Vocations Blog

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.


 

Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice and for Discernment

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

What is it about journaling that is so appealing?  What are some of the benefits of journaling?  Can journaling help you learn more about yourself?  Can it help you discern how God might be calling you at this time in your life?

Journal writing (or keeping letters or diaries) is an ancient practice that many have found beneficial and useful for a variety of reasons and purposes.  When you are discerning where God may be calling you and how to respond to this call, journaling may serve to help you pour out your concerns and fears and to receive clarity and understanding with the path God is calling you to follow.  Journaling offers a freedom to be yourself, a “safe place” to put down on paper your experiences and all that you hold inside, all that is sacred.  You can jot down what may be opening or expanding or forming within you. It is a place for expressing what is important to you, what is happening in your life and how you perceive life.

As a spiritual practice and a spiritual discipline, journaling has many benefits.  Writing in a journal can offer us moments of clarity, of inspiration, of perspective in understanding our own selves and others.  Journaling can deepen our relationship with God and help us to go deeper into ourselves because “buried in the stuff of our lives, underneath the running current of daily activities, lies the treasure, if only we are willing to risk looking and seeking.”  This quote is from Helen Cepero’s book, Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God Through Attentive Writing.”  The author also notes that “all spiritual disciplines and practices, including journaling, are about learning to be aware and awake, open to God, ourselves and the world around us.”

In my journal, I include passages from books and articles I have read that I want to remember and reflect on further. I use my journal to record daily events, musings, and insights that come from the stillness or the restlessness of wherever I am when I am writing.  I try to put aside judgments by writing quickly and not censoring what emerges. I use my journaling time to listen to the inner movements that are directing me or inspiring me.  In this listening to the thoughts that emerge within, I may remember a moment or situation that draws my attention, inviting me to look closer for a treasure or a message.

Journaling helps me to clarify my jumbled feelings and thoughts.  The act of writing seems to free my spirit to find its own way and voice.  Journaling is a personal experience, a personal encounter with the Spirit of God.  Journaling is an experience perhaps like what the psalmist writes in Psalm 139:1-2, “Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.” In the probing to understand ourselves and in seeking to be understood through our journaling, we ultimately come to a deeper relationship with God, where we lay bare our lives to find forgiveness, compassion, and love awaiting us from the Divine.

Journaling offers us an opportunity to get in touch with our personal stories, our personal histories, and sheds light on who we are, where we are, and where we have been.  When we look back at our journal entries, we may see patterns and themes that depict what has been on our hearts, revealing insights about ourselves and about God’s presence and movement in our lives.  We may also see that our journal entries are love letters between us and God, revealing God’s faithfulness to us.

So, grab a pen and a notebook and begin a practice of journaling, where God awaits you.

If you are discerning your vocation, you may find that journaling helps you identify the joys, challenges, and resistances that you may be experiencing as you explore the possibility of life as a religious sister. Emotionally, journaling can help ease your worries about going into the “unknown” of following God’s call.  Let God speak to you through your journal entries and when you are ready to begin a conversation about where God is calling you, we invite you to contact us.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Live Each Day with a Mindfulness of Peace

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen

“Peace be with you” is the greeting that the risen Christ used to reach out to his disciples after his resurrection and before sending them out to the world. This greeting is for each of us too, encouraging us to live each day with mindfulness of peace to be sent as peacemakers in the world.

Being mindful of peace helps us to recognize God’s gifts around us. Pause for a few minutes from what you are doing and look around. You will realize that you are so blessed with beautiful flowers, fresh scenery each day with new green buds/leaves, and the sound of bird song. Such moments provide inspiration and opportunities to refresh your soul and feel at peace, moving you to praise God wholeheartedly.

Our Congregation was founded at the beginning of Easter 2009.  Living into our name “Peace,” we strive to be messengers of the peace of the risen Christ in our time. We are sent with new enthusiasm to preach with a new fire, striving to live and work for peace in all facets of our lives. We are inspired by the scripture, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7. We often ask, how do we practice living peace each day?

We practice be-build-preach peace in various ways both as individuals and as a congregation. As an individual, I would like to offer you one of my daily practices of the mindfulness of peace:

  • When you wake up: Do not hurry to start your day. First, smile and look around your room. Lift your mind and heart to praise God for the new day. Then, sit up. Commit yourself to be peace: “I commit myself to be-build-preach peace today by… (state one action here that you want to commit.) I will be more attentive and keep myself open to opportunities for peace that come to me during the day.” After that, stand up. Pause for ten seconds to breathe in and out before you move. This practice of mindfulness will help you enter your new day joyfully and gently.
  • Throughout your day, pause for a minute or two to be aware of what is going on in nature or around you. Be aware of your feelings at that time. You can do this more than one time per day.
  • At the end of the day, before you go to bed, do a “Peace Examen” which can be added to your Ignatian daily Examen. For example,
    • What type of peace did I receive today? Then smile, and with a grateful heart, praise God for each peaceful moment you received.
    • How and to whom did I share God’s peace today?
    • What opportunity to bring or receive peace did I miss?
    • How did I communicate with others today?
    • Where and when did I encounter God today?

Being mindful of peace and practicing a daily peace examen helps us to be aware of God’s peace present in our life, to raise our own consciousness of, and to grow in being peace for peace mission. When practicing mindfulness, remember to practice smiling too. Smiling is often considered as an act of peace sharing, reducing tensions at works and in families and making others relaxed.

The Easter season is a good time to practice being mindful of peace. Let us live each day as messengers of Christ’s peace here on earth. If you feel called to be peace, build peace, and preach peace as a Dominican Sister, contact us to begin the conversation.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

Slow Me Down, Lord

Blog by Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Recently, our Vocations team had a day of reflection based on the theme, Slow Me Down, Lord.  Typically, we gather in the morning for shared prayer & reflection on the theme and then off we go to our various corners of the world to pray and to just BE.  In the afternoon, we return to our zoom screens and share the fruits of our contemplation.  We take turns planning these days.  Mary Ellen George, OPA planned this particular one and started the day off with an excerpt from the poem of the same title by Wilfred Peterson.

Slow me down Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.

Now, pause right there.  Read it again and take a deep breath.

When is the last time you took a day of prayer and reflection – just a day for you and God?

May I be so bold as to suggest that you take out your calendar and schedule one right now.  Schedule it before the days and evenings are filled up with meetings, trips, and zoom dinners with your friends, or just activities of daily living.  God is waiting for you and you for God.

One of the blessings of this pandemic time is that we have had to pause and reset what our “normal” is.  In the beautiful narrative poem, The Great Realization, Tomos Roberts put into words much of what many of us have realized.  That being our priorities are askew, our lives are out of balance and we have not called our mother/father/sister/friend in a very long time.  Roberts challenges us, in the guise of a children’s story, to wake up and make some long-term changes for the betterment of the world, our lives, families and societies.

As Dominican Sisters and Associates of Peace, we are called to live a balanced life of prayer, community, ministry, and study.  The operative word is balanced.  If we embrace it and live it – not just give it lip service – we just may preach this new realization with our lives.  And grow into that person God intended us to be – which is summed up well in the closing stanza of Peterson’s poem.

Slow me down Lord
and inspire me to send my roots
deep into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.

Slow me down Lord

Are you longing for a life of balance, community, prayer and meaningful service?  Is God calling you to explore the possibility of religious life?  Contact us to start the conversation or to attend one of our upcoming programs.  We are waiting for you.

Posted in God Calling?

Discernment Retreat and Vocation Ministry During Pandemic

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Discernment Retreat

Last weekend (March 12-14), we held a virtual Discernment retreat “Following God Joyfully.” Ten retreatants attended, from North to South and East to West regions.  About 20 sisters from different regions, including the sisters in formation, participated in this retreat as speakers, panelists, companions, sharing witness, and during our social time.

Five main sessions were offered during the retreat, including a theological reflection on the story of Woman at the Well, Dominican Spirituality, Community Living, and Ministries, focusing on how Sisters respond to the needs of the time. In our final session, retreatants were given the opportunity to integrate all that was presented over the weekend. After each session, retreatants moved to a one-on-one session with a Sister companion and engaged in small or large group sharing. These sharing sessions gave the retreatants opportunities to meet and share at different levels with Sisters.

Different styles of prayers were also introduced.  These styles included theological reflection, personal reflection, Adoration, Rosary, Mass with faith sharing, Dominican Praise, Audio Divina, and Visio Divina. We also had social times at night with scavenger hunting games or informal conversations with sisters in formation.

Retreatants shared that this retreat brought further affirmation to their decision and gave them opportunities to know more sisters, to become connected, and to learn more about Dominican Spirituality. Some expressed their happiness to see familiar faces of Sisters from previous events.
Sisters participating in the retreat felt enriched, affirmed, and inspired too through the inputs, sharing, openness of the retreatants, and the richness of the program. We really fed one another throughout this weekend. Click here for some highlights of the retreat last week.

Vocation Ministry During Pandemic

Thanks to our Congregations’ proactive stance on building our capacity to engage in on-line programming, even before the pandemic necessitated it, we were able to pivot all programing to an “on-line” platform with little or no down time. Besides the Discernment retreat (formally called Come and See Retreat), during the year of this pandemic, we added several mini retreats to our offerings and mission programs.  We also started a monthly prayer group to complement our monthly Emmaus discernment group meetings. Our greatest team accomplishment was renovating the “Becoming a Sister” webpage, adding 60 pages of rich content for discerners to learn about us.

It has been a year since COVID-19 first emerged, bringing a cloud over the world. However, despite the loss and grief we have experienced, this pandemic has taught us to trust in God’s providential care for us in this ministry and for our discerners. The love of Christ has been impelling us to dig deep and to reach further. Impelled by that love, we continue to give ourselves to the journey of walking with women in the discernment process for religious life. We prayed for creative solutions in responding to our discerners’ needs during this transition time from in-person to online programs.  Our prayer was answered by listening attentively to God and to the women we serve.

As you look back over this past year, how has your relationship with God deepened or changed, despite the pandemic?

If you feel or hear a voice inviting you to explore religious life more closely, know that we have one of the most active discernment programs to help you to discern your call. Visit our vocation website or contact us.

Posted in God Calling?

The Crosses We Bear

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Let me share a brief story with you and a reflection about the crosses we carry.

The Cross Room      

The young man was at the end of his rope.
Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer.
“Lord, I can’t go on,” he said.
“I have too heavy a cross to bear.”

The Lord replied,
“My son, if you can’t bear it’s weight,
just place your cross inside this room.
Then open another door and pick any cross you wish.”

The man was filled with relief.
“Thank you, Lord,”
he sighed, and did as he was told.

As he looked around the room, he saw many different crosses;
some so large the tops were not visible.
Then he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall.
“I’d like that one, Lord,”
he whispered. And the Lord replied,
“My son, that’s the cross you brought in.”

How many of us, like the young man in this story, often wish we did not have to bear the cross we find ourselves carrying?  Do we look around and believe it’s unfair that our cross is heavier than someone else’s cross?  Can we accept our cross, like Jesus did, and trust that God is with us and beside us as we carry our cross?

Jesus provides the example for how to respond to suffering in the Gospel stories when he walks from Golgotha to Calvary.  What we see and what we can learn from Jesus is that he accepts his cross, and though the weight of the cross causes him to fall several times, he receives and accepts help with carrying this cross. Jesus and those who accompany him, as he walks and stumbles along, teach us the profound meaning of love and compassion, of being with and not turning away from someone through the dark moments of life.

As you walk this Lenten journey,

  • What is the cross you bear?
  • Who has helped you to bear your cross and shown you compassion?
  • Are you able to surrender and turn over to God what weighs you down?

Hopefully, when we look at these questions, we can see God’s presence in our own journey.  For truly, God is with us, near us, around us, and comforting us, leaving us footprints to see and experience God’s love.  In the inspirational Footprints in the Sand prayer, we are reminded that when we only see one set of footprints during times of trial and suffering, it is then that God carries us.

As you reflect on your own journey to see where God has been present, where do you see God’s footprints holding you up and offering you comfort?

Jesus’ death reminds me also of these words of Teresa of Avila, that “Christ has no body now but yours.  No hands, no feet on earth but yours.” How will you respond to this call to be Christ’s body?

Perhaps you are called to be Christ’s body as a religious sister.  If you see God’s footprints calling you to explore this path, contact us to start a conversation and we will walk with you to help you discern where God is calling you.

Posted in God Calling?