Don’t Ask “What if?” Take Action!

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver) (I checked the poem … this is correct.)

What’s your answer?  Stop and think about it for a minute….

This is not an easy question to answer.  But by reflecting on this question, really reflecting on it and answering it, you can set out on the path God is calling you to take.

When I was ten years old, I saw my older cousin, who was in her thirties, parking her bicycle. I wondered, “What will it be like for me when I am her age? How would I feel, knowing I’ve lived 1/3 or ½ half of my life?” I didn’t want to waste my time wondering, I wanted to KNOW how to live my best life.  That was a significant concern for me through my 20s and 30s.

To be honest, my life seemed gentle and blessed. I was surrounded by love, care, and protection from family and friends. However, in some ways, I still felt the yearning to really know and embrace what I should plan for my “one wild precious life.”

As a busy student, I did not have much time to discern what God might be calling me to.   Yet, this sense of being called kept showing up inside me, sometimes loudly and sometimes like a whisper. At the same time, I had a growing sense of God’s love for me, which drew me into the heart of God and invited me to devote my whole life to God. I was not sure what to do and with each year, I became more anxious to know the plan for my life.

I began to have many questions – and they all started with the words “what if.” What if the call was not really from God, but from my own imagination? If it is from God, what if I am not qualified for this call? What if I fail to follow that call all of my life? What if I follow this call? Will I be able to pursue my career in medicine? The more “what if’s,” the more uncertainties I saw in front of me.  These uncertainties just made me more restless and uncertain.

Later, I realized that if I didn’t take action, I would never answer my many “what if” questions. I had to enter into discernment with my whole being in order to find the answers to these questions. A very wise sister encouraged me, saying, “If you don’t start, it will never happen.”  So, I began contacting religious congregations and being more intentional in my spiritual life. Having realized that I had wasted a lot of time with my “what if” questions, I had to start moving forward.

Serious discernment requires attentiveness, openness, searching, reflection, and letting go. But it is all worth it.  In the discernment process, with the help of wise mentors, I got to know myself more fully, to understand and meet God from different angles, and to learn how we discern and help meet the needs of our time. It helped me to finally begin to see how I was being called to live my “one wild and precious life.” It all began to make sense. I could, with peace, give all of my questions to God, and to trust in God’s plan.

If you are searching for what to “with your one wild and precious life,” the Dominican Sisters of Peace has many discernment programs to help your search. We also have a Come and See discernment retreat September 23-25 that you can attend either in person or via Zoom.  Click here to learn more about it and to register.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

The Goodness of Love, Land, and Labor

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

God speaks to us in many ways. Sometimes, God speaks to us through an e-mail. Recently, this quote from Van Jones popped up in my email and captured my attention: “Everything that is good in the world comes from love, land, and labor.”

Let’s explore each one of these truths.  First, love is that universal power that can uplift, heal, and empower us to become our best selves. To appreciate the necessity of love, we need only consider what the absence or loss of love feels like. To feel unloved, abandoned, or rejected is a painful experience. When love is withdrawn or never received, a person’s life can be shrouded in difficulty.  But, when love is patiently and unconditionally given, it has the power to bring good into a person’s life. Love is an essential ingredient to our well-being and to our growth as individuals and as a society.  Without love, we wither and flounder, but with love, we have the fuel to do good in this world.

The second truth, the goodness of the land, is highlighted in the creation stories in the book of Genesis, where God delights in everything created as being “very good.” It is from the land that so many life-sustaining goods are produced to nourish our bodies. The land holds such beauty and magnificence to treasure.  Our Mother Earth blesses us with fauna and flora, rivers and mountains, plants and wildlife, and so much more.  The land is not ours for the keeping, but ours to steward, share and preserve. For too many, the land has been and is a commodity for power and abuse, dividing nations and peoples, inflicting unnecessary pain and poverty. The land, however, is sacred, as Native Americans believe and it connects them with the Great Spirit, whom we call God.

The song, Finlandia, speaks to me of the sacredness of the land and how I believe God wants us to embrace the land given to us during our time on this Earth.  Click here for these powerful, poignant lyrics that can be our prayer too. Lastly, let me note that the truth of the goodness of the land is seen as an important value by the Dominican Sisters of Peace and is one of the direction statements guiding the congregation’s mission and ministry, which states that “love impels us to treasure and reverence Earth.”

The third truth, the goodness of labor, is important not only in providing economic stability for individuals and families but also in giving our lives’ meaning and purpose.  Having something to do helps us feel that we have worth and can contribute something of value to others. When we feel useful, our self-esteem increases and we feel empowered to share our gifts with others and in doing so, hopefully we enhance their lives. Work, thus, can build bridges between people and can serve to improve the life of a community.

As Pope Francis noted in a homily on the vocation of work, “Work makes the human person similar to God, because with work man is a creator, capable of creating, of creating many things.” He asserts in this same homily that our first vocation is to work and that work gives us dignity.  Without work, we lose our purpose in life and suffer a restless existence to find our life’s calling.

What is the truth you hold about the goodness of love, land, and labor?  What message might God be communicating to you about these three truths?  Take some time to reflect and journal on how these truths show up in your life.  Think about how God is calling you to see the goodness of love, land, and labor in your life. Perhaps you are being called to community living as a religious sister to bring meaning to these truths in the lives of others.  Contact us to start a conversation or better yet, join us for our next Come and See Discernment Retreat, September 23 – 25, 2022 in Akron, Ohio or via Zoom.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

“With God, All Things are Possible”

Blog by Sr. Connie Schoen

A little more than 5 years ago I moved from Louisville, KY, to the Chicago-area to assume a new ministry.  I lived in Chicago for almost 10 years before going to Louisville and I was excited about engaging the life of the city once again.  Shortly after my return, I came face to face with the reality that everyone experiences in due time – nothing stays the same; change is constant. Memories from the past encouraged me to receive, accept and welcome this new opportunity to see with new eyes and awaken to a deeper understanding of life patiently waiting to unfold before me.

We all know that the gift of transformation most often comes when we least expect it.  Most often we do not know the what, when or where. It comes in a Spirit driven moment when we simply show up willing to receive.

I had the blessed fortune to be introduced to a group of women religious (coming from diverse and assorted congregations) that committed themselves to gather on the last Saturday of each month to remember and pray for persons who died from gun violence that month.  The monthly Chicago Homicide Vigil takes place at the location of one of the shootings. Family and neighbors are invited to be present.

I was not prepared for what I received from being present at my first vigil and the many following:  to look into the eyes of the mother of her young son who was killed; to silently stand in the presence of the heartbroken grandmother who grieves the violent death of a third grandchild; to cry with the young man saying goodbye to his brother.  In the midst of deep tragedy and suffering, I found and experienced a depth of compassion, mercy, respect, love, honor, kindness, goodness, communion, and community I had never touched before. The Kingdom of God is made manifest in the love that flows abundantly in troubled times.

I leave each vigil overwhelmed with gratitude and hope that one day the news reports will boldly speak and name the acts of goodness that permeate the fabric of our lives bringing healing and hope. May we never forget, “with God, all things are possible.”

_________

As Dominican Sisters of Peace: Sisters and Associates, we reflect upon and adopt “Direction Statements” that guide us as we live into right relationship with others, and all of creation.  One of our statements reads, “Love impels us to Prophetic Preaching of the Gospel message by: Partnering with others to confront injustice wherever it exists.”  Sr. Connie embraces this direction statement as she joins with others to pray in vigil for those who died from gun violence.  She and others confront injustice and stand in solidarity with those affected by the epidemic of gun violence.

If you’ve ever felt a call to make a difference in the world by standing with other like-minded women in striving for justice, we encourage you to explore religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace.  You can contact one of our vocation ministers for a conversation, or attend our next Come and See Discernment Retreat, September 23 – 25, 2022 in Akron, Ohio or via Zoom.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Speed Limits & The Discernment Process

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

Sometimes when we are driving on the highway, we may see the speed limit at 70, then 65, or it may go down to 55 and then go up again to 70 or even 75.  We try to pay attention to the speed limit and adjust our push on the pedal accordingly. We trust the traffic control engineers who set these speeds, believing that the limit specified helps us drive safely.

The discernment process can be similar to what we experience with speed limits on the highway. Sometimes, discernment can be at a fast pace, but sometimes, discernment suddenly moves to a slower pace, requiring patience and attention. When the pace increases, we may have to push the pedal a little stronger to catch up to the new speed, exerting more effort to get to our destination.  Other times, we may feel like we are crawling at such a slow pace that we may never reach where we want to be.

Whatever the pace, we need to keep our eyes on the road, adjusting our vision to follow wherever the path leads or takes us. Sometimes we will encounter curves along the way and be forced to maneuver around unforeseen happenings. In these cases, it is important to be patient, flexible, and focused, and not be distracted from where we are being called and how we are being asked to follow God’s call.

During the discernment process, we may also experience various degrees of intensity. Sometimes, the call can be very strong, and sometimes, the call can be less intense, but still needs attention. No matter what the degree of intensity we experience when we know God is calling us, one thing is certain, God often shows us signs. We will see the signs if we are attentive to how God speaks to us.

We also need to remember that God is in the driver’s seat and just as we trust the traffic control engineer in setting appropriate speed limits, we need to trust that God’s hand is on the steering wheel directing our path.

Discerning God’s call requires attention, trust, action, patience, flexibility, and effort. You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain as you engage in the discernment process. But, remember you are not alone in this process. God is always with you and there are many Saints and sisters who have responded to God’s call who you can ask for help on the journey

We’re here to guide and companion you in your discernment process.  We invite you to visit our vocation website, contact us, or register for our hybrid Come and See Discernment retreat on September 23-25 in Akron, OH.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog

Marian Days- Cultural Immersion and Vocation Outreach

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen, OP

Last week, August 3-7, six of us—Sisters Ana Gonzalez, June Fitzgerald, Mai-Dung Nguyen, Patricia Connick, Phuong Vu, and Tram Bui—packed a van and a car full of vocation materials then headed to Carthage, Missouri for the 43rd Vietnamese Marian Days Festival. This event began in 1977, when Vietnamese people gathered here to honor Our Lady and to thank her for help in reaching freedom. It has also been and continues to be a time for the Vietnamese faithful to be immersed in their culture and prayers, to attend workshops, prayer services and Mass in Vietnamese. For us, this event is a great opportunity to be present to these Vietnamese Catholics, to promote vocations to religious life, and to have an experience of cultural immersion. This event also helps us see how people from different ethnic groups live out their faith. Even though some of us did not know Vietnamese, we ate Vietnamese food, praised God and gave thanks to our Mother with one heart of faith and love. It was a very enriching experience.

Our Kentucky community has participated in this event since the 1990s with a vocation booth. When we became Dominican Sisters of Peace, we continued the tradition to attend every other year. This year, even though we were soaked with sweat under the extremely hot weather, six of us took turns to be at the booth and interact with people, to listen and share stories, and to pray with them. Sr. Ana Gonzalez was also one of the panelists for the youth session. Each day, we participated in a solemn Mass and procession with all in attendance.

At our vocation booth, we gave out tote bags, backpacks, and fans, all free of charge.  We also gave away Be Peace silicon bracelets, peace rosary bracelets, missionary rosaries, Be Peace pins, and many other vocation prayer cards and promotional materials. All of these items were imprinted with the words “Be Peace,” reminding people that each of us has a responsibility to “be, build, live and preach” peace.

We also had Pope Francis with us (as a standup cardboard poster), wearing a traditional Vietnamese hat called “nón lá.” Our Pope became a drawing card for many people who stopped to have their picture taken with him.  Sr. Ana served as our official photographer.  Before taking a picture, she would say, “We are the Dominican Sisters of Peace, so I would like to invite all of you to say PEACE (not CHEESE) when I take the picture.” They all happily said PEACE with beautiful smiles.

During this weekend, we interacted with thousands of people from many places, including the young, old, women and men, different ethnic groups, religious sisters, brothers, and priests from various congregations and dioceses. We were also happy to connect with sisters, brothers, and friends, especially sisters from different congregations whose members have stayed with us during their studies here in the U.S.

Our presence and participation, along with many other religious, gave people the chance to get to know something about religious life.

Over the years, several of our Sisters first met us at our Vocation Booth during Marian Days. Sr. Mary Vuong is one example. Her father came to our booth in 1996, had some conversations with our sisters, then picked up our vocation material, bringing the material home, and giving these materials to his daughter, Mary.  He encouraged her to write a letter to the vocation director who was Sr. Mary Ortho at that time; and finally, Mary ended up becoming a Dominican Sister, who is now living in South Bend, Indiana.  In 1999, Sr. Maidung met the sisters at the vocation booth also. After having a conversation with them, going home, and reading their vocation materials, she contacted the vocation director (Sr. Binh Nguyen) and entered as a discerner in 2000. Recently, in 2019, Sr. Tram Bui, volunteered with us at the vocation booth and in conversation with Sr. June Fitzgerald, she decided to discern her vocation with us again, after a few years of pause.

There are many ways God reaches out to you to invite you to consider a call to religious life.  Perhaps this call has come to you through an invitation to have your picture taken with the Pope, to scan the QR code, or to read a rack card, newsletter, retreat invitation, personal conversation, or through a friend who brings these materials home to you.  Whether or not you feel a call to religious life, we invite you to take time to read our vocation materials or visit our website so that you can learn more about religious life and our mission. The more you explore and open your heart, the more you can begin to hear the voice of God calling you to consider discerning and entering religious life.  To explore this life, visit our vocation website, contact us, or register for our hybrid Come and See Discernment retreat September 23-25 in Akron, OH.

Click here for photos.

Posted in God Calling?, News, Vocations Blog