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Remember, Honor, Celebrate Veterans with Gratitude

As I approached an elevator this weekend, I encountered a
man wearing U.S. Army dress blues (adorned with medals, badges, patches,
stripes and a silver oak leaf insignia).

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

He greeted me with “Good Morning. How are you today?”

I responded “I am well, thank you. How are you?

He replied that he, too, was well.

As we got on the elevator, I commented (in question form)
“You must be on your way to a Veteran’s Day service or celebration?”

He replied that he had traveled to Ohio from Norfolk (VA) to
be part of an appreciation breakfast hosted by an alumni chapter of Phi Beta
Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

We shared small talk about Norfolk; and as we got off the
elevator, we exchanged well wishes for the day. I added “Thank you for serving!”

He responded, with a smile, “Thank you for your support!”

That interchange got me thinking about what it means to
support our military veterans and active servicemen and servicewomen. I started
considering a number of ways to show support – donating to causes that help
veterans and troops; volunteering to give veterans a ride to medical
appointments; visiting VA hospitals and facilities that serve our wounded
soldiers; sponsoring a companion dog for veterans with PTSD; sending care
packages and letters; helping homeless veterans; volunteering with
organizations that serve our military personnel and their families; listening
to their stories and sharing them; advocating for the fulfillment of our
nation’s promises to our veterans, etc.

The list of ways to help is not limited to those listed
above. But perhaps the easiest way to support our veterans and active military
personnel is with a “Thank You” that is heartfelt and sincere. That simple act
of gratitude is something that we all can extend to show appreciation for
everything they have faced and sacrificed. It is something that can brighten
the day of a veteran or military person.

I trust that the smile on Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hall’s
face as he said “Thank you for your support!” was an indication that my “thank
you” had brightened his day.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

SEEKING PEACE IN THE MIDST OF TRAGEDY: BLACK LIVES DO MATTER

Blog by Associate Marybeth Irvine

Man Caught After Two Slain
— on most mornings,
this headline would have just received a glance from me. I, like I assume many
others, have begun to see it as a normal day in the big city.

But this time
was different for me. I became a news junkie. I listened and read everything
that was written about the violent actions of the gunman who left Vickie Jones
and Maurice Stallard dead — dead just because they were black.

Maurice and
Vickie were going about the normal events of a normal day, stopping at the
neighborhood Kroger — a thing we all do; but they were black. I believe that Maurice
symbolized all the black males that the gunman hates.

The Dominican
Sisters of Peace congregational study of racism and gun violence became real
for me on October 24. – the day that Vickie and Maurice, both grandparents,
were gunned down (Maurice, right in front of his 12-year-old grandson).

But why this
shooting?

This shooting
and death held significance for me because I knew Maurice and his wife,
Charlotte. This was not just the death of another black male; it was the
killing of a black male that I knew. A man that I celebrated Eucharist with in
our common parish; a man I spoke to often and saw even more frequently, as he
served the parish in many roles. This killing killed a relationship and it
mattered to me.

Being a part of
the activities that honored Vickie and Maurice mattered to me; I needed to
participate. I attended the vigil held in the Kroger parking lot. I did not
anticipate the fear arising in me as I stood in the open space. Fear that
became palpable as I watched the armed police officer on the rooftop and
wondered if there could be more violence?

I found comfort
as I observed the mingling of blacks, browns, whites — why does it take a
killing to bring us together?

And there was
disbelief as I went into the store finding myself in aisle 37, not because I
needed to visit the scene of Maurice’s death but because I was picking up cat
food, which happened to be in the next aisle. The disbelief surfaced because
this was a small secluded aisle. The killer had to intentionally follow Maurice.

I also attended
the visitation because I needed to hug Charlotte. It took two hours to wind my
way into the funeral home. What I observed in the parking lot made the wait a
blessing. Standing in line, I observed, again, respect for others, calm,
long-time friends greeting one another and conversation among strangers. Why do
our best manners only get dusted off in the midst of tragedy?

The news
coverage has not ended. Charges have been filed but the most significant, that
of being a hate crime, has to find its way through the justice system. According
to news reports, prior to the shooting, the gunman allegedly tried to enter a
predominantly black church nearby but was unable to get inside. When that
attempt failed, he went to Kroger instead and opened fire in the store.

As the days
pass, I sit with sadness. Maurice’s life mattered to me; his black male life mattered
to me. The relationship I had with him makes all the difference.

I pray with the
words of the Kaddish that we have heard so often recently: May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life for us all…may the
One who creates harmony on high bring peace to us.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Gifted by Life’s Challenges

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

Life can throw us all kinds of challenges—whether
small, medium or seeming insurmountable, they call something more from us.

This morning, fussing with my uncooperative hair and
complaining to myself about the beautician who didn’t cut it to meet my
expectation, and noting that I must not have been clear about what I wanted, I
finally submitted. “O well, what is IS,” and I grab my curling brush. It’s
amazing how that little wand in hand can improve my mood. And just when I think
my hair is beyond repair, it sometimes turns out better than ever!

Later this morning when I opened Pat Farrell, OP’s daily online posting, OPREACH,
I was greeted with: “Even when life challenges us, it’s a gift beyond all
measure.” —
Parker Palmer

I got to thinking how often life doesn’t give us
exactly what we want or expect, but when we rise to the occasion, do what we
can to make the best of it, things often work out well enough. We may be
surprised how well it turns out—and sometimes even see that the challenge was
really a special blessing or gift.

One day some of my Sister friends and I planned to meet
near Kansas City for a weekend of prayer, sharing and relaxing together. I was
going to leave St. Louis around 4 p.m, Friday after work to be there between
8:30-9:00 p.m. When I tried to pack my weekend bag, I felt an inner force
preventing me from moving in that direction. Instead of doing what I had
intended, I found myself redirected several times. The clock kept ticking, and
at 5 p.m. I saw myself turn on the TV, sit and watch the news, making me
wonder: “What is wrong with me? Why am I doing this? I need to get going!”
Suddenly around 6:30 p.m. I felt released from whatever was holding me back. I flew
into action, and was soon on the highway.

As I approached Kansas City, NPR news reported a
terrible accident on the same interstate highway I was taking. It had held up
traffic for about 3 hours and was now finally clearing. I arrived at my
destination around 11 p.m. safely, mystified, and with a thankful heart. Was it
intuition? God? My guardian angel?  The
puzzling ‘force’ holding me back proved truly a blessing for me – “a gift
beyond all measure”.

I was visiting with a 40-50 year old man who was a
quadriplegic due to a diving accident when he was 19. He described it as being
the worst day of his life. As he continued to talk, he shared how much he
treasured his faith in Christ, and how deeply enriching and meaningful his
relationship with God and with other people of faith had become to him. He had
a profound spiritual depth that he shared freely and with ease. 

When I asked him what his life was like before that
terrible accident, he said he was “pretty dissipated”, and had little or no
faith. Suddenly, his eyes lit up as he said, “You know, I have always cursed
the day I became a quadriplegic. But now I wonder if it had not happened, if I would have ever looked
for or found God—the  greatest gift of my
life!”

I have heard other stories of persons who found great
gift hidden in some of their life’s worst challenges. Have you ever been served
a life challenge that was truly a gift in disguise? I invite you to share your
story.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

WHAT CAN EQUAL THE VALUE OF A HUMAN SOUL?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I’m pretty sure that we have all heard “Everything has a price” – as in: for the right price, anything can be bought or sold.

As
I pondered that idea, I was reminded of a dialogue between a professor and
fellow student in one of my history courses in college (a few years ago, wink
wink). It went something like this:

Professor: Anything can
be bought.

Student: Well, you
can’t buy love.

Professor: Maybe. But
for the right price, you can buy a pretty good imitation of it.

The
class erupted in laughter, as the student conceded that the professor had a
good point.

I
think that memory moved to the forefront of my mind because I needed a light
moment before tackling the really serious question that started my deliberation:
How much is a human life worth? – $10 million, the EPA’s value of statistical
life for 2016? a billion? $18 billion, the amount that the U.S. reportedly
cleared in new arms deals with Saudi Arabia in 2017? a trillion? Or is it
invaluable?

I
choose the latter. I believe that life is a sacred gift from God; therefore, it
is not to be treated like a cheap commodity. I believe that it is a mistake to
disregard the value of human life, no matter what the circumstances.

I
choose to respect and value my life and the lives of others. I believe the
dignity of a human soul is worth more than any economic gain.

I
was horrified when I heard an Evangelical leader say “you don’t blow up an
international alliance over one person” in response to the murder of Washington
Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

I
am not willing to give up my commitment to championing human rights for economic
benefit. I am not okay with jeopardizing America’s global reputation as a moral
authority that advocates respect for human rights in exchange for money from
arms sales.

Are
you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Why I Love Jesus’ Parables

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

A year ago in June, Cathy Hilkert OP and Jude Siciliano OP led the Dominican Sisters of Peace at the Akron, Ohio Motherhouse in a retreat “The Reign of God Is Like.” It centered on the parables. And I was their liturgist/musician—a blessing for me, since I could soak in the insights and wisdom shared.

Throughout the retreat, a surprise element hidden in Jesus’ Parables sometimes elicited from me: “I’ve never noticed that before, and I’ve read it hundreds of times!”  An example: one morning as a lead into our 20-minute centering prayer, this quote was read: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls…” Accustomed to hearing the kingdom of heaven compared to a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price—for which we want to be ready to sacrifice all to attain it—I was surprised to notice the kingdom of heaven being equated with the ‘merchant’ who was seeking fine pearls. The Kingdom of God (the merchant) is ever searching for pearls of great price—persons of faith being transformed by God’s love—whom God considers to be worth Jesus sacrificing all to attain them. How awesome!—to realize once again that we are so precious to God.

It’s a slight twist or an unexpected word or phrase in the parable that often leads me to an “AHA” moment of grace. That’s why I love Jesus’ Parables.

A week ago the Gospel for the day was Lk 10:25-37It was about a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan, concluding with a question.

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

I’ve always read this passage expecting and thinking the message of Jesus to be your neighbor is the down and out, mistreated, robbed person left for dead in this passage—love them as ourselves, and treat them as the Good Samaritan did. That’s what I expected.

But here was the twist: Jesus’ answer to the question who is my neighbor was: the one who treated the victim with mercy. We become what we love. So was Jesus telling the scholar (and all of us) love the true neighbor, the merciful one, as you love yourself?  To love the merciful as much as we love ourselves, opens us to being transformed into the true neighbor—fashioned after God’s own heart. That seems to me not only wholly desirable, but also possible.

Another reason why I love Jesus’ Parables. How about you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News