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Blessing of Memorial to Enslaved Persons, A Reflection on John 16:12-13

Reflection by Elaine Riley, OPA

When the Spirit of Truth comes, the Spirit will guide you to all truth. John 16:13

As I reflect upon this memorial dedication to the enslaved, I’m reminded how this dedication’s origin was really formed at the reconciliation service held in Bardstown, KY, in 2000.

Little could have anyone ever imagined that this reconciliation service would be the key element used in calling forth the Spirit of Truth, as Sr. Joan Scanlon, then piesident of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catharine, formally acknowledgd and
ask forgiveness for the owning slaves.

As the Sisters took this first crucial step, it would require profound courage in acknowledging the truth, to apologize and ask forgiveness for the truth, and to take ownership of the truth. Once this acknowledgement was spoken, the SPIRIT OF TRUTH emerged. This was our first encounter of witnessing the SPIRIT OF TRUTH challenging the Order who preached the Truth, to tell the Truth. Because for many years this “Unspoken Truth” was allowed to lie dormant within the Dominican Family’s historical archives.

But just as there’s an appointed time for everything, the Spirit of Truth would have to wait patiently before guiding
the Sisters to the “I WAS HERE” presentation on October 2, 2022. At this remembrance and blessing ceremony, the Sisters recognized and honored the contributions of the Enslaved. We also learned, through the research of Catholic Historian Walker Gollar, the first names of the very first women and men enslaved at St. Catharine.

And just when we felt that the Spirit Of Truth had nothing more to say, the “spirit” would once again emerge, taking the
spotlight, as Sr. Rosemary Rule summarized that St. Catharine’s Motherhouse was a place of injustice and pain for the enslaved persons who helped build it in 1822. Painfully, this was another “Unspoken Truth” now spoken.

Clearly, it was the pursuit of telling the Truth which has brought us to assemble here for this memorial dedication
honoring the Enslaved who once walked these sacred grounds. This monument is a true testament to how the lives of the Dominican Sisters and the lives of the Enslaved are inseparable.

So, it is only fitting that the Enslaved spirits of Grace, Lucy, Milla, George, Leanard, Robert, and the names unknown, take their rightful place here in this cemetery alongside their Dominican Family.

For this monument will always be a constant reminder that the Enslaved were here, when they journeyed to St. Catharine’s with the Founding Women who joined the order.

YOU were here working the fields, tending the livestock, and performing other domestic duties to Sisters, who may or may not have known your names.

YOU were here, at times broken and wounded in spirit, as a result of the oppressive injustices thrust upon you.

And yes, YOU were here, sometimes seen or unseen working among and alongside  of the First Dominican· Sisters of the United States.

To the Enslaved persons who once walked these sacred grounds of St. Cathaiine’s, may your eternal spirits rest peacefully with the Dominican Siste of Peace. And hopefully in time your “SPIRITS” will no longer feel like a MOTHERLESS CHILD, because the SPIRIT OF TRUTH HAS SPOKEN.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Do Not Let Your Heart…

Blog by Associate Merrylou Windhorst

Do not let your heart be troubled, have faith in me.

The Gospel tells us, have faith in me. Thomas doubts again …”Master, we do not know where you are going?” Perhaps we too are like Thomas sometimes, asking Jesus for reassurance, thinking that we are left alone, on our own to work things out. We know that we need to listen to the Lord’s promises, to accept his assurance, to allow him to remove our troubles from our hearts, or at least provide an option. And yet, we must realize, that the Lord is in “the driver’s seat” only if we let Him take the wheel!  Fear removal requires Faith!

“Fear not” appears in the Bible 365 times! These words are a gift. With FAITH in HIM, we have the deepest personal security in life, knowing that all can be found in him, in faith, in our church, in our community, in prayer, and in each other!

Fear IS a four-letter word, but so are HOPE , LOVE, , READ, CARE, GOOD and HELP!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

If you see something, say something. 

Reflection by Anita Davidson, OPA

I often meet my friend Molly for a shared walk with our dogs.  Molly is an avid and gifted naturalist.  There isn’t a plant species that she can’t identify nor a bird she can’t name.  I only know a very few birds – the obvious ones – bluejay, cardinal, Canada goose, robin; and even fewer plants.  Walking with Molly in a metro park or even in my own neighborhood is always a lesson in horticulture.  We’ll be moving along at a good clip trying to get our heart rates up and suddenly she’ll stop dead and, with a delighted “OH LOOK!”, rush to what appears to me to be general undergrowth along the path and point out a tiny little spring beauty nearly hidden in the grass.  She pulls out her phone and takes a close-up photo, and then sees some other delightful little new growth springing up that she’ll point out to me.  In the fall we’ll come upon an open field and she’ll stop in total awe with a quiet “Ohhhhh…I just love how the purple ironweed and bright yellow goldenrod bloom around the same time and create this colorful meadow after everything else has gone to seed. Together they make the most beautiful bouquets!” Walking with Molly has opened my eyes in new ways to the wonders of the natural world and now I can’t NOT see them!

“…the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing… There was great joy in that city. (Acts)

“Come and see the works of God, [God’s] tremendous deeds…” (Psalm 66)

“everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life…” (John)

How often we look but don’t really see what’s right before us – literally and figuratively!  In the reading from Acts today, the people of Jerusalem, and Saul, had Jesus and then his disciples right in front of them doing and saying the same things they’d do later in Samaria but the people of Jerusalem couldn’t truly see them because their own fear of something new and unexpected blinded them to the deeper reality.  Those same disciples had spent years with Jesus – in his physical presence – and still they didn’t really understand, couldn’t really see the deeper meaning of his mission, or theirs.

What tremendous works of God are we missing in our own lives?  What are we not paying attention to? What is preventing us from seeing and believing and rejoicing in it all?

It seems to me that all of us need a “Molly” in our lives: someone whose senses have been sharpened to see the little spring beauties of life hidden by the more mundane stuff; someone who knows about and so notices how life’s goldenrod and asters bloom together and create one last colorful and vibrant tableau before the cold weather sends everything into drab dormancy. We need a “Molly” to stop us dead and share their delight, wonder and awe so that maybe we can see and feel it too! It’s the gift of community that raises our consciousness, each person pointing out to the other something that might have been overlooked, gone unnoticed that has the potential to reveal the glory of God in our midst. Our individual uniqueness, the particular ways that each of us sees the world, our own special expertise are the gifts we provide for the community, and we have the responsibility, the duty and the privilege of sharing it with others.  It may be exactly what the rest of us needs to notice. If you see something, say something.  We can’t afford to assume that everyone sees what we see or notices the same things that we do.  We need each other’s vision and voice and passion to enable all of us to fully join the rest of creation: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Blog by Associate Merrylou Windhorst

The work of the Holy Spirit is sometimes compared to the wind. Jesus, himself, made this comparison in today’s gospel speaking to Nicodemus. He says, “ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sounds it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes… so it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.”

What do the Spirit of God and the wind have in common? Why the comparison? Both are invisible. The wind and the breath of life can’t be seen, yet bring about and sustain life.

As a health and PE teacher, I taught CPR to my students in the hope that someday, if needed, they could administer the “ breath of life”. That actually happened. On Christmas Eve, one of my student’s fathers collapsed while putting up the Christmas tree. He was not breathing and had no pulse. His daughter began CPR and was able to bring back life to her father. A medical procedure or an act of the Spirit? Or both?

Have we or a loved one, or a friend ever “ run out of breath”? In need of life-giving wind? Has the Holy Spirit entered us with spiritual life? Has it ever saved us, physically or spiritually? Or both.

Like the wind, the invisible Holy Spirit worked in ways that are unseen to the human eye but possibly felt by the human soul, if, we but recognize it?

Where does the wind take us? We may have planned our life journey but the wind, the Holy  Spirit made us go in another direction, perhaps several times.

We experienced the power of the wind last week when the strength of it tore down trees here at the Elms and in our neighborhood, resulting in electricity outages for hours.

Just as the wind moves ships, empowers engines, drives windmills, and deposes pollution from and around the earth,  its power is immense.

The Holy Spirit appeared on Pentecost and released power strong enough to transform the disciples into mighty forces with the courage to go and preach in many tongues.

Wind is an adequate word to describe the Power of the Holy Spirit, change happens when the wind blows, and where this spirit moves in this manner, it supplies supernatural energy. It empowers us to do what we could NOT do on our own.

Pope Francis is quoted as saying, “ the Holy Spirit alone, gives us strength to change the history of our attitude, to change the history of our lives, to change our belonging”.

Oh, how we need the supernatural wind of the Holy Spirit right now!!


Posted in Associate Blog, News