Associate Blog

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A Life Of “Mentoring” Compassion

By Sharon Reed, OPA

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.”

Sr. Noreen Malone, OP

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.

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Associate Update

Dear Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace…

Happy New Year to each one of you. I’d like to wish each of you, my friends in Christ, many blessings in the year 2022.

The past six months of my life – months of new experiences and new friends – have been filled with an awareness of how present the Holy Spirit has been in my life.

In June I moved into a new phase of my life’s journey. Having retired in December 2019, I thought that I would be able to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. I was moving to a new home in Florida and life would be great. I arrived in Florida in February of 2020 – just in time for the world as I knew it to come to a screeching halt in response to COVID-19.

Everything around me shut down. I spent months inside my home, wondering just when I would be able to enjoy my new “freedom to be me.” I learned a great deal about myself – and my own faith in God. (Although honestly, sometimes that faith was challenged!)

In April of 2021, I was invited to consider the position of Director of the Associates of Peace. God had prepared me for this possibility, and I was totally open for the opportunity – and on June 1, 2021, I began this wonderful adventure.

Over the past six months, I have been able to meet and greet many of the Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace in person. I have met many more through the windows of Zoom. Meeting my sisters and brothers in Dominic’s family has assured me that I am where I want to be.

I traveled to the Motherhouse in Great Bend to direct a Retreat on the 4 Pillars of Dominican Life and experience the Commitment Ceremony of the Associates. I saw a part of our country I had not seen before where the sunrises were beautiful.

I have been to the Akron and Columbus Motherhouses and met many Associates and Sisters. I have sat in on planning meetings, prayer services, and commitment ceremonies.

Traveling to Virginia, Philadelphia, New York, Michigan, I met more Associates and learned how they worship and fellowship in their local areas. Virginia, Philadelphia, and New York were homecomings, as I had lived there as an Associate myself. My visit to Michigan was my first time in the state, and everyone made me feel welcome.

Being one of a group of women and men committed to the Four Pillars of Dominican life has been tremendously life-giving to me.

But in the midst of this joy, I have also seen and heard what the pandemic has done to our Associates and their families. Each month I have heard the stories and concerns, all leading to one question – when will our lives return to normal? I am not even sure what normal is at this point of my journey.

What I do know is that we, as Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, in mission with the community of Sisters, are resilient. Through many hours of conversation, I have learned that even though some Associates feel disconnected because of the virus, there is also much to be encouraged by as monthly gatherings are returning in person or on zoom. Our associates are, again, on the move.

Great prayer services are being held, presentations are being delivered, ministries are being nurtured and new ministries are springing up. Like the rest of the world, Associates are seeing new and different possibilities – and God is with us with every step.

The past six months have held challenges. The Office of Director was left vacant by the sudden death of Colette Parker, and I did not have her assistance during the transition. But sitting in the Akron Office of Associates, I feel Colette’s presence and her strength. I am supported by Celeste Williams, our wonderful Administrative Assistant. We are making great progress in getting things in order and doing important things together.

Just one month into the New Year, many innovative ideas and developments are coming into view. I believe we are a very strong group of women and men who are committed to discerning a new path in Associate life. There are answers to our questions – with faith in God and in each other.

Will we be challenged? Yes. But we are moving forward. We have great Sisters leading our Congregation. We have a strong Associates Council that is ready for the challenge. We have Mentors nurturing our small groups. Most importantly, each of us is continually saying YES to our commitment. Our continued YES communicates our desire that the Spirit of Dominic continues. We are capable and willing to be part of the future of the Congregation, and we welcome new people to join us in this work.

Indeed, the Holy Spirit has been very present to me in my first six months as Director of Associates and will continue to be present each day. I am grateful for all that has taken place and excited for all that is to come. Please continue to say YES as we move forward, as we become the hope for the future.  I am certainly grateful for each one of you.

Remember, “In God all things are possible.” Let us make it happen.

Thank you and bless you

Cecelia

 

Highlights: June 2021-January 2022

  • SAFE in-person Associates group meetings.
  • Regular Associate Zoom meetings.
  • New discerners and new Commitments are expected in August.
  • Communication between Associate groups around the country.
  • An active Mentorship program has been launched.
  • A new Associate Council has been launched.

 

Posted in Associate Blog

Advent Thoughts

 

Blog by Associate Director Ceil Amendolia, OPA

As we enter the season of Advent, I have been thinking about some of the words that are used during the Advent Season… words like darkness, light, expectation, wonder, waiting, joy, hope, prepare, and gratitude.

These words describe the feelings that I have been experiencing as I have traveled around to meet you, the Associates of the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Many of you I have met in person, while I have met others by zoom, facetime and phone calls. Of course, there are still many of you that I have not met and I long to do that soon.

This year, I see Advent as the perfect time to wonder, to prepare, and to build wonderful expectations of what is to come.

I have also heard from many of you – your wonder, your hope, and your expectations.

As 2021 draws to a close, our hope and our joy are the possibilities that a New Year will bring.

Recently, Sr. Linda Lee Jackson, OP, and I were talking about the journey of being an Associate. Over our lunch at the Columbus Motherhouse, she asked me a challenging question: “What is my mission statement,  and what is my vision”?

This led to a discussion about the importance of each of us knowing our personal Mission and Vision as an Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

As we talked, Sr. Linda introduced me to the concept of “savoring”- actively enhancing our appreciation of the good in our lives. She shared this reflection to help me understand the importance of savoring our walk with God.

My Advent gift to you is the gift of savoring. Of allowing your heart to expand and fully enjoy the Season of Advent and the gifts of our faith.

I hope that you will read this reflection and hold the thought of Savoring close to your heart.

In the days and weeks to come, I will invite each of you to create your own Mission and Vision Statement.

May this Season of Advent encourage you to wonder, anticipate and be Joy to all you encounter. I wish you Peace, Love, and many Blessings.

Posted in Associate Blog

Gardening For Life

Blog by Karen Martens, OPA

Laudato Si calls each of us to action. Mother earth needs our help. Gardening for life is one way each of us can do our part. Much of the natural habit has been lost. But we can change that, one yard at a time.

Gardening practices have changed. Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that each fall, gardeners cut perennials to the ground and raked all leaves out of the garden. We are now encouraged to embrace a “messy garden” and to make sure the garden has native plants of many types (trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, vines, and ground covers). Plants that produce fruit and seeds are attractive to wildlife. Such plants are a magnet for birds and chipmunks. Recently, I saw eight goldfinch feasting on dried seed-heads of black-eyed Susans. Plants that have hollow stems at the end of the growing season are also attractive to many insects who nest in these cavities. All of these resources are lost if gardens are cleaned to the ground.

Our gardening practices forever changed in 2009 after reading Doug Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home. Our garden now may look messy to some, but to us, it is filled with life. In the fall, our gardening practices include leaving leaves in the garden where they fall and not cutting back plants that have dried seed heads on them (grasses, asters, goldenrods, coneflowers, sunflowers, coreopsis, and black-eyed Susans).

Wildlife needs gardens that provide a habitat with food and water and a place to live or reproduce. Pollinators such as native bees often overwinter in our garden and are doomed if we cut plants back. Some butterflies also overwinter as adults amazingly in garden debris such as fallen leaves or bark. Other butterflies overwinter in the chrysalis form in dried leaves. In the spring, birds rely on having an abundance of caterpillars from moths to feed their young and our plant choices encourage these insects. Come spring, we will wait until the temperatures have been in the 50-degree range for at least five days. That will give all our wildlife friends a chance to wake up and begin a new season. We are gifted in return by seeing our garden come alive each spring with pollinators, birds, mammals and occasionally spotting a toad or snake.

Posted in Associate Blog

When you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are….

Blog by Director of Associates Ceil Amendolia, OPA

Good day to each of you!

I am writing to you from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The sun is shining, and the sky is so blue, but the temperature is just 46 degrees. I am sitting here thinking about the past 132 days and all that has taken place. Being a dreamer, it delights me that many of my dreams have come true.

On June 1, 2021, I began to see the dream of a few years ago start to become real. Being selected to be the Associate Director of a group of women and men who are part of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace made my heart sing with joy.

So far, it has called me to become tremendously aware of my senses. My eyes have been opened to so many wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of meeting in my travels. My ears have heard stories of accomplishments that people have experienced, concern about our future, questions about who we are and what is expected of us. I have tasted food as I break bread with fellow associates and discuss about what is next for the Associates. I have experienced new smells as I have travelled down new roads in our beautiful nation – the farms, the flowers, the trees on the properties I have visited in these days. Most of all I have been able to touch the sacred, without being able to really touch one another.

Associates have thanked me for stepping into this position, for which I am grateful. I have felt at home each time I have visited a new place. I hear the questions that many of us are asking. “Where do you think we are going?” “What can we do differently, how can we make what we do better?”

My response is it will take some time to look at all the possibilities of the directions we can go.

I hear your questions – one hundred and thirty-two days ago, I sat among you wondering the same things. Now I am in a position to hear your questions and feel comfortable enough to say to each of you, we can do this together.

I am a hope-filled person. I believe with all the avenues of communication we have available to us and a tremendous prayer community, nothing will be impossible! Our future is wide open.

What will it take to bring us to a new future?

It will take each of us to completely embrace our commitment to the associate lifestyle. We must be open to new ideas and new areas of involvement. We must be willing to let go of “the way we have always done it.”

When you wish upon a star, what is the wish you are asking for? Have you expressed that wish to someone? Are you prepared to get involved with seeing your wish come true?

Wishing for something requires risk… the risk of acceptance or rejection. But don’t be discouraged by rejection … rather, re-think it. Re-plan it. Be prepared to present it again in a new way.

Each one of us brings something to the table we have joined. We are over 600 Associates committed to Dominican Spirituality, to the of the Four Pillars of Prayer, Study, Community and Ministry.

It is time for us to remove the fences that keep us in our places and be open to the larger community of associates, to be involved and invested in our associate group.

It means that a group that meets monthly for prayer would feel open enough to invite another group to join them for a prayer.

When a group has a need for a resource, other Associate groups should be willing to step in.

We are strong in our numbers, but we need to open our doors and share our gifts. If Dominic had only stayed in one area, what would we look like today? He traveled the roads, he spoke to all he met along the way, he shared his gifts.

If the women and men who founded the Dominican congregations only stayed in one place, many of us would not be a part of this organization.

We are at a time and place to bring our stories, our commitment and most of all, our shining star to a world so in need of peace. Yes, most of us are doing this, one by one or in small group settings. I want to see what is possible when people of good spirit gather and bring the goodness of what we have to offer to anyone who is willing to listen.

I say to each of you, are you with me on this journey? Can you wish upon a star so that our dreams will come true?

In Dominic we claim to be….so let it be.

Posted in Associate Blog