For further information on any of the news items listed here, please contact Alice Black, PhD, OPA, Director of Communications & Mission Advancement, at 614-416-1020.


Sr. Esther Calderon, OP, Receives Award from Salvatorian’s Jordan Ministry

Dominican Sister of Peace Sister Esther Calderon, left, receives the Jordan Ministries “Alive in the Savior” Award on March 3, 2019. She is shown here with her co-awardee, Sr. Gladys Echenique, Dominican Sisters of Oakford, right.

Tucson, AZ – Dominican Sister of Peace Sr. Esther Calderon has devoted her entire religious life to the pillars of Dominican Life – prayer, study, service and community. Her dedication was recognized earlier this month when she was honored with the Alive in the Savior Award at a dinner and ceremony by the Jordan Ministry in Tucson, AZ on Sunday, March 3, 2019.

Originally from Arizona, Sr. Esther spent much of her professional life in the healthcare service in Louisiana, Idaho, and Colorado before her ministry drew her to Tucson. She was a home health nurse, a Tucson Parish Nurse, a hospice home care nurse, at Carondelet Hospital in Tucson, and also enjoyed life and ministry with Tohono O’odham Nation, working at Sells Indian Hospital west of Tucson. More than offering care for the body, Sr. Esther ministered to weary souls and broken spirits, offering peace and comfort with every visit.

During her nursing career, Sr. Esther was also active in prison ministry and served as an educator for Spanish-speaking deacons and catechists in the Tucson diocese.

Although she retired in 2017, Sr. Esther continues to serve the people of God and her diocese. Her ministry of prayer now includes house calls to the sick of the parish, bringing communion to those who are homebound, and remains active in her prison ministry. She also offers comfort to families suffering medical trauma in local hospitals, praying with the families and assisting how she can.

Sr. Esther Calderon at Casa Alitas ,a diocesan shelter for migrants released by ICE.

“One thing that brings me great joy,” Sister Esther says, “is bringing the Eucharist to those who are sick or in prison. Sharing the body of Christ is very important to me, and this ministry lifts my spirits and gives me the energy to keep going.”

Tucson’s proximity to the border has also opened a new ministry for Sr. Esther. She serves as a volunteer at Casa Alitas, a diocesan shelter for migrants released by ICE, and at the Eloy ICS Detention Center in Eloy, AZ.

Sr. Esther is also involved in No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization dedicated to increasing effort to stop the deaths of migrants in the desert and to achieving the enactment of a set of Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform.


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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 Associate Colette Parker

Thirty-five red dresses give voice to thousands of our Indigenous sisters – women and girls – who have been murdered or who have gone missing.

The collection of dresses, called the REDress Project, is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in our nation’s capital. Jaime Black, the artist who created the project, describes it as an expression of her grief for thousands of murdered and missing Native victims.

A recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights states that Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered and four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the national average.

And a study released last year by the Urban Indian Health Institute, a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, showed that while the U.S. Department of Justice’s missing persons’ database officially recorded only 116 missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, there were actually 5,712 reported missing.

Well, that’s a discrepancy, if I ever saw one. But it is no surprise to me. And it is no surprise to me that my Indigenous sisters haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.

(I don’t even want to talk about the research that shows the racial disparity in dedicating resources and conversation to missing women of color, revealing the unacceptable fact that white female bodies are viewed as more valuable than the bodies of women of color by the mainstream media in America – and dare I say, law enforcement).

It is shameful that a group of women who have been the target of violence since the colonization of America are treated with indifference and that our government doesn’t seem to be able to coordinate law enforcement agencies to account for the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women (let alone solve their cases).

Unfortunately, the REDress Project’s month-long installation at the Smithsonian ends on March 31, as it is displayed to commemorate Women’s History Month.  If you can’t get to Washington D.C. by then, you can continue to raise your awareness about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement. And you can break the silence around the issue by raising your voice.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Just Reflecting

Homily by Sr. Diana Culbertson, OP

Today’s first reading is from a text referred to by scholars as “Third” Isaiah.  He is the third writer on this long scroll known generically  as “Isaiah.”  This section extends from chapter  56 to the end of the  scroll (or book)–that is,  to what we know as chapter 66.    Why is that important?  The text draws from the situation at the time it was  written, and our task is to understand how it connects to our own historical and personal experience.  Language  is not spoken or written in an historical vacuum.  By the time this text was composed, the Jewish people had returned from exile in Babylon, the  Temple had been rebuilt and the idea of God’s dwelling  with them was more intense…God  is understood as present to them and through this text –present to us. And that presence calls for response. What is God asking of us?

The issue in both texts this morning is “fasting.” There are times to fast—and times to celebrate, to enjoy the goods of the earth.  But today’s reading suggests that we sometimes don’t understand what fasting is all about—giving up candy (or desserts ) for Lent  may be difficult, but it is not exactly heroic.   The prophet this morning asks us to “set free the oppressed.”   But what if we are the oppressors?    Who are those  we oppress?  –Whom I oppress?   . . . (WE—  –I’m not talking about  radical Islamists or  racists . . .we can oppress without their help. ) It is just a matter of denigrating people we live with or work with, or privately regarding another person  with contempt.  That is the kind of   self- indulgence we are asked to  resist.   We are asked to “set free the oppressed.”   That kind of effort is preferred to fasting.      How do we free those  around us whom we refuse to love? How do we free ourselves from our own self-hatred?  Giving up ice cream isn’t going to fix that kind of bad habit.

In this Gospel reading, Jesus redefines fasting.  Giving up candy is easy compared to giving up our opinions, or our hostility to another , or giving up our leisure to study  something—anything (but preferably scripture).   Lent is not about self-control (which is hard enough) but self-giving—and self emptying.  If that kind of effort is hard—and it is—we can count on the Lord’s help:  “If you cry for help, today’s reading reminds us,  “You shall call—and the Lord will answer. . .He will say to us in what may be our desperation, “Here I am!”

He is here, and in our self doubt and perhaps lack of confidence in our own capacity to love, we can call to Him. “‘Here I am’”  Is the response.    His presence among us is  the basis of our  hope and our reason to  love and forgive one another  and to celebrate—  with or without ice cream—even in Lent.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

Justice Updates – Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Are we doomed? Or can we really stop climate change? NPR interviews an energy entrepreneur, an urban planner, and a farmer who describe what it would be like to live in a zero-carbon world. It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change

What you can do to make peace with the earth during Lent.   Fast from meat a couple of days a week… from purchasing new items… from using disposable items.

Death Penalty.  This 1982 article written by Mary Meehan and published by American about Ten reasons to oppose the death penalty is as relevant today as then. Why haven’t we learned?  Check it out.

Why Boycott Wendy’s?  Read this great New York Times article about why colleges are kicking Wendy’s off their campuses.  It’s about the TOMATOES and the farmworkers who grow them. It’s also about labor trafficking.

H.R.6 Dream and Promise Act. If you haven’t done this yet, call your representative and urge him/her to support this bill. There’s more information on the Justice Update for March 19. It’s time to protect immigrants with TPS (Temporary Protected Status), DED (Deferred Enforced Departure), and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)  J.D. Long-Garcia describes what DACA recipients think of the Dream and Promise Act.

Fast and Pray. The Immigration Reform Committee invite you to pray that the hearts and minds of people who fear our immigrant sisters and brothers will come to recognize the human suffering that moves people to flee from their homes.

Shelter for Migrants. Click here for an update from the CCS Monastery shelter.

Another Border Opportunity. Sisters Rachel Sena and Esther Calderon share that Casas Alitas needs volunteers to help with asylum seekers. .

The Diocese of Tucson needs help on the Border in Yuma, AZ (4 hours west of Tucson that borders California and Mexico) where Catholic bilingual ecclesial lay ministers are working to provide services to immigrants coming through the port-of-entry of San Luis, AZ and San Luis. Mexico. This is coordinated by diocesan networks. In Tucson, the Diocesan House for immigrant families called CASAS ALITAS needs volunteers who are willing to support the medical professionals, cook, drive families to bus stations, clean bathrooms, sort clothes, play with young children, help in any capacity needed. Casa Alitas is temporarily housed in the former Benedictine Monastery, where Sr. Esther goes to lead the Rosary in Spanish, or just-be-present-to young mothers and dads with children. No Spanish Necessary…however…if you are bilingual this is a plus to minister directly with refugees seeking asylum. These children are not in schools because they are in transit to another state within days. Numbers will only increase.

Housing: 3 bedrooms available here in our CASA GUADALUPE OP Peace house in Tucson. We are open to receiving Associates or Sisters who wish to visit the Border for 1-2 week visit and design an educational program to help our OP Peace membership to consider this place as a place for short term mission placement. We will gladly work with any who would and could do this.  Collecting socks, children’s clothes for both refugees and homeless communities here in this diocese is another option. 

Contact Sr. Gemma Doll if you are interested in this opportunity.

Click here for an article from Tucson newspaper describing Casa Alitas as “sanctuary truly extraordinary “



Posted in News