We Are Autumn People

Pat Dual
Blog by Sr. Pat Dual, OP

(From A Reflection on Autumn Days by Joyce Rupp)

The season of Autumn arrived with its last burst of colors and its days of early falling darkness.  Autumn is a natural season of transition. I believe it highlights a persistent message from God, to us, about life and change.  I read recently, “Reflection on Autumn Days” by Joyce Rupp. The reflection expresses this persistent message about change in these words, “In the deepest part of who we are, there is always a call to continue our transformation process.  We are Autumn people.  We are always called to be in the process of growing and changing.”

While these are words of truth for everyone, they are prophetic words for those living in religious life today. They are prophetic words for those in the initial stages of formation, as well as those in the process of discerning a religious vocation. We are continually called to be open to God’s spirit of transformation.

Joyce Rupp’s autumn reflection led me to think about my own need for continuing transformation. It reminded me that openness to God’s call to ongoing transformation is essential to living religious life and to formation ministry. In fact, religious life in the 21st century is undergoing a time of great transition. We have learned during these years of rapid change, that our openness to “the process of growing and changing” is crucial to remaining viable and relevant as we move into the future. One of the most important qualities that a person must bring to the formation process is openness to God’s slow and sometimes challenging work of transformation.

In addition to being open to the process of change, recognizing the times when we are called to “let go” is also part of the transition process.  I have learned that those times of “letting go” in my life have also been times of great personal growth.

“We are autumn people,” and autumn seems to naturally invite us to reflection. As you experience these beautiful days of autumn, I invite you to indulge in your own self- reflection. You may want to use Joyce Rupp’s autumn reflection as I did.  You may also want to use another poem or writing that speaks to you.  I invite you to sit with such questions as:

What changes might God be asking of you?  
What are you being invited to let go of?
Where are you being invited to grow?
More importantly, what is your level of openness to self-reflection on any of these questions?

If your reflection leads you to feel God is inviting you to consider becoming a Sister, I invite you to give us a call.

Peace.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Teachers Along Life’s Path

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Looking out over the expanse of an open, green field bordered by lines of uneven trees, I ponder about what to write for this blog. I start to jot down ideas, only to start one idea, then move on to another idea, never finishing the first thought.  I’m left with a hodgepodge of ideas that have been halted in mid-sentence and left stranded without clear endings.  I explore one idea, experiment with another approach, only to be frustrated, wondering where these ideas may lead me.  So, I stop for a moment and listen for the still, small voice within and around me for inspiration and direction, and to know what path to choose. Oftentimes, I am surprised by the path that unfolds and how the Spirit works through and in me.

Life is sometimes like that, where we start down one path, then decide to take another path or another path finds us. Or, we find that life simply sends us whirling down one path, with detours that result in going down a bumpy road with unexpected turns and curves.  Yet, we follow wherever it leads us, praying that all will be well.  Sometimes the road takes us along scenic landscapes that fill us with awe and wonder.  At other times, the road is unclear, and we find ourselves walking through prickly bushes and encountering difficult terrain. As we travel these paths, we can either get angry at the roadblocks or we can view the digression as an opportunity to be open to surprises and to new opportunities.

And sometimes we meet unexpected teachers along the road who show us the way to navigate life’s challenges and uncertainties. For me, one of these teachers is my stepdaughter who has weathered many storms in her life, starting at an early age, enduring situations and conditions foreign to me in my lifetime.  While the road for her has seldom been easy, she continues to teach me how to handle adversity by her example of courage, resiliency, and hope amid many difficult circumstances. Living alone in Colorado with no family support nearby, she has walked many miles, fighting for the right to live, to be heard, refusing to be sidelined by bureaucratic processes that test her will and place obstacles in her path for a dignified life.

A sensitive and caring woman, she survives on Medicaid and SSI, often facing discriminatory attitudes and practices because of her dependency on government aid. She is also a kidney dialysis patient, subject to three-hour treatments three times a week.  At one of the dialysis centers, besides enduring sometimes painful procedures, the staff was not always kind, gentle, or understanding with her. Faced with some of the same obstacles as her, I might be bewildered and angry with all the speed bumps along the path. Certainly, she has had moments of despair and frustration along the way, but she continues to hold onto hope and to believe that “all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”  (Quote is attributed to Julian of Norwich)

Her faith is remarkable when you know her full story of struggle and triumph.  Her witness of faith and fortitude teach me to hold onto the same because “no matter what we encounter in life, it is faith that enables us to try again, to trust again, to love again.  Even in times of immense suffering, it is faith that enables us to relate to the present moment in such a way that we can go on, we can move forward, instead of becoming lost in resignation or despair.” (Quote is from Sharon Salzberg’s book, Faith:  Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience.)

We need to remember that we never know what difficulties those we encounter may have lived through and are going through. Our own experiences may be similar or different, but I suspect we all have and know stories of struggle and triumph that unite us in this human journey.  We need to be open to hearing and listening to each other’s stories and be willing to receive and learn what others can teach us.

So, where are you as a traveler, as a sojourner on this journey of life?  How do you keep going when you hit a bump in the road? Who are the unexpected teachers you have met along life’s winding roads?  Who has helped you navigate through roadblocks? Who has been your Emmaus companion, lifting you up and offering you support, teaching you about hope, faith, and resiliency?  How are you being a presence of hope, faith, and love in your neck of the woods?

Maybe you hear God whispering and revealing signs to you that you are being called to travel alongside other women as a religious sister.  Maybe you hear the cry of God’s people and want to bring the message of God’s love and hope to others as a religious sister? Sometimes we don’t know where a path will take us and we may be hesitant to take the first step.  Faith, however, teaches us to trust in the goodness of our God and that God has our back.  Take the first step and reach out for a companion on the journey by contacting us.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Communal Puzzling

Blog by Sr. Mai-dung Nguyen, OP

Have you ever worked on a puzzle? By yourself or with someone else?

I don’t remember when I was first introduced to putting puzzles together, but I know I don’t like assembling the pieces of a puzzle by myself. I have great patience on a scientific/engineering research project, but I don’t have this kind of patience to sit down and finish a whole puzzle alone. However, I love to work on puzzles with my community. It is fun. Let me tell you why.

  • Each of us has a particular way we like to put puzzles together and is good at a specific area. After grouping pieces together, we each work on a particular site or a picture that seems interesting. We finally fill in the puzzle with the individual areas each has been working on. It is easier and faster this way because it is a collaborative effort.
  • We help one another find the missing piece to one picture or one area of the puzzle. This missing piece may be right in front of me, but I do not recognize it. My eyes just don’t see beyond the many similar pieces. It becomes a joyful moment when suddenly someone finds the missing piece.
  • When we cannot find a missing piece, we remind each other, “It will come, eventually.” We then move to another location of the puzzle and come back to work on the perplexing area later.
  • Sometimes, a sister will decide to search only among many similar pieces and hand me a piece one by one that may fit the picture that I am working on.
  • Sometimes, we change our view by moving to another seat, looking at the puzzle from a different angle.
  • And sometimes, we just do the puzzle by ourselves for a while, then another sister joins. We are not only doing the puzzles. We share stories and laugh along.

The experience of doing a communal puzzle reminds me of what a discerner might encounter on her discernment journey:

Like puzzle pieces, when you first encounter the call from God, you may feel scattered with many questions and concerns, not knowing how to start. A vocation director can help you prioritize and look at different aspects of your call.  You may find it helpful to take one piece of the puzzle at a time, exploring spiritual development, community living, mission, visitation, clarification, decision making, and more. We are here to assist you.  Feel free to contact us.

Seek out others with whom you can share your discernment journey. You do not need to do this alone. Some discerners have shared that “I needed a missing piece but could not identify what it was. When another discerner raised her question, I realized that was mine too.” Your struggles, concerns, and doubts may be the same as or different from other discerners. As you share and ask questions at our monthly Emmaus group, monthly prayer group, in-person visitation events (such as Come and See, Mission for Peace, or a mini-living experience), you will get more clarification. At the same time, your participation helps others broaden their views and understanding about discernment. So, join our discernment programs.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together may be difficult while you are dealing with the uncertainty of life and pressures from outside, including job, study, friendship, or family. Don’t give up. Do journaling, pray with scripture quotes, engage in spiritual direction, read more spiritual books (we can send a list of helpful books to you), or watch vocation videos from sisters to get inspired. These activities help you connect deeply with your call and your relationship with God, who can conquer any darkness you may be experiencing and bring you light.

Like the sister who hands me pieces to help me with my part of the puzzle, people can help you to understand your call. Reach out to others by making a phone call to a companion sister or any sister you have connected with during a discernment program.  You can also contact a vocation director, someone in your cohort discernment group, or those in the formation process to learn from their experiences. For more information, visit our vocation website.

Together, through communal discernment and with the grace of God and your effort, “it will come, eventually.” Yes, all the pieces of your puzzle will come together, and you will enjoy the whole picture of it later. Have faith in God, yourself, and the community

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Be the hope God calls you to be

Blog by Sr. Bea Tiboldi, OP

What is your reason for hope?

In what ways do you communicate this hope to others?

Last Fall, during the Convocation of the National Religious Vocation Conference, Sr. Addie Walker, SSND gave a talk entitled, “Reason for our hope: a testimony of our life, death, and resurrection in Christ Jesus,” which was also published in the Winter 2021 edition of Horizon Magazine.  A year later, her talk continues to inspire me and so I want to share some highlights from this article so that all of us might rekindle our hope in Christ, and to be an instrument of God’s hope.

Recognizing the needs of our times… the need for an end to racism, and the need for racial harmony and healing, “in times like this, we need hope!” she wrote. “There are fires in California, hurricanes in the Gulf, tornadoes and floods across the Midwest. In times like this, we need hope.” “We’re experiencing high unemployment, exhausted health care workers, students moved to online platforms for study and mentoring, local businesses at minimum capacity, churches unable to gather in regular capacity for worship and prayer. In times like these, we need hope.”

We need hope – even in times like now…

Pope Francis dedicated the year of 2015 to a year focusing on Consecrated Life, and in his talk he said: “It is precisely amid these uncertainties (…) that we are called to practice the virtue of hope. (…) This hope is not based on statistics or accomplishments, but in ‘Christ Jesus our hope’ (cf 1 Tim 1:1), the One for whom ‘nothing is impossible’ (Lk 1:37).”

Sr. Addie encourages us: “Do something! Live the gospel, radically, now!” She writes this in the midst of the struggles that she and I mentioned above. Sr. Addie continues to inspire us: “Let us live life in the here and now with a passion and a zeal for the God who first loved us and at every moment continues to love us, the God who called us and promised to accompany us on the way, the God who brought us here to this point in our lives. Living the present with passion stirs up hope. We are called to be women and men of hope.”

It sounds doable to share God’s hope, but when we read or watch the daily news, we may become discouraged quickly.  Personally, I am always eager to watch Lester Holt’s “Inspire America” story at the end of his newscast. Just one inspiring story, yet it recharges my hope. Maybe, that’s one way to start. Incorporate one small act of kindness every day to give hope to someone. Imagine how much kinder our world would be if we all practiced this habit.

Sr. Addie inspires us to really be alive, and not to just survive each day but to thrive each day. Let me share her advice:

“To live, requires that we pay attention to what has heart and meaning, reading the signs of the times, listening to the calls of the Spirit, the people, the church, listening to myself, listening to you, listening with the heart of God. The second step of prayer requires us to see where God is acting, and it calls us to act in our times. We must pray that we can see what God sees and be moved to response-ability. Then we must act. We must do something for God’s sake. Finally, we must pause, reflect, and assess our faithfulness to God’s mission.

Let us live life in the here and now with a passion and a zeal for the God who first loved us and at every moment continues to love us, the God who called us and promised to accompany us on the way, the God who brought us here to this point in our lives. Living the present with passion stirs up hope. We are called to be women and men of hope.”

Once we rekindle our hope in Christ, we must share that hope. In his exhortation about evangelization, Pope Francis writes that it is a “joyful response to God’s love which summons us to mission and makes us fulfilled and productive.” (Joy of the Gospel, #81)

Sr. Addie continues:

“As I look to the future, I keep in mind that hope is based on God and vision for our world and the people that God has called to carry out that vision: you and me. We carry this hope together.”

I leave it here for you.
Listen to the Spirit and to the world around us.
Make your plan (Habakkuk 2:2-2)
Be alive. Do something.
Continuously pause and assess.
Be the hope God calls you to be.

If you feel that God calls you to carry out the vision of hope as a vowed religious Sister, please contact us here.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Show Me The Way!

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Laughter echoed in the front hallways of the Akron Motherhouse as five women came from across the country gathered in person for our Come & See retreat this past weekend.  (A sixth woman attended the retreat in person at our St. Catharine, Kentucky Motherhouse.)  What joy to see their faces!  (Albeit masked faces.) This, our first in person retreat in two years took extra effort on the part of retreatants, Ministry of Welcome – Vocations team and the Sisters & staff in our Motherhouses, but it was certainly worth it to be together “in real life.”  With strict COVID protocols in place, including testing, masking, and maintaining appropriate physical distance from each other – we were able to have a blessed retreat.

The four pillars of Dominican Spirituality formed the framework for the presentations, which were conducted, in person and via Zoom.  Sr. Linda Lee Jackson shared about the Pillar of Prayer and how the Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic can be practiced today from a more wholistic, incarnational approach to spirituality.  Sisters Maura Bartel and Ana Gonzalez explored the Pillar of Study in their lives as Dominican Sisters of Peace.  Sister Joanne Caniglia shared her deep love of the wide Dominican mission of service and of how God has called her to use her gifts as a teacher and professor for almost 40 years.  Rounding out the pillars, Sisters Annie Killian and Mary Vuong shared about their experience of Community.  They highlighted how they discerned and chose to establish a new local community in South Bend, Indiana as a response to one Sister’s new ministry in the area.  All in all, there was a deep sense of connection, love, support, and encouragement.  Questions flowed during the sessions and in between times at meals and informal sharing.

This retreat was truly a hybrid retreat in that we had five women in person at the Akron, Ohio Motherhouse and one woman retreating with the community at the St. Catherine, Kentucky Motherhouse.  In both places, the retreatants were able to enjoy the beauty of the motherhouse grounds, open areas, farm animals, chapels, community rooms and heritage exhibits.  Woven within it all was time for both communal and personal prayer.  Capping off the evening on Saturday was a social with our sisters in formation who zoomed in from Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut, Louisiana, and Ohio to share with the discerning women.

From the opening prayer on Friday evening as we sang the Salve until we closed the retreat with a rousing rendition of the Dominican Blessing by James Marchionda, OP, we felt the prayers and support of all of our Sisters.  It indeed takes an entire Congregation to conduct a Come & See retreat.  We are grateful to all who made it possible in Akron, St. Catharine’s, and beyond.  Our locations might have been more than 300 miles apart, but the distance was made much shorter by the Spirit of God uniting us in a common quest – to discover God’s plan and path for our lives.

We closed with the words to the Dominican Blessing:

May God Creator Bless us,
May God Redeemer Heal us,
and
May God the Holy Spirit fill us with light. 

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog