God Calling?

Every vocation story begins with a call – a call to share your gifts with others who want to make a difference in the world. If you believe that you’ve heard God’s call, and you want to write your own story with the Dominican Sisters of Peace, contact us to begin a conversation.


 

Ruth – a Woman who trusted God

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Sometimes life does not turn out as we think it will.

Anyone alive today, in 2020, can relate to this feeling.

How we deal with the unexpected says a lot about who we are, about what we value, and about our faith.

I believe that the Book of Ruth and its main protagonists – Ruth and Naomi—have something to teach us about resiliency, hope, transformation, and discernment.

I, and the other members of my local community, have been participating in a Women’s Bible Study with Sr. Teresa Tuite on the Book of Ruth.  Sr. Teresa has paired the Scripture with the book by Joan Chittister, The Story of Ruth:  Twelve Moments in Every Woman’s Life.  Each week, via Zoom, we gather with women from around the country to pray with our foremothers, Ruth and Naomi, and with each other.  It has been a time of great grace and blessing for me and has reaffirmed my belief in the resiliency of the human spirit amidst the difficulties of life.

Ruth was a young Moabite woman, married to her beloved and looking forward to bearing children and watching her family grow and prosper.  However, it was not to be.  Her husband died of an illness that also took the lives of his father and brother.  Ruth was left a widow, along with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her sister-in-law Orpah.  Without their husbands, father, or sons, they were without any means of support and chose to return to Bethlehem.

Each woman made a different choice.  Naomi chose to return to her people in Bethlehem where she knew she would be welcomed and cared for.  Orpah chose to return to her family’s home with hopes to marry again. Ruth chose to remain faithful to Naomi and return with her to Bethlehem.  Ruth’s famous declaration is an inspiration to many of us to this day, “Wherever you go, I will go.  Wherever you live, I shall live.  Wherever you die, I shall die.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Srs. Annie Killian and Shirley Bodisch as Ruth and Naomi.

Ruth undergoes a radical transformation when she becomes a widow.  By choosing to become an immigrant in a land she does not know, she must trust in a God she is just getting to know through Naomi and must rely on her faith.  Ruth not only accepts the circumstances of her life, but she allows these circumstances to change her from the inside out by embracing her new life, and in doing so, becomes a new person – she is transformed.

A moment of transformation comes when something inside us shifts and, despite ourselves, we find that we are no longer the person we used to be.  Like Naomi and Ruth, we find not only that life has changed but that we have changed.  Then we know with certainty that God is working in our soul.

Such transformations have happened among many of the women in our Bible Study group.  Each has been impacted by the pandemic in different ways.  Some have experienced the death of one or more loved ones, some have welcomed new grandchildren, a few have lost jobs and all of us have had plans changed beyond our control.  Yet, as we have gathered each week to journey with Ruth and Naomi, we have discovered once again our God, who is faithful and present to us all in all.  God is revealed to us in the face and the words of another, in the tears and laughter of a new baby, and in the rise of the sun each day.

Such transformations also happen in the women who choose to answer God’s call to enter religious life.  They must leave home, take on a new identity, and join with others on a journey into the unknown.  Religious life is changing around us and yet we and those who join us are willing to trust–to trust in God and to trust in each other as we walk this journey together.

To embrace that transformation takes discernment and an intentional choice.  Transformation does not just happen – it is an active process.  It takes deep reflection, prayer, and the decision to choose that which is placed before us.  What about you?  Are you willing to be transformed into a new creation?

If so, and you hear God calling, give us a call.  Or attend our upcoming Advent retreat on Sunday, November 29.

 

Posted in God Calling?

Wandering in the Wilderness

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

As November rolls in with colder weather, shorter days, and darker nights, I find myself thinking about the imagery and symbolism of walking in the wilderness. In the Oxford English Dictionary, wilderness is defined as “an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region” and as “a neglected or abandoned area.”

Given these two definitions, I wonder why anyone would want to make a trek into the wilderness. Who would want to abandon the familiar and set out into unknown territory? Who would want to risk their lives in the wilderness, journeying across parched and barren land, unsure of what might be found on the other side? What is it about the wilderness that attracts some people to explore its surroundings while making others fearful of what is there?  Of course, sometimes, we simply find ourselves wandering in the wilderness, not by choice but by circumstance. We can’t always avoid living in the wilderness of life where we find life hard.

From biblical times to modern times, we can find countless examples of people who have wandered in the wilderness and whose faith is tested as they respond to a call from God.  In the Scriptures, Abraham responds to God’s call to leave his country and his family and is led into the wilderness on his way to a land that God would reveal to him.  Moses is called by God to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt but must travel through the wilderness, which takes forty years, before reaching the Promised Land.  After being baptized, Jesus is led into the wilderness and is in seclusion for 40 days and 40 nights, where his faith is tested and he encounters temptations to deny his calling.

In modern times, we see migrants leaving their homelands to escape violence and poverty in hopes of finding peace and a place where their basic material needs for food, housing, and jobs are satisfied.  We, ourselves, can certainly recount our own wilderness experiences, whether material, emotional, financial, physical, or spiritual. Even now during this pandemic time, you might describe it as a wilderness moment, and for some it is a time of loss, emptiness, loneliness and despair and for others it may be a time of change and spiritual renewal.

A wilderness experience can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, burdensome and painful–a time of trial, of soul searching for understanding our situation, and asking why suffering is happening. It can also be liberating and humbling (once we pass through the rough terrain), teaching us reliance on a higher power to guide us and to lead us from fear to faith. The wilderness is a time of letting go of everything that has sustained us and turning to this higher power for our hope and direction.

What so many wilderness experiences seem to share is also a calling, a summons to go deeper, to trust in God’s providence for us. It is in this calling to something new, to something better, and to something greater than ourselves that our wilderness experience has the power to transform us and our relationship with God and others. We may be uprooted to see life through a new lens, a lens that beckons us to be of service to others.

Have you found yourself wandering in the wilderness, wondering how God is calling you?  God may be calling you to become a Sister.  Do you hear his voice in the wilderness?  If so, contact us to start a conversation about how this voice and this calling is manifesting itself in you.

Posted in God Calling?

Hidden Blessings in Living Religious Life

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

To help women discern their life’s calling, the Vocation team offers a monthly Emmaus discussion group on various topics around religious life and discernment. Topics have included “Keys to Discernment,” “A Sister’s Daily Life Schedule,” “How to Decide Which Community Best Fits You,” or “Common Fears When Discerning.” Sometimes, we invite a sister to join us and to share her experience or perspective on a topic. This monthly group begins and ends with prayer and provides women with more information to discern and reflect with in a dialogue format with sisters and their peers.

The topic this October was community living. We talked about the blessings and challenges of living in a community with a multigenerational, multicultural, and multi-ministerial composition. Each vocation team member shared her varied experiences of community living along with pictures and stories.

My sharing focused on three hidden blessings that I have found when living my religious life in the Dominican Sisters of Peace:

First, a religious community is a community of faith that is different from other experiences of community living. We come to live together because we each have a great desire for intimacy with God, and a passion for mission. We share our reflections, life stories and experiences from readings, news, or from ministry—all in the context of living our faith and mission.  Most of the time, this sharing leads us to a deeper gratitude towards God and increases our passion for mission. It also adds to creating a reflective and contemplative atmosphere in how we live and do our ministry. Such an open atmosphere brings so much peace and joy to our life. We laugh a lot, even about little things, and we care for one another. We are women with young hearts of all ages! For me, inspiration and gratitude fill me each day.

Second, we don’t just talk or discuss what is happening, but we dare to dream and envision what and how we need to respond to the needs of our times.  We may each have different views and perspectives on a topic or life issue, but we share our views in daily dialogue and, in so doing, we expand our understanding on that topic or issue.  Alone, we may only see one aspect of a topic like the six blind men who each describe one aspect of the elephant, as shown in the illustration here. But, when everyone’s views are taken together, we gain a better understanding of what the elephant (or issue) looks like. In community living, a spiritual awakening can happen daily, creating opportunities for us to serve and respond to reality with fresh eyes. My heart has often danced with gratitude because of the wisdom we share with each other in our religious communities.

Third, wherever I live or go out for mission, I know that I have a support system behind me, praying for me, helping me to move forward. I can lean on their prayers. I also know that these are my sisters, whom I can trust and share at a deep level, who can share profound wisdom. This support gives me a strong motivation to move and stretch my wings, to dare to dream and envision possibilities, and to dare to step into an unknown future.  I must admit that without my sisters, I cannot be who I am today- a confident woman of faith. Before I entered the community, I was happy with my life, but I have found much more since I entered religious life.

You will find other blessings when living in a religious community. These blessings are abundant.  Why not explore what blessings God has in store for you? Contact us to begin this exploration of religious life.

Posted in God Calling?

Compassionate Hope

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Recently, I watched the movie: “Secret: Dare to Dream. I feel inspired by the movie, mostly, because Bray, who helps a widowed mother and her family, exemplifies how positive thoughts can transform minds and can lead to a heart full of compassion and hope. In daring to dream, the characters are challenged to be open and to think beyond reality, taking the courage to work toward achieving something they would like to see happen. Whether it’s the stress of having most of your classes online, or battling with the pandemic and its effects on us, or losing a loved one recently, or feeling uncertain about God’s call, I thought that we all could use some inspiration.

At times, the thought of discerning God’s call might make you wrestle with your thoughts. It may be difficult to be open about where these thoughts may take you. At first, you might ‘ditch’ the idea of being called to religious life, but if it keeps nudging you, you might want to explore what this call means for you. Bray offers this inspiration in the movie: “When the time is right, you’ll know what to do.”

You might begin exploring this call by examining these questions: What does your prayer life look like when you pray about God’s call? What values do you hold dear? What is it that you look for in a religious community? In the movie, Bray points out: “if you don’t know what you want, how can you ask for it?” When discerning religious life, it is important that you look at the charism, prayer life, mission, and community life of the religious orders. These factors might help you narrowing down your search to just a few religious communities.

We, Dominicans, study the Word and study the needs of our time, and in doing so, we examine what attitude to adopt or what action to follow. This coming Sunday, in the Gospel we are reminded to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Easier said than done. But countless people throughout history have shown us the way to love and Jesus’ life and teachings are foremost the best example of how to love. Jesus offered hope and compassion to many and we are called to do the same. Bray embodies a humble attitude, and he exemplifies what compassion and hope can do. When facing a question or concern, our attitude can ‘decide’ the outcome. As Bray reminds viewers in the movie, we “have to be careful because we get what we expect.” I agree. A “yeah, right” with a frown might not take us anywhere, while a “yeah, right” with a courageous tone might inspire us to work for a more peaceful world, or even more, it might open doors to new opportunities that God has in store for us.

In the movie, Bray didn’t think that anything was coincidental. In fact, he quoted Albert Einstein when he was asked: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Think about this statement for a moment. How has God shown up seemingly by coincidence in your life?

Whether it’s your discernment, or a current event in today’s world, such as the current election in the U.S., the immigration situation at the southern U.S. border, or knowing that the parents of 545 children are still separated and cannot be found, reflecting on the effects of climate change or on the effects of the pandemic, you might want to ponder what is your attitude and what action are you willing to take. You might also ponder these two questions–What inspires you in nurturing your relationship with God? How can or are you an instrument of God’s love and hope for others in this wounded world?

If you are discerning religious life and you are a single, Catholic woman between age 18-45, and you would like to deepen your relationship with God through prayer, contact Sr. June Fitzgerald via email at jfitzgerald@oppeace.org for information about our monthly prayer group. If you would like to explore God’s call with other discerning women, we offer a discernment group monthly. We also have a mini-retreat coming up in November, click here to access more information.

Posted in God Calling?, News

God is Present Within Us

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Prayer is as essential to my life as breathing.  I learned long ago that if I do not ground my day in prayer, things often go awry as the day goes on.  In fact, when I was a novice, I received a little sign that read, “A day hemmed in prayer seldom unravels.”  This sign still hangs above our convent stairway to remind us of the importance of praying daily.

Dominicans hold prayer as one of the four pillars (or foundation stones) of life.   Along with study, community and ministry/service, prayer grounds and informs our life.  Our connection with God reminds us that God is present to us, as we hear in this quote from St. Teresa of Avila, “We need no wings to go in search of God, but have only to look upon God ever present within us.”  Yet, we need to be guided in learning how to pray and to build that relationship with God so we can discern well.

When I was in formation, I had a wise guide in Sr. Mary Carmel.  Sister lived next door to me in the convent and would often share with me a few words of wisdom as we passed in the hall or when she would invite me in to share a book or article she thought I would find enlightening.  She would then invite me to sit down and pray with her.  From her, I learned that I first needed to develop a regular practice of prayer and from that foundation, my relationship with God would grow naturally.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when several of the women we are walking with in discernment asked if we could start a prayer group for them. They know prayer is essential to their journey, but they wanted to learn how to pray, needed some direction and yearned for group support and encouragement to do so.  Thus, we are delighted to share that a brand new prayer group for discerning women is forming and our first meeting will be on Sunday, October 25.

We will do as Sr. Carmel did with me.  We will share some instruction & inspiration and then dive right into practicing different forms of prayer.  It is by praying that one learns to pray.

If you are interested in learning more about this prayer group or beginning the discernment journey with us, please contact us here.  We also invite discerning women to consider attending our Online Advent Mini-retreat on Sunday, November 29.  For more information and to register click here.

Posted in God Calling?, News