God is Watching Us…From a Distance?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Bette Midler sings the song “From a Distance”, seeking to make the point that the world and God’s view of it are much larger than our differences, disagreements, and divides “here below” look to us; that we are one with a shared humanity in a world community, and if only we could see ourselves as part of that  bigger harmonious reality, as God does, we would stop the hating and the warring.

There’s one problem in the refrain, one which we who have been celebrating the Incarnation and the Manifestations of Jesus can notice right away: God is not distant. God is not distant. God is ineffably “beyond”– so much larger than our hearts and our limited relationships, and far surpassing our capacity to grasp—but God is also ineffably near. The consoling and challenging truth for Christians is the “hereness” of God, a reality that permeates the world and our most intimate selves.

St. Nick and Santa Claus have had their season of seeing our good and bad behavior and judging our worthiness for presents. So we return to ordinary time, when parents and teachers and various moral authorities warn people that God sees and knows all and is tallying our vices and virtues for the day of our final reckoning. This may be momentarily effective in curbing bad behavior, but as we all know, this particular version of God has only limited successes and for the most part, very little to do with the conversion and ownership of our hearts.

We are in the midst the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the free choice of God to enter the heart of the world and the stuff of humanity, in mercy and love beyond our ken.  We are also in the midst of a pervasive darkness that spans homes and schoolyards and city streets and brutal prisons and the rubble remaining where towns once bustled with human activity, their inhabitants now refugees in camps where as the psalmist put it, “My tears are my food day and night.” And that is only human cost, also borne by the rivers and forests and innumerable and precious species threatened and poisoned through human ignorance and greed.

“The Word became flesh and made a home among us.” This is not past tense. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.  Present tense. Future tense. These are the lines we are given to speak, the words of witness we not only give voice to, but invite to grow in us, welcome in our own flesh. What good is it, asked Meister Eckhart, for Mary to give birth to Jesus if we do not bring him to birth in our lives?

God is not distant. And God is not just watching. There are times we might prefer a bit of Divine disinterest, when daily we’re bumping into or tripping over Jesus who calls to us in human need, slight as a mere bother, or vast as a starving nation.  As the story goes, he began his journey in poverty, bore his own and others’ humanity, lived in trust, responded to the needs of those around him, preached fearlessly, and gave his entire being over for love. That Love carried him and lifted him up, and abounds and multiplies, invades and possesses, impels and energizes us in a thousand ways for the needs of our brothers and sisters. And sometimes we notice, and are amazed, so small and needy and distant we seem to ourselves. But God—distant? No, God—Emmanuel!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Justice Blog

By Associate Jackie Paluszak, OPA

You’ve seen them. They’re on the street corner when you drive by on your way to the grocery. You look on in disgust. How could they be living like this?

How would you feel if people were judging someone in your family this way?  It happens every day, my friends. Women, children, convinced that their lives could be better.

She’s in high school. She’s not the real pretty, popular cheerleader. She’s kind. She’s sweet. She’s ordinary. And he catches her eye. In the middle of the mall he tantalizes her. He tells her she’s pretty. He flatters her, certainly more than the boys in her class. The twinkle in his eyes makes her feel special. He asks if she’ll be at the mall again tomorrow. And so it starts. The stalking. The dance.

She rushes to the mall after school. He’s there waiting. The adrenaline rush is more than she can handle. She runs to him. He takes her shopping. They pick up a few pretty thing and she’s enamored!

He asks her if she’s hungry. Of course!  He takes her to a nice place to eat. They actually sit down and are waited on. The guys in high school don’t take her to places like this.

He starts talking strange things. She’s not understanding. He gives her some pills. He says these will help her understand. She takes them gladly. She wants to please this man.

This is how it starts. A young, vulnerable girl looking to be loved and this pervert plans to fill that position.

She’s feeling funny. Things aren’t real clear. Her head seems foggy. He offers to take her home with him.

She’s hooked.
It’s done.
He’s accomplished what he set out to do.
Another girl for his stable.
She’s a prime catch. Just fifteen!  They’ll pay prime for her.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Sisters Welcome the Refugee at Annunciation House

One of the commitments of the Dominican Sisters of Peace is to “Promote justice through solidarity with those who are marginalized.” In the United States today, among those marginalized are immigrants and refugees – people fleeing their home countries in search of safety.

We support immigrants and refugees in many ways.

Our Sisters speak truth to power in the public space and in the halls of government.

Sr. Judy Morris and other women of faith at a 2018 DACA demonstration in Washington, DC.
Sister Marilyn Pierson with Baby Eshe, the youngest member of a refugee family living at the St. Catharine Motherhouse.
Sr. Rene Weeks manages the Hispanic Outreach Center at St. Paul Church in Salem, OH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We welcome those who are new to our country, housing refugees in St. Catharine, providing education in our learning centers, and helping families cope with the challenges of settling into a new country and a new culture.

In December 2018, Dominican Sisters of Peace answered the call to welcome the stranger by volunteering at Annunciation House, a house of sanctuary, welcome, and assistance for those entering the US at the southern border in El Paso. Annunciation House is completely staffed and run by volunteers, and many people of faith have been part of its ministry,

Sisters Barbara Kane, Doris Regan, Roserita Weber, Imelda Schmidt, and Mary Vuong have traveled to El Paso to volunteer at Annunciation House, and have shared with us the journey of a refugee, from entering Annunciation House to departing for life with a sponsor.

Many refugees do not have weather-appropriate clothing.

 

When a person or family checks into Annunciation House, they processed and assigned a bed. Each person is allowed to pick out one set of clothing, including a warm coat, which is a blessing in El Paso, where the temperature often drops below freezing this time of year. Each person also gets a hot shower to help them wash off weeks of travel.

Many people have sent material support to Annunciation House – clothing, food, blankets. Volunteers help sort these items so that they can be more easily distributed to those in need.

 

 

Refugees often arrive at Annunciation House hungry and tired. The detention centers do not provide much food for these people, who have been traveling for many days. Annunciation House offers simple, filling meals provided by donations and volunteers: fruit, cereal, and bread for breakfast, and sandwiches or comfort food for lunch and dinner.

Breakfast at Annunciation House.
Annunciation House guests were very excited to choose from varieties of muffins.
Parishioners from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel bring dinner each Thursday evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters Roserita Weber and Doris Regan.

 

Annunciation House volunteers work to help refugees find and travel to sponsors, who will help provide for them while their asylum claim is being processed.  Here, Dominican Sisters of Peace Roserita and Doris work with refugees to arrange travel to sponsor locations. The refugees must notify their sponsor to let him/her that they are ready to travel, and transportation – bus, train or plane – and schedules must be coordinated so the refugee and sponsors can find each other.

 

 

Sisters Mary Vuong and Imelda Schmidt help pack lunches.

 

 

Once travel has been arranged – usually in just one or two days – the new arrivals begin to prepare for their trip. In addition to the clothing they received at arrival, each person gets 2-3 sandwiches per day of travel plus fruit, candy, water, juice. If they are going to a cold place, they get a small blanket. Sisters Imelda and Mary helped pack lunch bags for refugees who are traveling to their sponsors.

 

 

 

A friendly face can make a big difference.

 

More than just a hand at the table or a voice on the phone, our Sisters have been a friendly, welcoming face to Annunciation House guests as they prepare for life here in the US. These people have shown incredible courage just to get here, and now they are traveling into a country where everything is strange and new.

As his family was preparing to go to the airport, one little boy was heard to tell his stuffed lamb, “Don’t worry. It will be ok. I am here to take care of you.”

 

 

 

 

“We’re an immigrant family!” one of these brothers told Sr. Barb.

 

 

Our Sisters met many wonderful people at Annunciation House, including this family that spent the week working at the Pastoral Center. Mom was raised in Brazil, dad came from Ireland, and the boys were adopted from Guatemala.

 

 

A festive Christmas tree at the El Paso Airport.

 

After their time at Annunciation House, these refugees board trains, buses, and planes to travel to their new homes. Many are in an airport for the first time and are drawn to the festive Christmas displays. Hundreds of immigrants pass through El Paso’s airport every day. Airline, TSA, and Border Patrol employees have done their best to be helpful and kind.

 

 

 

 

The Sisters had a day off each Thursday. On January 3, they traveled to Tornillo, the tent city built to house children separated from their parents by ICE and the border patrol.

Sisters Imelda Schmidt, Mary Vuong, and Barb Kane stand near a makeshift altar at Tornillo. Each flower represents a child in detention.
The tent in the corner of this photo houses children between ages 6 and 16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your prayers and support of this mission of mercy, and all the works of the Dominican Sisters of Peace!

Posted in News

Standing in Solidarity with Immigrants via Prayer and Fasting

Blog by Associate Peggy Frank

One night last summer I was particularly touched, and troubled, by an online news article about detainees at the southern U.S. border whose children had been taken from them. I don’t remember who the reporter was, just the line that grabbed me: “The mothers never stop crying.”

Immediately, a passage from Jeremiah 31 came to mind, “Rachel, mourning for her children, she refused to be consoled. “

I went to bed with a heavy heart and prayed for the mothers and children, and fathers, for all families and for our country and leaders.

The next day, it got worse. Pictures of children in cages flooded the news, as did reports of the U.S. Attorney General citing scripture, Romans 13, to justify separating immigrant children from their parents. More pointedly, he applied the passage to say that people should not question government laws, just obey them because they were God ordained for the purpose of order. It was a far cry from Rachel crying for her children.

The whole situation, especially the graphic depictions of children and families being ripped apart, made me sick. I wanted to go straightaway to join protesters picketing, or do something, anything to help. I am tied to commitments however, that prohibit me from leaving home. Even knowing that I am where God put me at the moment, this inhumane treatment of innocents, piled on top of so much other distressing global news, made me frustrated that I couldn’t do more than “just” pray. That’s when I decided to step up my fervent prayers with added fasting.

Fasting is not a new concept by any means. The bible talks about “when” you fast, not “if” you fast, and that you fast in order to free the oppressed, and care for the poor, hungry, homeless, and afflicted (Isaiah).

But, for me this was to be no ordinary fast. Six months in now, my fast has evolved, along with a heightened awareness of the world around me. Yes, I still indulge in a dish of ice cream sometimes; but when I do, I’m more thankful for it, and still breathe a prayer for the kids who don’t often, if ever, get ice cream. Overall though, skipping meals sometimes seems like the least I can do.

Awhile back, someone encouraged me to write a blog about fasting, but I resisted. I have always considered fasting something you do just between you and God, a personal thing. At this time however, I decided to make a public case for fasting for a particular reason. It is to ask you to join me. Even now, innocent immigrant children are still in custody. Two have recently died! And numerous distressing national and global news issues inundate us daily.

I believe in the power of prayer, and that the more people who are praying, and fasting, the more powerful the prayer will be. I know some people have health, age, and other dietary restrictions that prevent them from fasting from food; but if you can, will you please  consider adding some extra fasting to your fervent prayers?

Our world needs it so much. Thank you.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Sister Jean Kinney

      Sr. Jean Kinney

Dominican Sister of Peace Jean (Mary Mark) Kinney, OP, 89, died on December 19, 2018, at the Mohun Health Care Center of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, OH.

Sister Jean was born in Ironton, OH, in 1929, to Norma Elberfeld and Francis Kinney.  She entered religious life in 1957, serving on the staff of Elkins Park in Philadelphia, PA.

Sr. Jean received her CCD certification from Siena College in Albany, New York, in 1962. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Business Education from St. Rose College in Albany, a Master’s Certificate in Religious Education and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from LaSalle College in Philadelphia, PA, and continuing professional education credits from Central Islip Psychiatric Center.

Sr. Jean shared her love of God and the Church through her pastoral ministries in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. She served as the Coordinator of Religious Education, as a Pastoral Associate, a Pastoral Counselor, Spiritual Director at the Dominican Pastoral Counseling Center in Scotia, New York and on the Retreat Staff at the Dominican Sisters Retreat Center in Niskayuna, New York.

In her remembrance at Sr. Jean’s funeral, Sr. Carol Gaeke reminded us that Sr. Jean was a trailblazer – she was one of the first in the Congregation to make a Cursillo, to adopt new catechetical methods, to go into pastoral care, getting her certificate in CPE. But more important, she was also able to be intimate – to work one on one with those in pain to effect healing of the soul. Through hospital chaplaincy, hospice work, counseling, and spiritual direction, she helped people to see God’s love for them and to live life with peace and joy, or in her hospice work, help them to go home to God in peace.

Sr. Jean was preceded in death by her parents and her siblings, Fr. Francis Kinney, CPPS and her sisters Henrietta Hanifin and Marsha Morgan. She is survived by nieces and nephews.

A Vigil of Remembrance and Wake for Sister Jean Kinney was held on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel, Columbus, OH. The funeral liturgy was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel on Thursday, January 3, 2019.

Sr. Jean Kinney will be interred at the St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands, NY.

Memorial gifts in Sr. Jean’s memory may be sent to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr., Columbus, OH 43219 or submitted securely at oppeace.org.

To download and print a copy of this memorial, please click here. 

Posted in Obituaries