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.


 

Drawing our Magnificat out of us in challenging times

Visitation image by Sr. Thoma Swanson, OP

May 31st marks the Feast of the Visitation. In the Visitation story, we hear about the time when Mary went to visit Elizabeth. Both were going through challenging times – Mary conceived a child before being married, and Elizabeth was bearing a child at an older age, yet they found reasons to rejoice. They used their faith in God and the joy of the Visitation as a source of energy for carrying out their missions.

During formation years, I read an article by Fr. Ron Rolheiser. In his article, The Visitation Revisited, Rolheiser wrote:

“what we are carrying will make something leap for joy inside the other,
and that reaction will help draw the Magnificat out of us,
and, like Mary, we will want to stay with that other for mutual support.”

I see our discerners in our monthly Emmaus Discernment group bringing their faith in God to each other, making something leap for joy in the other, and staying with one another for mutual support. Seeing this joy in the group prompted me to ask myself: “how can I share the joy of our life of prayer, study, ministry and living in community in a way that ‘will make something leap for joy inside the other’ when everything we do has to be on screen during this pandemic and I’m hitting screen-fatigue?” How am I supposed to do that?

In our vocation ministry, we use a quote by Frederick Buechner quite often: “vocation is a place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep hunger,” and we tell women that even after one enters, discernment continues day-by-day. This quote became very real to me during this pandemic. “God, what do you want of me? I have heard about sisters doing courageous things, and how ambitious they are. But, God, what is my vocation during this pandemic? Show me where the world’s greatest hunger and my deep gladness meet.” I started to identify “hungers”: (1) our discerners’ desire to connect more often and pray together; (2) people going hungry more than ever, and (3) my desire for less screen-time as I was hitting screen-fatigue.

As I was praying, I started to connect those dots, and how I could respond to these three “hungers” that I mentioned above. I was thinking: “perhaps, I could volunteer delivering ‘Meals on Wheels’ on weekdays.” In my inner ear, I was hearing the voice of Charlie Brown, exclaiming: “That’s it!” That is where those “hungers” and my desire meet. So, I have been doing just that. Delivering meals to those in need helps reduce hunger, and it allows me to process, to pray, to reflect, and to get a break from screen-time. Recharged by the outcome of that silent prayer time, I head back each afternoon to continue serving our discerners with renewed energy and creativity. This two-hour activity might seem like nothing, but it helps others leap for joy – whether it’s the joy of physical food for the hungry or the spiritual food that empowers us to continue planning and providing opportunities for our discerners to come together and pray together, and it helps bring out my Magnificat.

Blog by Sr. Bea Tiboldi, OP

Like Mary and Elizabeth, we, too, can turn our challenges into blessings and joys. With faith in God and with Mary’s companionship, we find strength to face our fears or the unknown, and we find strength even to rejoice.

Where does your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet?
What is the message that God is asking us individually to carry out to others
in a way that will make something leap for joy in the other,
and simultaneously bring out our Magnificat?

If you would like to talk to someone about your vocation, email us at vocations@oppeace.org. Also, if you would like to participate in our free, virtual, five-day long Mission for Peace experience between June 5-9, 2020, please click here for more information.

Posted in God Calling?, News

Be Who You Are Meant to Be

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” I find these words from Saint Catherine of Siena to be comforting, inviting, and challenging.  While it is comforting to rest in the belief that God, who is the source of my Being, accepts and loves me unconditionally, I find this journey of self-discovery is hard work.  What I find challenging is abandoning who I think I should be or who others want me to be. This journey of self-discovery, of becoming who I am meant to be, is a faith journey, a journey of courage, of letting go of fears, and being open to new revelations, new experiences that bring me to a greater appreciation of this life, living it with passion and purpose as God’s beloved.

Discovering who we are is a profound and sacred journey, a journey that unfolds and changes over time.  Our search to answer “Who am I?” is connected to the deeper question of “Who is God?” As David Benner notes in The Gift of Being Yourself, “both God and self are most fully known in relationship to each other.” He explains that “there is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God. Hence, to know God is to know self and to know self is to know God.  Or, as St. Augustine prayed, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.”

We are continually discovering who we are and who God is. We are not static beings.  We are always changing in one way or another because our experiences—our joys and sorrows– transform us.  We are often at crossroads between choosing one direction or another, one path or another.  Whether we decide to follow a familiar path or an uncertain path, our choices reveal who we are and who we will become.

In the biblical story of Ruth, we see the dilemma of three women—Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah–having to choose which life-altering path to take upon the loss of their husbands soon after moving from Bethlehem to Moab.  Orpah chooses to stay in Moab and do what is expected of her as a woman—to marry again and conform to cultural norms.  Ruth and Naomi, on the other hand, decide to return to an uncertain future in Bethlehem, and opt not to marry and rely on a man to care for them.  These choices put them at odds with their culture, their religion, their country, and their acceptable role in life.

Like Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah, our personal journeys often present us with choices of taking the familiar and safe path, or a new and uncertain path.  At different times in our lives, we may choose one or the other path—what is expected of us or we can break the chains that keep us from being independent and claiming our own voices, our own uniqueness.

Choices do change us and as Joan Chittister, OSB, states in The Story of Ruth, “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.” She also writes that “transformation is the process of coming to wholeness, of growing into the skin of creation in such a way that we become more than we ever thought we could be before we realized that God was our God, too.”

May Ruth, Naomi, and Catherine be your companions and guide you on your journey this day and always.

If you feel God may be calling you to life as a Dominican Sister, give us a call.  We’ll be happy to walk with you on this journey of discovery.

Posted in God Calling?, News

We’re in this Together

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

The phrase, We’re in this Together, is certainly ripe with meaning not only during this pandemic but also as an understanding of how we perceive our responsibility to each other in community and as the Body of Christ.

By now, we’ve seen many commercials and hashtags, such as #AloneTogether, that communicate and remind us that despite our social isolation, our physical distancing from one another, we are not alone and that we are dependent on each other for our survival. We were never meant to be alone. We were meant to travel this human journey with other pilgrims, with other companions.

Early on in our faith formation, we hear the biblical story of Adam and Eve, of how God desired for human beings to have a companion, a partner, a friend to share the ups and downs of life. God did not want us to be alone. “It is not good for Adam to be alone; I’ll make him a helper,  a companion.”  (Genesis 2:18)

Can we let this message of needing each other sink in and allow ourselves to be transformed by our interdependency that knows no geographical boundaries. Indeed, we, as a global society, are one human community with the same yearnings for love, acceptance, and to feel connected with others. This is evident more than ever during this time of pandemic.

This yearning to be connected with others and to not live in social or spiritual isolation from others is a lesson that we can take away from this time of physical separation. It is within community that our greatest growth occurs.  As Henri Nouwen notes in his book, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith, “without community, communion with God is impossible.  We are called to God’s table together, not by ourselves.  Spiritual formation, therefore, always includes formation to life in community.  We all have to find our way home to God in solitude and in community with others.”

Community, of course, requires energy and a willingness to be vulnerable and to let others into the messiness of our lives. Our communal experiences as religious, as associates, as neighbors, as friends, as siblings all have the ability to both challenge us and empower us. Together, we discover who we are, where we need to grow, and what we have in common with each other. Sometimes we have to peel back the layers of our discomfort with others to see that our growth and ability to be in relationship depends on overcoming obstacles and being open to new ways of being with ourselves and with others.

Yes, we are in this journey together and with faith in ourselves, in each other, and in communion with God in prayer, we can become Christ to each other wherever we are and however we are.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Are you ready to explore community living and religious life as a Sister? Then, why not contact one of our vocation ministers to begin a conversation.

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Facing the Challenge of a Pandemic

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

In the past, when a pandemic or epidemic such as a cholera outbreak or yellow fever epidemic occurred, religious sisters were found on the front lines. Sisters walked or rode on horses, day after day, night after night, from one house to another, from one village to another, to care for patients, children and orphanages, and provided food for the many who were hungry or needed help in any way.

Now, we are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, but the people on the front lines now are mostly nurses, doctors, EMTs, and police officers. This is a tremendous shift from pandemics in the past. Even though most of us are not trained as nurses, doctors, EMT or police officers for this urgent need, our sisters are involved in many ways, helping others, as this video shows.

At the beginning, I felt unsettled, helpless, and powerless. I wanted to do something—but did not know how and what to do. Later, when I read the article, “To Praise, to Bless and to Preach:  The Mission of the Dominican Family” from Fr. Timothy Radcliffe OP, I was touched by the sentence, “We are the wounded preachers.” Yes, we are wounded preachers!

During this pandemic, we are all wounded by being isolated, having to homeschool, dealing with traveling limitations, having plans cancelled, and experiencing financial crisis. We fear and we may mourn the death of someone we know. These realities impact our life significantly. What should we do as preachers of hope?

People need someone who can listen to their stories of suffering without being judged. They need someone with whom they can feel uplifted and gain the courage to move forward. They need someone with whom they can question God and find God again. These trusted people may be what God is asking us to be. Can we be this kind of preacher for them?

Pondering these questions, I see that our Sisters and Associates are willing and able to provide the caring, listening, and supportive gifts many need right now. Throughout history, Sisters have comforted and accompanied people during times of great distress from the Civil War to the yellow fever epidemic. People tend to trust Sisters and our experience in cultivating a spiritual life, in breaking bread with others, has prepared us to reach out and respond to the emotional and spiritual needs of those both on the front lines and sidelines of this pandemic.

Our role has shifted. We may not be on the front lines as in the past, but we can serve wherever we are during this pandemic recovery and help people where they are. To do this mission, we need to recognize first that we are “wounded preachers” and that by understanding our wounds, we can provide compassion to the wounded who come to us.  We can be women who are ready to listen actively, who can be empathetic as people recover from their wounds during and after this pandemic.

God is calling us all the time to respond to the needs of our times. Discerning God’s call and God’s mission are often based on the signs of the time. Are you ready to explore how God is calling you to respond to the many needs of our times? Contact us to learn more about becoming a sister.

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What is Earth Asking From Us?

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica that “It happens sometimes that something has to be done which is not covered by the common rules of actions.” (Q51. Art.4)

Just think about the past, in many religious congregations, the archives tell the stories of how sisters responded to the needs throughout history – whether it was responding to educational needs due to the rapidly growing population during the settlement movement, caring for the medically ill or orphans during wars, or persevering in pushing for more just laws and in working for a more peaceful world.

Fr. Bryan Massingale gave an excellent presentation about “Courage for an Interim Time That Does Not Yet Know Its Name” at a conference for Catholic Religious Formators in October 2019. Little did we know how different life would look like in just a few months. In his presentation, Fr. Bryan shared this thought: “When the rules don’t work, gnome [pronounced as gnohm-eh] is the imagination and creativity in the face of the new and unprecedented. (…) It is the ability to move into the new without nostalgia or despair; trusting we have the ability and capacity to reason well even in the face of the unknown.”

This is certainly a time when we need to use our imagination and creativity in the face of the new and unprecedented. People seem to be more compassionate and caring these days. Lester Holt, journalist and news anchor, highlights a kind act at the end of the daily news. First responders, nurses, cleaners, mail carriers, workers at grocery stores and gas stations, they all go beyond their job descriptions and risk everything to respond to the needs and demands of their communities. People smile and wave to each other as they pass by one another during a walk in the neighborhood. Stuffed animals peek out the windows to entertain children with a ‘scavenger hunt.’ Children draw Easter greetings, inspiring messages, or messages of gratitude on their sidewalks. Seniors learn how to use FaceTime, or Zoom, or Skype, just to be able to ‘be’ with their loved ones who are receiving chemotherapy. Many of us picked up a new ‘skill’ of sewing masks, and then donated them where they were most needed. As companies run out of time making plastic covers for the masks that are in high demand, children stepped up to design and print 3D masks for doctors and nurses. Parishes provide Mass online and offer other ways to be present virtually for their parishioners spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

One of our retreat houses donated beds, bed frames and linens to an overflow facility for a hospital. Sisters in the medical field continue to be there for those they serve. Sisters in their 80s and 90s sit long hours to sew masks, other Sisters deliver groceries and meals on wheels to those in need, others learned how to teach online so that their students can earn their degree without a delay, others listen to those who need someone to talk to, others offer virtual retreats, and the list could go on. Preaching the Love of God is happening in so many ways.

It is, however, not what we do, but how we are open to God’s Spirit and how we communicate God’s love, hope and peace in our hurting world. Easter season is a time when we reflect on the love, hope, and peace that God offers. I would like to inspire you with a quote by Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP: “All the resurrection experiences testify to hope born amid loss and pain. Hope emerges in the power of God breaking forth in new imaginings and new energy. Beyond grief the disciples discover it is possible to love again, to trust that one is forgiving, to get on with life, to invest new energy in the people and mission that have been entrusted to them. The details of the stories of impasse for the original disciples differ, but in each case the Spirit of God brings about what appears to be impossible.”

We are all called to discover new ways how to love, to trust, to get on with life, to invest new energy in the people and mission, and allow the Spirit to guide us in the midst of all these challenges.

How is the Spirit calling you to be ambitious, compassionate, daring, and creative in the light of the needs of our times? In which ways are you called to share God’s love?

After praying with these questions, if you are interested in discerning God’s call to religious life, please contact us at vocations@oppeace.org.

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