My Kind of Town

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

A friend of mine called the other day to make arrangements to get together. She told me to meet her on the corner of Nuns and Religious. Any place besides New Orleans and I would have thought she was just joking around. But, sure enough, down here such streets exist along with Ursulines and Dominican.

To the Northerner, New Orleans is another country, seductive and disorienting. To the Southerner is part of the family; a little eccentric; French and very Roman Catholic even in the midst of a very Anglo-Saxon culture.

New Orleans is celebrating its tri-centennial this year, and the connections this city has with all things Catholic are legion. Beginning with the arrival of the Jesuits in 1725, Ursulines in 1727, the Daughters of Charity in 1820, the Dominicans in 1860 (and many others) and continuing to the present with the many religious orders that joined in the recovery efforts after Katrina, the city has maintained a Catholic culture that might be hard to find in a lot of places. The people living in the neighborhood around the Peace Center are always telling us stories about the Sisters who used to live in the area and visit with them before Katrina.

Many saints and blesseds have ministered to the people here: St. Frances Cabrini, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Blessed Henriette Delille. They have left schools and medical facilities in their wake that continue efforts to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Xavier University is a Catholic all Black institution of higher learning founded by Saint Katherine Drexel, and the Peace Center has the honor of working with many students from there who volunteer in our After School program.

Even Mardi Gras has tried to honor the role of the Catholics in this town. In 2017, in honor of their 175th Anniversary, the Sisters of the Holy Family had their own float in one parade. In 2018, in honor of the tri-centennial, the Krewe of Rex provided floats decorated with figures of Blessed Henriette, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the Ursuline Sisters and St. Louis Cathedral.

In his reflection during our celebration of Consecrated Life in the Archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond shared that recently someone had said to him that religious women were a total part of the history of this city. He responded no; they had actually written the history of this city.

Is this a super holy city? Nope. Is it a city filled with evil? Nope. But it is filled with folks who have been helped by Sisters, Brothers, Nuns and Priests for 300 years and more. God is good! All the time!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Joining the Dance for the First Time

Blog by Public Relations Specialist Dee Holleran, who spent more time taking video than dancing at the Assembly.

As a “newer” member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace Communications staff and a relatively new convert to Catholicism (I entered the Church in 2010), I was asked more than a few questions about my reaction to last weekend’s Assembly.

The word that most describes my feelings after my first Dominican Sisters of Peace Assembly is not “different,” or “refreshing,” or even “spirited.” From the view of my own religious and life background, the word I would apply to the ceremonies and the discussions would be “inclusive.”

A little background – I grew up Pentecostal in rural West Virginia. Dancing in the spirit, delivering prophecy, speaking in tongues – these “charismatic” events were a regular part of our worship service. Seeing people dance as part of a Church service is rare for me now, but not unknown in my faith history.

Scripture study, however, was often less study and more memorization (my dad was a champion at “Bible Baseball,” where the leader read the beginning of a scriptural passage and the players complete the verse), without much analysis and application to the problems of everyday society.  The book of Revelations was a study focus at least once a year, and I grew up terrified of being left behind in the rapture we expected at any time.

I often compare the faith of my youth to the faith that I chose as a woman in my forties. And I find comparing those two faiths very much like comparing our recent Assembly to a Pentecostal tent service.

The application of Scripture within the two events is vastly different.  In a standard tent meeting, Scripture was literally quoted chapter and verse, stated as black and white regulations to be followed in fear of a vengeful God.

As a Catholic, and most notably, through the eyes and minds of our Sisters, I have learned to view Scripture more like the law in the hands of a well-educated and thoughtful jurist – a jurist who views everything through the lens of Christ’s love. Our discussion Friday, where Sisters and Associates of different races, cultures and even sexual identities, were given equal weight in a discussion of multicultural living, was eye-opening and, to me, the definition of loving inclusion.

The thoughtful application of current events to our charism presented in the opening ceremony moved my heart. We acknowledged to God that our world is broken – we looked to the Saints for ways to repair it – and we pledged to each other to make that happen. It was sad and hopeful, all at the same time.

And the dancing! Oh the dancing! As I said earlier, dancing in the spirit was a relatively common sight for me growing up, but it was completely different than what I experienced as part of our Assembly. In addition, to me, the dancing was a metaphor for the openness that was evident throughout those four days.

In the past, when I have watched a fellow worshipper dance in the spirit, it was a joyful but very personal experience, as though God were speaking to just one person and the rest of us were to observe. But as a participant in our Assembly, it seemed to me that dance was performed as a glorious gift to God, planned in such a way that, like so many other parts of Mass, everyone could take part in the offering of joy.

As Ana and Margaret danced into their profession ceremony, I watched Margaret’s brother dance on the edge of the aisle, offering his happiness to the occasion.

Sisters, associates, family and clergy twirled scarves and napkins to celebrate our new Sisters – and Ana’s brother literally boogied through the procession with his flowing banner. Others followed behind, maybe clapping, maybe just walking, but all with a look of joy and thanksgiving.

For every offering made – preaching, teaching, Eucharist – everyone was given the opportunity to participate in her or his own way. Whether we danced in the aisles, swayed in our chairs, clapped our hands or simply smiled, we were all part of the dance. And I was happy to be one of the dancers.



Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

It is Silence that Kills

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

We’ve been listening to the prophets these past weeks, passages registering God’s passion and pathos— anger, frustration, longing and love for a people who keep falling, repenting and falling again.

Amos spoke scathing words, laying bare the avarice, cheating, exploitation of the poor. And he said words that have stayed with me, describing God’s sending upon the land “a famine of hearing the Word of God.”

Two weeks ago, in an opinion piece in the Sunday Times a pediatrician described the failings of the water system in Flint and the denials of serious corrosion by officials, and the massive exposure of young children to lead poisoning and lifetime damage. In his concluding paragraph he wrote, “One of the lessons of Flint is that science and public health won’t save us….being awake is not enough. We have to be loud.”

Two sentences that have everything to do with us Dominicans of Peace, as we enter into this Assembly titled “Lift Every Voice.”

There is a famine in our land, and that famine is starving people of God’s Truth and Self-giving Love.

And the famine is vast, and has many faces. For some, a famine of hearing the truth, a famine of hearing the Word of love for others, a famine of hope, a famine of peace. We are called to speak, especially for the sake of the ones whose voices are not heard, and to bring the light of Truth into the corresponding glut of misused power and wealth, willful deafness and blindness, of greed, and hubris.

How shall we preach the Gospel? How shall we speak Truth with Love to both oppressers and oppressed. How shall we plead for the earth, its community of life in danger of ruin and extinction? How will we listen to and speak for the hungry, the weeping, the unjustly treated, the despairing?

Remember our Brother Dominic, not given to thundering condemnations, but rather, singing loudly as he traveled the road and pleading loudly in his nights of prayer–not pronouncing wrath and judgment, but listening and conversing, considering and persuading. We call him Preacher of Grace.

We have pledged ourselves to the preaching of the Gospel. We see, we hear, we are awake and aware. We are responsive and responsible.

And now is the moment to speak: because it is not enough to be aware, and it is not Dominican to hoard the Good News in a world of famine. We must also live loudly, educating and advocating, praising and blessing and preaching. Grace abounds. But how shall they hear if there is no one to preach to them?

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

The Imprint of a Christian

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

What is it about kids and a plate glass window? No matter how many times we wipe off their fingerprints, lip smacks and breath marks, they just keep coming back for more. They want to leave an imprint somehow so that we know they have been there.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and lights for the world. As Christians, we need to leave an imprint, too. People need to know that we have been here, too.

Christians cannot stand by while children are being separated from their parents and are herded into detention camps because it is alleged that those parents are coming into this country illegally. News reports show us that the centers are clean; the children have clean clothes and food; they have bathrooms and people to watch out for them. How bad can it be? Except that now suddenly there are “tent” cities being erected by our Department of Health and Human Services and costing millions of dollars, that should help, right?

Please pay attention to the news reports and requests for getting in touch with our elected officials. The City Council of New Orleans has filed a joint resolution stating its conviction that the actions being taken are inhumane and even un-American. You know everyone won’t agree with them, but they are leaving their imprint.

This is only one issue where Christians can make an imprint, can be salt and light. The country we live in as Christians needs more salt and lots more light. There are way too many plate glass windows waiting for the imprint of some valiant Christians.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Belonging Even If It Only Lasts a Week

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

If you asked me how I spent my summer vacation, I would talk about it for an hour nonstop. But I’m sure you could use that hour on something else.

As most of you know I have been an aspiring potter for over 20 years and have gained a certain expertise and quality to my work. In order to learn more technique and have the chance to talk to other potters, I spent a week at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.  It is an exceptionally good school and students come from all over the USA to attend.

To say I learned a lot would be an understatement, I think, and I hope the experience will change the direction of my work, the look and feel of what I make.  Stay tuned.

But just as important, perhaps more importantly, I came away with a deeper appreciation for the nature of community and a sense of belonging to something larger than myself, larger than my own work. Spending a week with other potters and other art makers expanded my sense of forming community, even for a short time to explore a common language and passion for making art. Folks there knew what I meant when I said that I fire in a cone 6 oxidation and that I wanted to learn how to dart and alter my work.  They got it, and I got them when they talked about underglazes, clay’s joys, its frustrations, risks, and rewards.

The point is that we all belong to something, someone, and someplace. Belonging is a complex but basic human need and desire. Belonging to someone or something gives us a place in the world. Belonging is a desire to be one with another, to bond, to bear one another’s burdens and share each other’s joys. It is shared meaning, shared language, and shared hope. It is crossing a boundary and finding a home.

Belonging is a fundamental human need and emotion, and in our present climate, belonging needs to extend to everyone, especially those who are different from ourselves. Belonging invites welcome, it is founded on acceptance. Belonging is rooted in the Gospel invitation of Jesus to make our home in Him. When we celebrate this gift, this invitation to make our home in God, then everyone belongs.

During the weeklong class the instructor, Kristen Kieffer, was a superb teacher eager to share her knowledge and experience. The other students, all accomplished in one form or another shared their experiences and yes, their failures. I found two friends Kelly and Carol, who shared the table with me for meals and we laughed about eating too much dessert and the sometimes quirky and unpredictable nature of clay.

The workshop ended with a show and tell of our own work that gave everyone an appreciation of each other’s way with clay. When I left Arrowmont, I felt like I belonged, not just for a week’s vacation/workshop, but to a beautiful community of art makers who readily shared what they have and who readily receive what I have to offer. Even if just for a week, potters form a community where everyone belongs. Differences are celebrated, failures are acknowledged and beauty feeds the soul.

Could it be that art will heal the world? Yes, I think so, at least a part of it.

Posted in Wednesday's Word