Building a Community of Peace

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Meister Eckhart once said, “if the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”  I have been praying this all during Lent as sisters, associates, and friends of the Dominican Sisters of Peace have donated socks, underwear, and money for the children seeking asylum in the U.S.  We have collected more than 1350 pairs of socks and 1500 pairs of underwear for Annunciation House.  It represents for me the spirit of the sisters and associates who want to make the world a little better…  to be a part of something bigger… to bring a little peace into the lives of others.

In his book Fear, Thich Nhat Hanh says that looking at another with compassionate eyes and with a spirit of understanding, enables the kingdom of heaven to reveal itself.  “When we are a part of a spiritual community, we have a lot of joy and resist the temptation to be overwhelmed by despair… We all need a community to keep us from sinking into the swamp of despair… We need each other in order to practice solidity, freedom, and compassion so that we can remind each other that there is always hope… In community, we produce the powerful energy of peace.”  The situations facing asylum seekers are desperate and the government response is horrific but our community effort to collect socks and underwear for children in great need has highlighted a powerful spiritual family and given me a sense of hope that we can overcome fear and misunderstanding.

As you know, there are many, many children who need this clothing because their parents are determined to escape violence and live in peace.  So, our work is not finished.  We must continue to help them by dispelling myths and challenging (in a peaceful way, of course) those who criticize their actions.  We must urge our Senators and Representatives to improve the living situations in the countries where asylum seekers are fleeing through diplomacy and aid funding. We must improve our own immigration system especially by speaking out against efforts to ban any group because of their nationality or religion and by resolving the dilemma of DACA and TPS individuals who have lived in the U.S. for much, if not most, of their lives.

I was blessed to be one of the sisters who traveled to El Paso and saw with my own eyes, the love and determination of the parents to improve the lives of their children. I am blessed again to see the generous response to this project. Thank you… thank you… thank you.

A special thanks to Gaye Reissland who painted the moving picture used on our poster.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Making Peace with it All

Blog by Sr. Jane Belanger, OP

Making Peace seems like an effort.  It appears as if we have to pull opposing forces together and try to get them to shake hands.  It assumes that opposition and even strife are inevitable.  If we want peace, we have to somehow reconcile things—daunting work. And, it is a tough world out there:  survival of the fittest; dog eat dog; loggers vs. spotted owls; clean energy vs. jobs.  Yet that is the kind of binary, either-or, winner-loser thinking that is not at all what the natural world offers us to contemplate.

When we humans use words, we have to break an experience down into little parts to explain what we mean.  When we are in the natural world, our senses experience everything as a whole: sounds and smells, tactile impressions, visions close up and distant all coming into us and we are adding our own selves to the reality.  We are not humans “on” the Earth, we are beings of the Earth.  We owe our in-breath to the plants and they accept the gift of our out-breath for their growth.  We share DNA with every living thing and our bones carry the minerals spewed by the explosions of stars.  Not at some early dawning of creation but here and now.  Whether we realize or acknowledge it, we are inextricably connected to everything.  As John Muir wrote:

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Muir wasn’t just being poetic; he was being scientific.  It is as true on a molecular level as it is on a biological level, as it is on the spiritual plane—as if those realities were somehow distinct!  One of the results of our Western philosophical heritage is that we are not holistic.  This has influenced our science, education and even our religious thinking to break everything down into its parts and examine them as if each were a distinct and un-related object unto itself.  We miss the deeper—and now scientifically measurable—truth:  it is all connected.

So air and water, soils and plants, mountains and the creatures enfolded in their vast ecosystems are a whole.  They cannot exist in isolation, nor can we exist without them.  Our souls need thunder to realize how small we are.  Our minds need to be expanded beyond our ability to comprehend to glimpse the magnitude of reality.  Our hearts need the tender unfurling of a spring blossom to taste what love wants to express.

If we want to “make peace with the Earth,” it cannot be a part-time diversion from the “real” work of “making a living.”  Besides, we do not make our living, we receive it as a precious gift.  Our living is contingent upon so many other beings.  We are called to be far more than “good stewards of Earth’s resources” as if the splendor of the Universe were somehow a bank account that we must spend wisely.  Let’s turn that thinking around to recognize the oneness of all that is. Let’s be attuned to the sacred revelation that speaks far truer and eloquently than words.  Let’s breathe in the gift of life and breathe out the thanks of our own gifted life.  Water that is sacred will not be wasted or polluted or sold.  Soils teeming with nutrient rich microscopic organisms need not be blasted with deadly chemicals.  Yes, what we do to Earth, we do to ourselves.  We need to love ourselves far better than we may have yet known how to do.  Then we will indeed be at peace—with all that is.



Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Racism – Continued

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

Last week, I attended the JCWR (Justice Conference of Women Religious) Convocation called Racism Through the Prism of Social Justice. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Patricia Chappell and Anne-Louise Nadeau led the group in a better understanding of how racism plays out in our religious communities.  Racism can touch all facets of a congregation including governance and leadership, decision making, vocations, ministries, living choices, financial resources, and formation. They encouraged us to ask how our sisters of color and young women of color discerning religious life experience us.

We learned that sisters of color often have a higher incidence of illness and die younger. Is this because of the stress they feel… the exclusion?  Do sisters of color leave because they feel forced to give up their cultures or traditions and replace them with Eurocentric ones?  Patty and Anne-Louise challenged the justice promoters present to consider how their congregations were addressing white privilege and racial oppression….to ask ourselves what gets in the way of accepting each sister as she is and to be in right relationship with women of color.

We are often hesitant to have conversations about white privilege because of the feelings of blame and guilt that they raise up in us. We want to scream “I’m not racist!” and that may be true but those of us who are white are gifted with privilege that pervades our lives. We must become aware of how privilege influences our thinking and acting.  Sr. Marcelline Koch, a Springfield Dominican and part of their Anti-racism team, shared that we must educate ourselves and others about the presence of white privilege, and learn when we need to listen more carefully to persons of color. We must have the courage to speak against racist or ignorant comments when they occur.  She stressed that we must promote inclusion and think from a position of abundance not scarcity.

We have been faithful to our study of racism over the past two years and that puts us light years ahead of many congregations. But we are only at the beginning of our journey towards truly being anti-racist. We need to explore how racism undergirds our other justice areas such as immigration, trafficking, violence, and care for creation. We need to intentionally and consistently recognize our privilege and how it has impacted our sisters and associates of color. We need to take risks to have honest dialog about this issue. It’s hard. But…

Do we really love our congregation enough to be honest, vulnerable and transparent together?

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot

Blog by Karen Martens, OPA

As a child, I didn’t think about soil except using it to make a perfect mud cake. All these years later, as a gardener and promotor of landscaping with native plants, I’ve come to realize that soil is a sacred commodity and we must continually make peace with it.  Soil is a living ecosystem, far more complex than once thought. It has been written that we owe our lives to healthy soil. Yet, it is often overlooked by the average person and, in fact, is threatened through our actions. Soil is lost 13-40 times faster than the rate of renewal and sustainability. Soil conservation on a larger scale is land conservation and it is all essential to the health of the planet.

Healthy soil has billions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes which provide nutrients for plant growth. Healthy soil filters and buffers pollutants and absorbs and holds water. Healthy soil is important for human health through its essential role in food production. Farmers must especially be mindful of keeping soil healthy through actions that prevent soil erosion, reduce tillage and prevent overgrazing. Organic matter is the most important aspect of healthy soil. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that for every 1 percent increase in organic matter in soil, U.S. farms could store the amount of water that goes over Niagara Falls in 150 days! That is amazing.

Unfortunately, soil and land are undervalued. There has been much land pollution as a result of human activities. You can probably recall examples. I mourned the loss of a field around a university that used to be home to pheasants. Now it is a large parking lot just like Joni Mitchell wrote about. Forests and wetlands have been lost through construction and agriculture. Overcrowded landfills are a result of over consumption and excessive garbage that cannot be recycled.

So how can we make peace with the soil?  Where do we fit in? Can we advocate for land conservation? Can we financially contribute to land conservation efforts? Can we conserve and wisely manage land that we own? Can we eat locally and support small farmers? Can we diversify the plants on our properties which, in turn, supports healthy soil? Can we compost and use it to enrich the soil around our homes and properties? Can we live simply by reducing our own consumption and reduce what we contribute to landfills? None of us can do all these things, but we all can do some of them.  Just doing one can help make peace with the soil provided so lovingly by our God.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog


Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Fifty innocent individuals were slaughtered at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday.  It was done by a self-professed white supremacist who wrote that he wanted to kill as many people as possible.  Why?

On the following day, I participated in a press conference at CAIR (Council on American–Islamic Relations). Each of the imams and Muslim leaders described calls and texts from children and teens in their mosques who wanted to know if it was safe to come to prayer.  They were afraid.  Why?

Later that evening I prayed Taize prayer with discerners and sisters at the Come and See Weekend in our motherhouse in Akron. As I sat in silence, it occurred to me that not one of the twenty or so women in the chapel were afraid to come to prayer. The majority of us were white and we had never experienced hatred because of our skin color or religion.  Why?

Why? Why? Why?  As Dominican sisters and associates of Peace, we must condemn the heresy of supremacy that teaches that one race, religion, or nationality is superior to another.  It is evil. It is not what the Scriptures teach. At the same time, we must also pray for conversion of heart for those ensnared by this heresy. Is this hard? You bet. It’s much easier to pray for the victims and we must do that; but, we also have to pray for conversion of hate to love.  We cannot match hate with hate.  Join me please, in prayer so that children will not be afraid to go to prayer.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog