Embracing Imperfection

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald

Yesterday we wrapped up our 2019 Mission Immersion week.  Five days of community, prayer, study and service with six women discerning their call to religious life.  They came from New Jersey, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  Each of them has a unique story of how God is calling them to something more.  Our Vocation team was honored and blessed to walk with them this week.  As we cleaned up the lake house, packed our supplies, locked the door and drove away, I was very aware of the many graces we experienced and shared over this brief time.  I’d like to share with you about the grace we all received – that of wabi-sabi.

What is wabi-sabi?  In traditional Japanese aesthetics, it is a stance centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.  Sister Anne Lythgoe, a potter, who led us in a time of prayer, reflection, and active creativity with clay, introduced us to this concept.  Each of us received a ball of soft clay to prayerfully create a pinch pot.   She encouraged us to center ourselves in God and allow God to work with us as we molded the clay.  In silence, we sat on lawn chairs in her back yard.  The breeze stirred the trees and we were surrounded by the sounds of wildlife as we prayed.  Anne encouraged us to accept whatever imperfections we found in the clay – to incorporate them into the whole and to reflect on what God might be saying to us through them.

This wabi-sabi was not easy for some – yet led to some profound reflections by the participants and vocation directors.

After praying with and molding our clay we regathered in the community room at the Sabbath House to share about the process we experienced and what we created.  It was a rich sharing of faith, trust, and a gentle embracing of our own imperfections.  One of the women created a pot in the shape of a heart – an open receptive vessel.  The heart, she said, was a symbol of her own heart being invited to accept God’s graces and healing and then to pour out those graces to others in her daily interactions.  Another discerner intentionally made a dent in the edge of the rim of her pot, symbolizing her brokenness and incompleteness.  As we shared, we felt God’s gentle presence with us, bonding us through this experience and our common journey of growing in relationship with God.  We all received the grace of wabi-sabi and grew in a Spirituality of Imperfection.

Ultimately, vocational discernment is a process that is different for each person.  It is not something we do perfectly – sometimes we need to step out in faith, trusting that the next right step is enough for now.  Then we take the next and the next.  We are imperfect beings and when we can accept and embrace the beauty found within our own imperfections, it is then that God can illumine our path and the light of Christ can shine through the cracks in our armor.

How is God inviting you to embrace your imperfections?  How will you practice wabi-sabi today?

God Calling??  Contact us here to being the conversation.

Posted in God Calling??, News

FROM COLLECTIVES TO ECOSYSTEMS—LOCAL ECOLOGY

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

“I am grateful for the opportunity to share these reflections with you each month and have already learned something quite valuable:  The order of science and then reflection was daunting and made the blog too long.  This month the blog starts with the reflection and at the end simply has a link to the science information.  I hope this makes it more engaging!” -Sr. Pat Connick

GUIDED MEDITATION

(This guided meditation invites you to create an image of an ecosystem in your mind and heart.   You may wish to have someone read it to you, or record it so you can listen without reading it at the same time.)

Picture a stage from the most marvelous theatre you’ve ever visited, on which a great performance will be held continuously.  Imagine on this stage, a place in nature you have visited, that has made already a deep impression on you.  A place perhaps from your childhood; a place in which you’ve spent precious moments with a good friend, partner, or spouse; or a place you like to escape to find peace and harmony.

Note it has boundaries, yes, but also points of entry to and exit from the stage.  Also, take notice that it contains not only props and sets, non-living members of the stage which set the scene and provide context, but also characters, living members who move among the props and sets.

Now place yourself on the stage:

  • Feel the earth under your feet.
  • If there is water, listen to its gentle motion and/or watch its great serenity.
  • Enjoy the air you breathe in and the exhale that follows.
  • Experience the breeze if there is one, or rain if you would enjoy that.

Soak in the green of nature: the grass, the plants and the trees with their leaves.  These are the part of the ecosystem capable of connecting and embracing energy from our sun by the process of photosynthesis to make oxygen and food for the rest of the ecosystem.  Note their beautiful variation in green color and the ones whose fruit perhaps you might enjoy when it are ready.  My favorite are black raspberries associated with childhood memories of picking them during August in Ohio.

Perhaps there are animals, maybe even human beings, who rely on the green things of nature or other animals for their food.  Is there peacefulness about the acquisition of food or competition for it?  Both are natural. Notice that life is sustained by how each animal not only accepts the gift of life in the community, but how each brings a gift to the ecosystem as well.  Take note of this pattern in as many animals as you wish before moving on.

Yes, among the creatures are many interactions.  Some benefit both parties; some benefit even if the other is unaffected.  And in some cases, one benefits and the other suffers or even dies!  Each is part of the rhythm of life in the ecosystem, the stage of life.  Take a good, long look all around your ecosystem, noticing its patterns of life.  How would you describe its story?

But, where do all the used up and deceased things go? Thank God for the effects of macro- and micro-organisms that feed on what we would consider “gross” or unattractive, because one would not long want to ponder the effect of their absence on the place!

There is a beautiful story unfolding on the stage, one filled with peace and harmony, yes…and one where interdependence is the key to its vibrancy.   The system has a point of balance, and when stress is present, and it always will be, this tests the ability of the system to return to the previous balance or to find a new one.  Yet, an ecosystem that has been stretched by stress to build its resilience may be more robust that one that has never experienced stress in the first place!

Now say good-bye to the ecosystem.  In your imagination, when you have seen the curtain come down on the stage, did it signal only the end of its story to you today, or was it the ecosystem’s end itself?

It does raise the possibility that ecosystems have a finite lifetime as do the organisms of which it is comprised. If it did end, my questions to you are these:

  • Did the end arise out of a natural disturbance as part of a wider sense of nature itself such as through a forest fire, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or tsunami, a tornado or hurricane, an ice storm or heat wave?
  • Or was the end because of choices made by a singular species (humanity) because of our urban or farming developments; air, water or land pollution; the clear-cutting of forests; or the removal of mountaintops to mine minerals for ourselves?

If it is the latter, I raise the same question as our Dominican brother Montesino about the abuse of the native peoples of the Americas in the early 16th century by their Spanish conquerors, “¿con que derecho y con que justicia?” (By what right and by what justice is this done?)

Bless the Lord, all you ecosystems,
All you producers, bless the Lord,
All you consumers, bless the Lord,
All you who decompose, bless the Lord
Praise and exult God forever!

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

  • Do I periodically reflect upon the rhythm of life in my ecosystem?
  • What gifts from my ecosystem support my life? What gifts do I bring to my ecosystem?
  • Did you notice that except for human beings each animal takes only what it needs to survive and thrive? How does this make you feel?
  • When stressed, how do I return to a point of balance, or find a new one in my life?

Please click here for the science behind this blog.

 

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Justice Updates – Tuesday, June 4, 2019

WEAR ORANGE Day. This Friday, June 7. Help make people aware of gun safety legislation. Everyday over 100 people in America are killed by guns with 2/3 of them being suicide. Everytown for Gun Safety Research  provides more information on this national disgrace and epidemic.

Tomorrow (June 5) is World Environment Day. It invites us to set aside our differences in pursuit of the health of the natural world.  We must protect nature for it is God’s revelation and for our future generations. Many general practices today threaten the future integrity of animals, plants, and natural systems.  Take time and watch this 3 minute video of a contemporary view of the Beatitudes inspired by Laudato Si’ produced by Catholic Climate Covenant.

Take Action. Call TODAY.   Ask your representatives and ask them to pass H.R.6, the American Dream and Promise Act to protect Dreamers, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) holders.  Dreamers and TPS recipient were thrown into legal limbo when the current administration canceled their temporary protections.  If passed into law, H.R. 6 would provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying Dreamers TPS and DED holders living in the U.S.   Here is some selected language that you can use during your call but make sure to use your own words.

Dear Representative:

As a person of faith, I believe in protecting the God-given dignity of every human being. As your constituent, I urge you to vote in favor of passing H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, as currently written, and to reject any amendments which would curtail the bill’s critical protections.

Dreamers, TPS and DED holders are our neighbors and an important part of our community. They have prayed with us in houses of worship, contributed to the U.S. economy, attended schools and colleges, and served in our military.

Thank you for your important work in Congress on my behalf and for promoting the human dignity of immigrants and refugees.

For more information about H.R.6, the National Immigration Law Center explains the bill in more detail.

Great news!  New Hampshire has abolished the death penalty.

Bad news.  Alabama carried out the 1499 execution since 1977, executing Christopher Price. Read about how poverty contributed to his execution.

Why isn’t our Senate doing anything?  The House of Representatives have passed the following legislation but Mitch McConnell won’t introduce it in the Senate. Call your Senators and ask them why nothing is happening.

  • Global Fragility Act
  • Equality Act
  • Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019
  • American Dream and Promise Act of 2019
  • Climate Action Now
  • Voting Rights Advancement Act
  • Keep Families Together
  • No Ban Act

 

“With this in mind, we frame our policy on immigration. Human beings do not leave their villages for pleasure but out of necessity. That’s why, from the beginning of my government, I proposed opting for cooperation in development and aid for the Central American countries with productive investments to create jobs and resolve this painful situation.” This quote from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico to the administration’ threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods.  Read the entire letter in Spanish here.

Here’s the English Translation:

Mexico City, May 30, 2019

President Donald Trump,

I am aware of your latest position in regard to Mexico. In advance, I express to you that I don’t want confrontation. The peoples and nations that we represent deserve that we resort to dialogue and act with prudence and responsibility, in the face of any conflict in our relations, serious as it may be.

The greatest President of Mexico, Benito Juárez, maintained excellent relations with the Republican hero, Abraham Lincoln. Later, when Mexico nationalized its oil resources and industry, Democratic President Franklin D, Roosevelt understood the profound reasons that led our patriotic President Lázaro Cárdenas to act in favor of our sovereignty. By the way, President Roosevelt was a titan of freedom who proclaimed the four fundamental rights of man: the right to freedom of speech; the right to freedom of religion; the right to live free from fear; and the right to live free from misery.

With this in mind, we frame our policy on immigration. Human beings do not leave their villages for pleasure but out of necessity. That’s why, from the beginning of my government, I proposed opting for cooperation in development and aid for the Central American countries with productive investments to create jobs and resolve this painful situation.

You also know that we are fulfilling our responsibility to prevent, as much as possible and without violating human rights, any passage of the persons concerned through our country. It is worth remembering that – in a short time, Mexicans will not need to go to the United States and that migration will be optional, not forced. This is because we are fighting, like never before, the main problem in Mexico, corruption. And, in this way, our country will attain a powerful social dimension. Our countrymen will be able to work and be happy where they were born, where their families, their customs and their cultures are.

President Trump, social problems are not resolved by tariffs or coercive measures like turning a neighboring country overnight into a ghetto, an enclosed place for the migrants of the world, where they’re stigmatized, abused, persecuted, and excluded and the right to justice is denied to those who seek to work and to live free from want. The Statue of Liberty is not an empty symbol.

With all due respect, although you have the sovereign right to say it, the slogan “United States First” is a fallacy because universal justice and fraternity will prevail until the end of time, even over national borders.

Specifically, citizen President, I propose to deepen our dialogue, and seek alternatives to the immigration problem. And, please remember that I do not lack courage, that I am not cowardly or timorous, but that I act on principles. I believe that politics was invented to avoid confrontation and war, among other things.  I do not believe in the Law of Talon, in a ‘tooth for a tooth’ or an ‘eye for an eye’ because, if we practiced it, we would all be toothless and one-eyed. I believe that as statesmen and even more so as patriots, we are obliged to seek peaceful solutions to controversies and to practice the beautiful ideal of non-violence, forever.

Finally, I suggest that you instruct your officials, if it doesn’t cause any inconvenience. that they attend to representatives of our government, headed by the Secretary of Foreign Relations, who will be in Washington tomorrow to reach an agreement for the benefit of our two nations.

Nothing by force. Everything by reason and human rights.

Your friend,

Andrés Manuel López Obrador

President of México

 

 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

Poverty and the Death Penalty

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Why are the majority of prisoners on death row people of color? In fact, 58% of them are including 42% who are black. According to the Catholic Mobilizing Network, a national organization lobbying to abolish the death penalty, the reason is poverty. Poverty is a primary factor in determining who is executed and the poverty is persistent problem for many people of color.

The impacts of poverty can start early with children of color.  It begins with lack of access to educational resources needed to succeed. Children of color are rarely taught by teachers who look like them.  They don’t see materials featuring them. Many have learning disabilities and histories of abuse or neglect. These factors can lead to higher incidences of suspension due to misbehavior. In fact, black children are three times more likely to be suspended as white children.

The school to prison pipeline is well documented. Children, mostly male, are moved out of schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  Suspension leads to crime that leads to prison.  For young men, who are not respected in society or school and who see no future, crime might be the only option open to maintaining self-respect. According to the ACLU, “students suspended or expelled for a discretionary violation are nearly three times more likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year.”

When people in poverty commit crimes that could receive the death penalty, they often cannot afford legal counsel that could build a sufficient case to freedom or ensure life without parole.  They often suffer from mental illness or addiction and have experienced more childhood abuse or trauma. And of course, experienced racial discrimination as described in the school to prison pipeline.

As Catholics, we are encouraged to have a preferential option for the poor. Jesus did. It’s one of the Social Justice teachings of the church.  We are compelled by our faith to work to tear down those unjust social constructs that contribute to the high number of poor especially people of color in prisons and on death row.  We need to provide programs to build the self-esteem of young men. We need to improve schools and implement restorative justice practices that will keep children in school.  And we need to abolish a death penalty that primarily punishes the poor.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Dominican Sister of Peace Camilla Smith

Sr. Camilla Smith, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace Camilla (Leonita) Smith, 98, died at Mohun Health Care Center on May 6, 2019.  Born in Akron, OH, in 1921, her mother Frances Gossman and father Daniel Smith raised her in Somerset, OH – the cradle of Dominican life in Ohio. Inspired by the Sisters who taught at her schools, she entered religious life in 1939 and took her final vows in 1944.

Sr. Camilla earned a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics from Ohio Dominican University and a Master of Science and Doctorate degrees in Home Economics from Ohio State University.

She saw a strong relationship between Catholic philosophy and the teaching of Home Economics, believing that a solid grounding in the discipline would help students to “learn how to manage well their personal and family resources… as stepping stones to sanctity.”

Sr. Camilla taught Home Economics and French at grade schools and high schools across Ohio before returning to Ohio Dominican University as the Chair of the Department of Home Economics, Dean of Residence, and Manager of the University’s Hamilton  Hall Dining Room.

As superior at Mohun Hall, the Congregation’s health care facility for consecrated religious in Columbus, OH, Sr. Camilla combined her management skills and her loving nature to help create a place of care and compassion for her Sisters.

Having earned her Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Providence College in 1981, Sr. Camilla was well prepared to move into her next ministry as the Director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Grove City, OH. She was also active in the ecumenical Cum Christo retreat movement.

In 1992, as a response to the Congregation’s commitment to honor creation, Sr. Camilla joined with Sisters Loretta Forquer and Jane Belanger to found Shepherd’s Corner, an ecological ministry located on Congregation-owned land in Blacklick, OH. Sr. Camilla considered this ministry the most rewarding of her religious life, saying “offers the land as a pulpit for preaching, and reflects God’s presence everywhere.”

In her homily for Camilla, Sr. Jane Belanger referred to Sr. Camilla’s chosen reading from the book of Revelations, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race,” when talking about Sr. Camilla’s many ministries. “With her family, in the college dorm, with the residents of Mohun, with parishioners in Grove City, with the Associates, with all of Creation at Shepherd’s Corner,” Sr. Jane said, “Camilla made a point to provide a home for folks wherever she was.”

After she was no longer able to serve at Shepherd’s Corner, Sr. Camilla returned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help to as a volunteer before entering a ministry of prayer and presence at the Columbus Motherhouse and later, Mohun Healthcare Canter.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Daniel and Frances Gossman Smith, her sisters, Marie Smith, Eleanor Schmeltzer, Rose Marie Paumier, Agnes Hupp, Mildred Hassser and her brothers, Philip and Daniel. She is survived by her sister Mary Frances Pitstick, her brother, Harry Smith, nieces and nephews.

A Vigil of Remembrance Service was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse Chapel, Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, May 16, 2019. The funeral liturgy was held at the Dominican Sisters of Peace  Motherhouse Chapel on Friday, May 17, followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery.

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

For a printable PDF of this memorial, please click here.

Posted in Obituaries