.

How many times do we have to be reminded that people of color are just as human as those who benefit from the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions that perpetuate inequity?

When will we truly be awakened to the reality that structural racism is a feature of our social, economic and political systems?

When will we find the courage to be honest and transparent as we dialogue about ways to dismantle the structure that allows injustices and inequities to exist?

Transparency is the first step in building bridges that will lead to a just world where all human beings are valued, appreciated, and embraced.

Like Chase Iron Eyes said: “We are all made better when we respect one another and lift each other up.”

Posted in Associate Blog, News

A Daughter’s Reflection

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George

As I write this blog, my Mom is in hospice care at my oldest sister’s place in Texas.  Since I can’t be there, I have pictures of my Mom on my computer screen to keep her close.  One of the pictures is a poignant one of Mom with my sister’s dog, Oreo, resting on her lap and her hand resting gently on his head.  Whenever my Mom visited my sister, Oreo served as a source of comfort to her.  How fitting that he lovingly provides comfort to her now.

I am mindful that in this Advent season of waiting, my Mom eagerly awaits being reunited with her Creator, with my Dad, and with all her loved ones who are with God already.  She has expressed her acceptance of these final days with us and her readiness to be with God.  She is a woman of great faith and trust in the Lord.  Her daily devotion of prayer for her family is something we will all miss and now becomes our gift to each other.  As the light goes out on my Mom’s earthly existence, I can feel God’s presence, knowing that this is a sacred time for our family of seven children.

Since writing the above two paragraphs, my Mom is now in heaven.  She joined the choir of angels on December 26 and her waiting fittingly came after the Advent season.  I can only imagine her joy at seeing my Dad and being in the loving embrace of her Creator.

The night before my Mom died, my oldest sister asked how I wanted to be informed of Mom’s passing—if I wanted to know as the time appeared closer or after she ascended into heaven. I told her I wanted to be notified when the time was close so I could light a candle for Mom.  Of course, when I received the call to light the candle, it was both a sacred and sorrowful moment.  Moments after the first phone call came my sister called again to tell me “Your Mom is in heaven now.”  With my husband at my side, we wept for our loss and yet felt a happiness for Mom that her prayers for a peaceful death happened.

Mom lived for 92 years, the same age that her mother passed away.  Us seven siblings and some of her grandchildren will be celebrating her life at her funeral Mass in Plano, Texas on January 25.  Mom was devoted to saying the rosary daily and to praying for the needs of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  I had a ritual of having Sunday evening chats with Mom for many years and will miss having these chats and to hearing her voice, but she will always be in my heart.  So, it is with gratitude and love that I remember my Mom’s life.  We will laugh and we will cry during our celebration of her life, a life that we are memorializing in a video that all my siblings have contributed to from their collection of photos.

We pray for those who minister to the sick and dying in hospitals, in nursing homes, in private homes, and for those who are in hospice care.  As a community of believers in the resurrection of the body and in everlasting life, we offer our love and prayers to all who have lost loved ones, recently and some time ago.  May God’s mercy, love, and compassion bring us peace.

If you feel called to be a beacon of light, of peace, and of joy in a hurting world, maybe God is calling you to become a religious sister to minister to the needs of God’s people.  We are eager to hear your story and to help you discern God’s call in your life.  You can contact one of our Vocation Ministers by calling, texting, or emailing us.  We also have a Come and See retreat we will be hosting at our motherhouse in Akron, Ohio from March 15-17, 2019, where you can experience and explore community life, and so much more.

Posted in God Calling??, News