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TAKE UP THE TORCH TO HONOR MLK’S MESSAGE OF EQUALITY AND DIGNITY

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

“Don’t you get tired?”

That question was posed (to me) by the (white) father of a black daughter who was clearly irritated with trying to engage other white folks in a meaningful dialogue about the reality of the black experience.

My answer: Yes. But if people like us – people of good will — allow fatigue to stop us, we will never dismantle systemic racism.

Today, as we reflect on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — a life’s work that is needed now more than ever – I am compelled to ask: Can we go beyond the sound bite “I have a dream” and explore his critical statements condemning war, capitalism, and the complicity of white moderates with racist structures?

I know that’s heavy, but it has been nearly 50 years since he was assassinated on April 4, 1968 and we are still struggling with some of the same injustices that he died trying to eliminate. Isn’t it time that we honor the man and not the myth?

Three weeks before an assassin’s bullet silenced him, Rev. King spoke to an audience at Grosse Pointe High School in Detroit. He said “America is still a racist country. Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. … I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it.”

Now is precisely such a moment for truth-finding and truth-telling.

Now is precisely such a moment for confronting the evil of racism.

Now is precisely such a moment to honor a man who fought to end racism, poverty, and war; who advocated for the poor and disenfranchised; who stood up for union rights; who was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in public accommodations, facilities, and employment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and who labored to create an America in which all people are treated with the dignity that they deserve as human beings.

We can honor him by taking on the responsibility of working to right some of the wrongs that still exist in our communities and in our country – unchecked police brutality; poor housing conditions; substandard schools; resegregation; limited (or no) access to healthcare; lack of employment opportunities that provide a living wage; food deserts in inner city communities; racial disparities in sentencing; the mass incarceration of African-American males; racial disparities in infant and mother mortality, voter suppression, etc.

While we have made some progress – the fruit of civil rights advocates’ (like Rev. King) over the years — we still have a long way to go if we are to realize the future that Rev. King imagined (at the end of his Letter From Birmingham Jail): a time “when the dark clouds of racial prejudice will pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities.

It’s up to us to calm fears and clear the air as we work toward building a brighter future where we live out our nation’s declaration that all people are created equal.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Joy from Gifts Received

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

Last week as I was getting my steps in at a Big Lots store (it was too cold to walk outside), I realized that our hanging suet cage and bird feeder had been empty for some time, so I bought a new suet cake and some wild bird seed.

My tardy gifts for the outdoor birds remained unvisited for several days. I knew that sometimes it takes a few days for the word to pass among the neighborhood birds where new food supplies have opened up, so daily checked on them from our kitchen window.

Days past. As our temperatures stayed in the single digits and dropped to below zero, I thought it probably was too cold for even the winter birds to venture out for food.

But one frigid morning I saw a chickadee high on a branch cracking and eating a sunflower seed, then dropping down to the feeder for more. Soon a few more chickadees and sparrows were taking turns at the suet cage and the birdfeeder. I rejoiced to see these dear creatures at last receiving and enjoying my gifts.

 

Relishing the joy that sprung up in me as I watched them, I recalled how lavishly God spreads out gifts upon gifts for all of us creatures, and wondered if God waits and rejoices when we receive them. And rejoices even more when we acknowledge the Creator, and express our appreciation and gratitude.

It has taken billions and billions of years (according to Earth’s measuring of time) since the Big Bang, for life to emerge on this planet and for our human species to be capable of reflecting, knowing and responding to our Creator in freedom and love. I imagine God not just waiting patiently for this relationship to develop, but actively and attentively guiding every element, particle, molecule, atom, etc. into life and consciousness. Can you imagine God’s joy the moment the universe became conscious of itself, of creation, and its Creator–in us?

Pope Francis in Laudato Si says: “… the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” Besides contemplating the world and nature with gladness and praise, he calls us to take the next step, to care for our common home, and adds: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications…It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”  —Laudato Si #25

As Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates, we commit ourselves to “Foster God’s web of life personally, communally and ministerially by advocating and supporting just policies and decisions to reduce the impact of global climate change.”

“We believe that environmental issues and justice issues are intertwined elements of how we are called to relate to God’s creation both in human form and in the Earth community. Eco-justice asserts that it is not possible to care for the Earth without also caring for humanity and that seeking human justice must involve care for the environment. Therefore care for creation is part of our work for peace.”– Eco-justice Statement of the Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace

What action steps flow from your joy, appreciation, praise and gratitude for all God’s gifts?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

PEACE BY PIECE

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

I enjoy putting puzzles together. When I walk through the loggia at the DSOP Motherhouse in Akron, Ohio, there is always a puzzle in process. Anyone can stop by and put a few pieces in, or work/play at it as their free time allows. When I’m not in a hurry, I usually try to get at least one piece in before moving on. There is a sense of satisfaction when—out of a thousand pieces, you find something that fits together. I often think God must also enjoy puzzles.

Judy Cannato’s Radical Amazement, published in 2006, still inspires me. She describes the Big Bang burst of light and life, reflecting on how everything in the universe—including Earth and all her inhabitants—is connected and evolving in amazing complexity. I imagine God enjoying and delighting in interacting with natural laws and our free choices to make all things work together for something good that we cannot imagine.

In an October 1, 2017 letter to all Dominican men and women throughout the world, the Master of the Dominican Family, Bruno Cadore, OP, wrote:

One of the recurrent themes from our Jubilee was the importance of us renewing our preaching to be

advocates of peace (like Dominic) in a world torn apart by many forms of violence and war. There is

hardly a country anywhere that is spared from this harsh reality that breeds fear, insecurity, and the

assertion of narrow ethnic and religious identities, that result in enormous suffering, death and

displacement of entire communities.

While many Dominicans are already involved in forms of preaching that are bringing hope to such

situations, we would now like to promote a global Dominican solidarity for all such efforts. We

therefore propose to identify a period each year when Dominicans everywhere will pray for peace, and

will offer solidarity for a particular project for peace.

The period we propose is Advent, when we are all waiting for the incarnation of the Prince of Peace.

Our focus on Peace will then start on the First Sunday of Advent and culminate on the Church’s World

Day of Peace on I January. Each December will therefore be our Dominican Month for Peace.

Our focus of solidarity this year (2017) will be on Colombia.

In Fr. Cadore’s letter he suggests several ways we can live into this Month for Peace with a focus on Colombia.

[Click here for the complete letter.]

Whether you are a member of the Dominican Family, Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates, you are invited to join with us in solidarity by choosing your way to participate: in prayer, preaching, art, contribution, or other. While our prayers for peace are poured out to God in a special way through our Advent/Christmas songs, it takes all of us together to build peace in our world. Like a 1000 piece puzzle, every piece adds to the whole. Will you add your piece for peace?

This morning’s Beacon Journal ran a front page story about Ana Ramirez, who noticed a neighbor, Raymond Tanner, who was living alone, seeming to have no family or friends. A Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, he had left his family behind and moved to Florida.

Ana knocked on his door and asked for a cigarette. He threw her a pack and said, “Don’t come back.” But she decided to cook a meal and leave a plate of food on his porch. After a while, he began leaving soup and some vegetables on her porch, and gradually a simple act of kindness flowered into a 20-year friendship bringing healing and peace to Raymond and eventually to his family members, as well as to Ana who had been suffering from substance abuse. Her piece for peace was a cigarette…a plate of food. Not much, but it spread peace and helped piece one family back together.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

IF YOU CAN’T HELP OTHERS, AT LEAST DO THEM NO HARM

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

A recent tweet posted by the Dalia Lama truly resonated with me:

“What is important is not so much how long you live as whether you live a meaningful life. This doesn’t mean accumulating money and fame, but being of service to your fellow human beings. It means helping others if you can, but even if you can’t do that, at least not harming them.”

At first my focus leaned heavily toward living a meaningful life and being of service to and helping others. But as I lived with this tweet for about a week, the latter part “but even if you can’t do that, at least not harming them” took on a new, more powerful meaning.

That significance began taking shape after I read news accounts about 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis. I began to wonder if Ashawnty would still be alive if someone had a commitment to not doing harm to another human being.

It pains me to know that a 10-year-old was so tormented that she walked into a closet in her Colorado home and hanged herself. According to news reports, Ashawnty died of an apparent suicide after a video of her fighting with an alleged bully outside her elementary school was posted online. She died last Wednesday, after spending two weeks on life support.

The day before Ashawnty died, 13-year-old Rosalie Avila, hanged herself in her bedroom at her California home. Her parents said that she was the victim of relentless bullying at her middle school. News accounts say that she left behind a letter of apology, in which she described herself as “ugly” and “a loser.”

I can’t begin to imagine how Rosalie and Ashawnty’s parents are dealing with the grief of losing their daughters, of being with them in the hospital during their final hours, and of finding them clinging to life in their homes.

Yet in the midst of their agony, they are crying out to help prevent another child from being pushed to the brink by a bully. They say their daughters’ deaths should and could have been avoided, if the bullying had been dealt with.

Rosalie’s father’s message was clear: “Think about what you say before you say it because your words are going to hurt somebody…All these things that people say…all the horrible things…it has an effect.”

Ashawnty’s parents are calling it “bullycide” and want to raise awareness that children are taking their lives due to bullying.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and youth who report both being bullied and bullying others have the highest rates of negative mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and thinking about suicide.

What I know is two beautiful young girls are no longer with us because they apparently were seeking a way to escape the pain of a situation that seemed impossible for them to deal with.

I have a need to believe that Ashawnty and Rosalie left a meaningful mark on the world. I believe that during their short lives, they brought joy and happiness to those they touched.

But I can’t help but wonder, if they would still be with us had someone taken heed to the words of the Dalai Lama to at least do no harm to others?

I wonder how many of us can live out the message of Rosalie’s father — to think before we speak or act to ensure that our words and actions are helping others and not harming them?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

One Drop at a Time

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

It’s a routine I have gratefully embraced since last June: every three weeks I dutifully show up at the cancer center, wait a few minutes until I’m called, then settle into an alcove next to others who are receiving various types of chemo. Equipped with a couple of pillows, a warm blanket, and a good book, I watch nurse Karen skillfully insert the needle into my good vein on my left arm and start a saline drip. A few minutes later she along

with another nurse as witness ask my name and birth-date before hooking up the clear packet of Herceptin, then for the next half hour while I enjoy reading my book or doze off in a cat nap, it painlessly flows into my body one drop at a time.

Yes, I am grateful to submit to this routine for a year in hopes that these Herceptin infusions, along with a tiny hormone suppressant pill taken daily will eradicate the cancer cells that may be hiding in my body. I image the clear liquid dripping steadily through the plastic tubing as bringing healing to me one drop at a time.

Last Saturday evening I saw the movie WONDER. It is about Auggi, who was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. He had already suffered through several surgeries to address its symptoms and his face was very scarred and ‘abnormal’.  Home schooled by his mother, he was about to enter a public school for the first time in the fifth grade. As he bravely lived through the experience, the amazing person he was growing into was revealed bit by bit.  Unexpected acts of kindness opened up new friendships, and gradually Auggi’s presence influenced the whole school, one person at a time—like healing coming to them one drop at a time. If you have not seen it, go. It truly is a WONDER.

Last night on 60 Minutes, I rejoiced to learn about chef Jose Andres from an up-scale restaurant in California, who decided to use his skills to help feed the hungry people of Puerto Rico devastated by the hurricane. While FEMA stalled out by bureaucratic red tape, he simply began cooking hot meals and serving them to suffering people one meal at a time. As other cooks and volunteers joined him, the meals multiplied by the thousands, and even those who lost everything came forward to lend a hand to help prepare and deliver the hot meals to people in out-of-the-way places. That’s what it takes–one person at a time, one meal at a time.

I believe God’s power at work in us, living the Good News, preaching the Gospel “from the pulpit of our lives”—through deliberate acts of kindness, forgiveness and reconciliation, honest civil conversations, gratefulness, compassion, generosity, and loving service— bring healing to our broken world–one choice at a time, one drop at a time.

Perhaps our individual prayers and non-violent actions for peace may seem like next to nothing, hardly able to right the world’s wrongs. But joined with countless others striving to BE PEACE, BUILD PEACE, PREACH PEACE, things like hunger and maybe even war and every form of oppression can be conquered in our world.

One tiny snowflake weighs next to nothing, but millions of snowflakes landing one by one on the same roof can eventually become heavy enough to collapse it.

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News