In her book, “Boundless Compassion”, Joyce Rupp reflects on ‘mentors of compassion’:
“Their witness of nonjudgmental inclusivity, fierce determination, and willingness to pay the price for change, serves as an inspiration and a stimulus for hope…
Every organization or social movement for good begins with one caring individual whose vision and passion ignite the light in others’ hearts.”
35 years ago, my (and so many others) “mentor of compassion,” Sr. Noreen Malone, OP, ignited a light in my heart and in the community. In 1986, Noreen and a group of Dominican Sisters presented a vision to their Dominican Chapter for sisters trained in spirituality ministry and spiritual direction to give back to the wider community. Noreen also invited a group of lay men and women to explore ways to respond to all who were experiencing a parching thirst for the God of life, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Hospitality and welcome, collaboration, compassion, and hope would be the hallmarks of this endeavor. In January 1987, The Spirituality Network began with one small office and the donated service of one director. On January 18, 2022, that “one director” celebrated her 90th birthday.
Over the years, I imagine that thousands have been touched in some way by Noreen’s dream, “her nonjudgmental inclusivity, fierce determination, and willingness to pay the price to change”. It may have been a Lenten journal, an interfaith retreat for persons living with HIV/AIDS, Women to Women, Wellstreams, Arti Gras, a gifted spiritual director or retreat leader, an Oasis gathering during COVID, or Maxine Shonk’s “Blessing” books that assisted our searching, thirsting and desire to be transformed and to transform the world for the better.
Or much like the Woman at the Well in Scripture, it may have been a single encounter with a compassionate individual who gifted you with their presence and deep listening, quenching your thirst with the water of new life. Maybe he or she helped you remember your authentic goodness or encouraged you to trust your inner experience. For those of you who don’t know Noreen, it may have been someone else participating in her dream. Although the Spirituality Network has evolved and faced new challenges and new circumstances over the years, Noreen’s dream and vision remain at the heart of who we are and what we do. Awakened, compassionate hearts will certainly transform the world!
I would like to invite you to join me in celebrating the blessing of Noreen’s 90 years of life and her dream of the Spirituality Network that has blossomed for 35 years. Please consider donating to the newly established Noreen Malone, O.P. Compassion Fund. Your gift will provide access for those who need help on their journey to the programs of the Spirituality Network, so that we may continue to touch others’ lives as we have been touched by Noreen’s.
If you are not able to do that, please be guided by the words of Rumi: “Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do”. You would be continuing the dream and I know Noreen would consider that the best birthday gift ever! Happy 90th Noreen!! We are ever grateful for your life, your compassionate mentoring and your legacy.