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Youth Activists are Agents of Change: Will You Stand With Them?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I am inspired and encouraged by the young people who are currently speaking out against gun violence.

Their efforts to organize and protest in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida give me hope for a brighter future.

Their efforts also remind me that young people (students and teens) have been a vital part of social justice movements — perhaps most notably, the civil rights movement; but also the revolt against the Vietnam War and  the international fight against racial apartheid in South Africa; and most recently, the struggle against mass incarceration, the effort to end human trafficking, and the battle for immigration reform).

Like those before them, the young people who are part of the #NeverAgain movement are not afraid to call America to a higher national standard via civic participation and political action.

These young people are a shining example of what patriotism is all about. I applaud their steadfast determination to bring an end to gun violence, particularly in schools.

My faith in democracy has been reaffirmed by the young #NeverAgain activists, including:

Seventeen-year-old Cameron Kasky who said “we are on the cusp of our adulthood and ready to knock out the people who are not with us,” reminding politicians that he and his classmates will be old enough to vote in the 2020 election.

Eighteen-year-old Emma Gonzalez who said “we have to be the people calling for change, demanding change,” rallying her peers to focus on the removal of politicians who refuse to support stricter gun regulations.

Seventeen-year-old Florence Yared, who did not mince words when she said “To Congress, you are directly responsible for every community that has lost people to gun violence. You have the power to change this and if you don’t, we will change you. We will vote you out.”

Seventeen-year-old David Hogg, who said “now that you’ve had an entire generation of kids growing up around mass shootings, and the fact that they’re starting to be able to vote, explains how we’re going to have this change. Kids are not going to accept this,” telling politicians that his generation will use its growing electoral influence to affect gun reform.

Let us never forget that youth are agents of social change. Our history tells us that we should not be surprised by their activism, but we should be impressed by their fortitude in advocating for what they believe is right.

The question is: Do we have the courage to stand with them?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Just Pray

Blog by Associate Peggy Frank

I recently heard an excellent homily that made me think of our Dominican Prayer Associates. It was the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord. The Gospel was the familiar reading from Luke in which the righteous man Simeon and the prophetess Anna both recognize the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Savior.

In his homily, the priest, Fr. Michael Lumpe, likened Simeon and Anna, who “never left the temple,” to today’s monastic sisters and brothers in convents and monasteries world-wide, who have committed their lives to prayer. Prayer, Father said, is not only important, it is urgently needed amid the turmoil, confusion and sometimes just plain madness of modern times.

So true! And I agreed with his accolades for modern day monastics. Still, I couldn’t help drawing parallels to those dedicated Dominican Associates who likewise focus on prayer. They may not live in monasteries, but Dominican Sisters of Peace Prayer Associates provide a strong bedrock of prayer support for the many various and diverse ministries of our branch of the Dominican Family.  Every day they actively pray, for our crazy world yes, but also for us, our Order, our Congregation, our Sisters and Associates and our many vital ministries around our crazy world.

DSOP Associate guidelines provides the option for Active Associates to transition to the status of Prayer Associates if/when personal limitations restrict them from being active. Similar to those Sisters who change their primary ministry to that of prayer when they move to an infirmary or extended care facility, Associates too can change their primary ministry to prayer as their life circumstances change.

Sometimes, I guess because it is so often accompanied by age and/or infirmity, the importance of this form of prayer ministry is under-estimated. What a mistake! Jesus Himself has commanded us to pray, and to pray often, as he did.  I believe in the power of prayer, and today I especially appreciate the powerful prayer of our Dominican Prayer Associates, to whom I would like to say, thank you!

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Standing Firm in Truth: The Legacy of Asma Jahangir

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The world has lost a powerful voice for peace and justice.

Asma Jahangir, a steadfast champion of human rights and women’s rights, and a pro-democracy activist, passed away on Sunday. After her death, many people took to social media to offer condolences:

  • “Heartbroken that we lost Asma Jahangir – a saviour of democracy and human rights…” (Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai ).
  • “Asma Jahangir was the bravest person I knew. She fearlessly stood up to dictators, thugs, misogynists. She was never daunted by the attacks that came her way. She never wavered from her principles. Her loss is incalculable.” (Amnesty International’s South Asia director Omar Waraich).
  • “What a brave woman. Pakistan is poorer without her. People like Asma are anchors of a society.” (Pakistani Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja M. Asif)
  • “A horrible loss for all of us. Will miss her incredible courage in insisting that human rights cannot be comprised, ever.” (Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly).
  • “Asma Jehangir’s death is a loss of a strong voice for the marginalised and oppressed. Despite our differences I always respected her for her fight for human rights and for standing up for her convictions.” (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan)
  • “ ‘Speaking truth to power’ a phrase, we often use. #AsmaJahangir lived, practiced till her last breath. Questioned mullahs, military, judges, politicians, all the powerful; defended downtrodden. Faced threats & attacks. Was never afraid. What a hero. We have to contend with a void.” (Pakistani Daily Times editor Raza Ahmad Rumi).

Jahangir, a prominent Pakistani human rights advocate and attorney, was fearless in speaking loudly against those attacking minority religions and women. She braved death threats, imprisonment, and beatings as she pushed for human rights.

What a great example of believing deeply in what you say and fighting every day to have that heard – speaking truth to power, taking a risk to stand for something – whether or not it’s convenient, popular, or dangerous..

In remembering Asma Jahangir, I am committed to following her great example of fighting for those who are marginalized and oppressed and of being a pillar of truth and light.

I invite you to do the same.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Lent – A Second Chance

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

January has sped by taking with it all my good intentions of making New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Well, Lent is coming soon—this year on Valentine’s Day! So, I’m turning my attention a week early to consider what I want to and will do as my 2018 Lenten practice. It is a second chance at my New Year’s Resolution(s). Who knows, it could flower into a practice for the whole year.

As long as I can remember, for most Catholics Ash Wednesday always signaled a time to give up sweets and desserts as the usual Lenten penance. But the question: “Why not consider other kinds of Lenten practice(s) that might be more transformative in our lives and in the lives of others?” challenges us to take our Lenten Penance to the next level, giving it more thought and meaning.

In case the imagination goes sluggish on this topic, a quick search on Google provides plenty of ideas for what one can do for Lent. Here are seven practices I am considering–maybe I’ll choose just one to do everyday throughout Lent, or do a different practice each day of the week.

  • Resolve to do a random act of kindness to/for someone [Sunday]
  • Spend an extra 15 minutes in prayer: no agenda, just soak in God’s love [Mon.]
  • Mindful portion reduction; take less for dinner and savor more [Tues.]
  • An extra 10-15 minutes of spiritual reading from an inspirational book; perhaps partner with someone to mutually share what is reaped [Wed.]
  • Practice loving an ‘enemy’— pray for someone who seems especially annoying and ask God to bless them  [Thurs.]
  • Plan or spontaneously do a WORK OF MERCY [Fri.] (see List)
  • Declutter your house, your closet, your bedroom, your office – by choosing one thing to give away, discard, recycle, donate [Sat.]

Number seven, declutter—cries out to me every time I open my closet. Even after doing this practice for Lent last year—40 days, ridding my space one day at a time of 40 things I did not really need—I realize how easy it is to fill it again one thing at a time. Gifts, bargains too good to pass up, things I thought I needed but did not after all. Fasting from getting more unnecessary things, combined with donating gently worn clothes –as almsgiving–could not only transform my closet, but touch other lives positively.

To do numbers one through six on the designated day, could add more ‘Spirit’ and mindfulness  to my spiritual life. Plus doing number seven every day of Lent (not just on Saturdays), could become a good habit—a resolution for the rest of the year. I would be moving in the direction of one of my goals: to live with greater simplicity. And I’ll be grateful I chose this Lenten practice the next time I pack to move.

There is a website that gives a daily creative idea for decluttering (not just closets, but also desks, offices, refrigerators, handbags, and more). It might be a fun incentive for anyone who takes this on as a daily challenge. [Search: 365 less things.]

Okay, I still have a week, but now I have a plan…

What do you plan to do for Lent this year?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

A SMILE IS AN ACTION OF LOVE

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I smiled at a lady in a grocery store a couple of days ago.

She smiled back and said “Hi.”

I said “Hi. How are you?”

She said “better now” and went on to explain that she was having a rough day, but that my smile lifted her spirits.

It’s amazing that a simple smile – something that costs us nothing and takes little effort — can brighten someone’s day in a moment’s notice.

St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

Like St. Teresa, other spiritual teachers and scientists agree that a smile can transform you and the world around you. Research, and common sense, shows us that a smile is contagious; that it lifts our mood and the moods of those around us; and that it reduces stress.

A smile expresses a message of happiness, hope, and love to anyone who sees it. A smile makes others feel welcome, accepted, and appreciated.

Too often, we underestimate the power of a smile. A smile has the power to turn someone’s whole day around, like the lady in the grocery store.

We all have the power to pass on hope, love, and happiness to others, with a simple smile.

In his poem “The Power of a Smile”, rap legend Tupac Shakur puts it this way:

The power of a gun can kill, and the power of fire can burn

The power of wind can chill, and the power of the mind can learn

The power of anger can rage inside until it tears you apart

But the power of a smile, especially yours, can heal a frozen heart

Go ahead, put a genuine smile on your face and brighten someone’s day.

Posted in Associate Blog, News