Just Reflecting

“Just Reflecting” features a variety of blogs and bloggers discussing various social justice topics that we encounter in our daily lives, whether it be within our communities or own families.


Names of Guyanese Women

Andrea Haller

Hello, let me introduce myself. My name is Andrea. I am more commonly known as “White Gyal” by the men on the streets of Guyana where I serve as a teacher to boys living at an orphanage. The boys know me as “Miss Andrea.” Everyday I commute to work using my own two feet and the bus. The hardest part is walking, not because it is a long distance or uphill both ways, but because men address me with terribly degrading comments, each one more insulting, sexual, and aggressive than the last. As I walk, I think about the women who experience this their whole lives. Young girls see their fathers call out to women as they are walking through the market. Maturing teenagers are expected to be flattered as they walk home from school and hear whistles as they walk past the bar. Women are carrying their small children with them as men ask if they could make more together. It is absolutely disturbing for women to be treated in such a way. It is as if they are a piece of meat or a prize to be won. How can this not wear on women? Surely, many of them learn to believe these false names and lies they are told.

As I sit with the boys along the fence at the orphanage, I consider how they perceive women. Do they view women as a commodity? The most consistent male role models they have are the older boys and the men who they pass on the street. These sweet and loving boys are growing up in a culture where men are taught to catcall women and women are taught to take it. Unfortunately, many of them accept these roles and do not realize the negative effects. I have sat with them while they call out and whistle to young women walking by. My immediate reaction is to try to talk about their motivation for saying something, how it might make the woman feel, and better ways of getting the attention of people they find attractive. I have learned that this doesn’t work so well. The boys feel very strongly about showing their dominance and are quick to defend their methods. It scares me for the boys, their future partners, and children. I know that in their beautiful, pure hearts they do not desire to have unhealthy relationships where the women are objects. Nor do they want their future daughters to be treated, or their sons to treat women, in the same way they do.

I found hope for them and the women of Guyana in an upsetting event. I sat with the boys along the fence in our usual spots talking about school and football. Suddenly, one of the big boys said, “Miss, you need to leave.” I tried to ask why and he just franticly shook his head. Just then a man walked up to me and said, “Aye white gyal. Good Afternoon.” I simply responded with, “Good Afternoon,” and began to walk away. Normally, this method ends the conversation. Unfortunately, this man continued saying, “I need a nice sexy white gyal an it look like you duh one.” I went behind a building in hopes that he would walk away. He didn’t. The man decided to tell the boys about all of my physical features that he lusted for. I was devastated, but not for me, for the boys. This is how they are learning to treat women. What do I do? I can’t change a culture.

These amazing boys gave me hope in their response to the man. One of the younger boys, Nate, came and sat with me behind the building. He was comforting me and telling me it would be okay. He did this in between peeking out from behind the building to tell the man, “She gone away.” After the man finally left, an older boy, Levi, sat with me and we had a meaningful conversation about the way men treat women. He asked me about the sexual harassment I have experienced and how it has affected me. We talked about how hurtful it is to feel objectified. He said to me, “Miss, I will never let anyone treat you that way again, and I won’t ever treat anyone like that. I promise.”

Nate and Levi showed compassion that day. Their compassion gave me hope. I have hope that they will recall this day when they consider calling out to women in the future. I have hope that they will spread their compassion for women to their peers. This is how change happens. It is not about trying to tell, or even reason with, them what is right. They have to have experiences that change their heart and open their minds. In the future, I hope that each woman of Guyana learns her true name. This is what will keep them strong as they are called these insults. Eventually, they will only be the true name given to them. This name is Beautiful Daughter of God.

Andrea Haller is a 2016 graduate of Ohio Dominican University where she studied Early Childhood Education and Intervention Specialist. She recently completed a year of service with Mercy Volunteer Corps in Georgetown, Guyana where she worked at Sr. John Bosco Boys’ Orphanage and Bosco Academy. She will be returning to Columbus, OH as an Intervention Specialist at Goshen Lane Elementary School in the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools.

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I climbed a pyramid…

Sr. Anna and June at the top of the pyramid
Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

I climbed a pyramid . . .

and other adventures in the life of a Dominican Sister of Peace.

It’s all about perspective you know.  Photographers and theologians alike know that one’s perspective directly influences what one sees and how it is interpreted.  Yet, how often are we consciously aware of our own perspective?

For a moment, I invite you to think about your perspective.  Where do you live?  What cultural lens, physical condition, gender, values and religious beliefs make up your “view” of the world around you?

Ponder that for a moment, look around you.  How often do you/we really look around ourselves fully conscious of our perspective on the world?  I’d like to share a recent adventure where my perspective of the world required seeing from a different lens.

Last month, when visiting Mexico City for a cultural and language immersion program, I had the opportunity to climb the Pyramid of Cuicuilco which is the oldest pyramid in Mesoamerica.  The pyramid was built around 6,000 BC and it was used for religious ceremonies and cultural gatherings.  The legends tell that it was a place, “where they make songs and dances”.  It was buried under volcanic rock and ash after the eruption of the volcano Xitli around 60 BC.

The site has been excavated and some of the pyramid has been repaired to represent its original shape and size.  It is one of the few pyramids that were built in the shape of a circle or a cone.  Actually, the people of this area believed that at the center of the pyramid was the place where all civilization had emerged.  That point was believed to be the “belly-button” of the earth and that they were the first people.  That was their perspective, as coming from and being in the center of all creation.

Fast forward to a hot day in June 2017, standing at the apex of the pyramid we were able to see for many miles in each direction.  We could see the ancient volcanoes, open fields, and a dense city-scape circling out around us.  From our perspective we could imagine being in the center of all creation.  Yet . . . we know that we are not – we are a part of the whole of creation.  God is at the center.

If I live out of that reality – that God is at the center – then, my perspective changes.  My life changes focus, as do all of my choices.  Today, as I stand where my feet are, I turn to my center – take God’s hand and step out in faith.

What is your perspective?  Where is your center?

Discerning a call from God can sometimes feel like being called out onto a new vista – a new perspective.  If you find yourself being called to this something new, this something more why not explore this call with one of our vocation ministers?  Be bold in your response to God.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

Human Trafficking: Ministering in the Streets

Blog by Associate Jackie Paluszak, OPA

As I think about the upcoming World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (July 30th), I can’t help but think of the message that Pope Francis sends us when he tells us that we need to be among the sheep: “Finding the lost sheep is a joy to God, because He has a loving weakness for those who are lost.” These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Mass in Casa Santa Marta.

I am on two commissions on Human Trafficking. It is interesting to do the research, scour the statistics, and brainstorm about the ways we can reach out to help. I often wonder about new programs we can implement, where we can get funding, and how we can find more volunteers interested in the cause.

All of these are concrete issues: things that need to be addressed. But for me, there is a nagging deep inside that tells me I need to go out into the streets.
I’m not comfortable making decisions by talking about what we should be doing just by analyzing statistics or films that show what goes on in the streets.

The Educator in me needs to take it to the streets. I know the reality. I know the rejection. I don’t expect everyone to come running to me with open arms ready to share their story and accept my help. Although I have not worked with these women who have been trafficked, I have worked the streets doing my best to offer assistance to the mentally challenged, to those returning from prison, the homeless living under the bridge, in their own camps, homeless and on the streets, individuals with varying needs.

It is not an easy job.

You need to be gentle. You need to be kind, loving from a distance, and patient, very, very patient. And you need to be street smart or you won’t be able to accomplish what you need in order to be successful.

The Dominican women that I work with are trained and far more experienced than I am. The work that they do really makes a difference. They make a difference. They count. They make strides daily in this ugly world where human life is treated so deplorably.

My only hope is that after some training, I will be able to walk in the footsteps of these Dominican women, and if I can touch one person and make their life better, I will have achieved what Pope Francis challenged me, and all of us, to do.

Pope Francis reminds us, “Each one of us is precious; each one of us is irreplaceable in God’s eyes.” [Tweet 6/25/17] This is what we need to bring to the women we meet on the streets.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

B.R.E.A.D Rises!

Blog by Associate Karen Martens, Columbus, OH.

In Columbus, Ohio, people have been blessed for 21 years with the existence of the B.R.E.A.D. Organization. (Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity). Forty diverse faith communities join together to work for justice in our community. We do this work using a four-step process each year: listening, research, action, and follow-through. We begin each autumn with house meetings where we identify what is personally affecting our lives and those of friends and family. After a meeting of hundreds of people each November, where we vote on what to begin to address that year, research on the issue begins until a solution is found. Each May, we hold a Nehemiah Action Meeting with thousands of people in attendance where public officials make specific commitments to work with B.R.E.A.D. Follow-through continues over the next few years until a solution is achieved. It is not unusual for it to take 3-4 years to achieve a result.

Over these past 20 years, B.R.E.A.D. has accomplished many things using this four-step process. Among our accomplishments are:

  • A County Land Bank with 3.5 million dollars annually which has resulted in demolition of over 2,000 vacant properties;
  • Securing 1.2 million dollars to expand primary care at Columbus Neighborhood Health Centers;
  • An investment of over $200,000 by the ADAMH Board for an accredited Clubhouse International Program to serve the mentally ill;
  • Establishment of six restorative justice circles to prevent children from entering the Juvenile Justice System;
  • Getting new Assertive Community Treatment Teams that help individuals with severe mental illness; and
  • The Affordable Housing Trust Fund which has financed the development of over 8,000 units of affordable houses.

On May 1, 2,500 people gathered to hear commitments from public officials for the current B.R.E.A.D. campaigns:

  • Reducing suspensions in the Columbus City Schools by getting restorative practices into the schools
  • Strengthening the Restorative Justice Circles for juvenile non-violent offenders
  • Securing a municipal identification card for everyone
  • Increasing jobs in neglected neighborhoods
  • Increasing job opportunities for returning citizens
  • Reducing violent crime in our city through the institution of a program aimed at youth groups.

The work of B.R.E.A.D. aligns perfectly with Catholic Social Teaching. In Micah 6:6-8 and in Matthew 23:23-24 we are called to do justice, mercy and worship God. However, people seem to more easily worship God and do acts of mercy than to work for justice. I often wonder why this is so. Perhaps it is because the Consumer Culture is stronger than the Justice Culture. The consumer culture sees “self” isolated from others and individuals seek to accumulate things. The justice culture sees “self” in relation to others (common good) and a fair distribution of God’s bounty is essential. Perhaps it is because we get more self-satisfaction from doing works of mercy (for example, feeding the hungry) than doing the difficult long-term work of changing systems in order to secure justice.

I continue to have a vision of what we could accomplish if all our Catholic parishes joined B.R.E.A.D. and used their power to work for justice in our city. Then, Columbus would be more like the City of God than a Tale of Two Cities.

B.R.E.A.D. Rises!


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Dominican Kentucky Experience Extravaganza

Madison Wells, sophomore at Ohio Dominican University & member of the Dominican Young Adult Group

Truthfully, I never thought that April would come. We scheduled the trip for our Dominican Kentucky Experience Extravaganza in the fall and so much life happened in between the planning and the doing. Alas, the day finally came and all seven of us – three Sisters, two students, one Priest, and one Justice Promoter – squeezed into a van and hit the road. We were finally Kentucky-bound. We had our fair share of bathroom breaks and snack stops before we reached our first destination: The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. We toured the guest chapel and bookshop before heading in the main chapel to devote a half an hour of Vesper’s prayer with the monks. What a truly wonderful way to begin our trip by talking with our Lord in His House! I didn’t realize the power of taking 30 minutes to talk with God, especially when it’s difficult to find 10 minutes. It was truly a blessing. Afterwards, with it being a Lenten Friday, we found our way to a church with two great pastimes: bingo and a fish fry. (If you’re ever hankering for some quality bean soup, that church has it.) Finally, we made it to the St. Catharine Motherhouse. Continue reading →

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