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For further information on any of the news items listed here, please contact Alice Black, PhD, OPA, Director of Communications & Mission Advancement, at 614-416-1020.


 

Religious sisters help thousands while in quarantine on North East Side of Columbus

By Danae King, Columbus Dispatch Reporter

Rasheedah Crawley suspected that religious sisters wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to help others, but she never expected the enthusiasm that the Dominican Sisters of Peace had when it came to helping her pack and distribute nearly 1,000 bags for the homeless.

Crawley is founder of People Helping People 614, a collective of people who get supplies to those in need, and it had plenty of items leftover following the summer’s protests after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in late May.

That’s where the Dominican Sisters of Peace came in.

from left, Sr. Mauryeen O’Brien, OP, back to camera, Sr. Rose Bowen, OP, Sr. Rosemary Loomis, OP, Sr. Louis Mary Passeri, OP, Sr. Anne Schmidt, OP, and Sr. Catherine Malya Chen pack bags for the homeless at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse on the Northeast side. Photo by Sister Michelle Sherliza, OP.

The novel coronavirus had 72 women, with an average age of over 80, quarantined inside the North East Side motherhouse and itching to find a way to help those in need in the world outside. They, of course, pray often, but they also wanted to do something more tangible.

Packing 991 bags for People Helping People filled with toothpaste, toothbrushes, Gatorade, socks and more isn’t all they’ve been doing while being stuck inside during the pandemic, either, said Gaye Reissland, activities director for the sisters.

“They’ve never remained stationary,” Reissland said. “They’ve done lot being confined — a lot of outreach — and touched people, maybe not physically but through really good works.”

Unlike nuns, who mostly live and pray within the enclosure of a monastery, sisters work and live in the world outside their religious community.

Even during their year of quarantine, the sisters have made around 7,800 face masks; sewn mittens, hats and scarves to donate to the homeless and others in need; tutored adult learners through Zoom; and offered virtual counseling sessions. Those who don’t live in the motherhouse — and thus weren’t quarantined — have been volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

“We really haven’t stopped because … when one thing was easing up — like masks — there would be a need right away for something else,” said Sister Susan Olson, mission group coordinator for the sisters.

Crawley never expected a group of religious sisters would be the ones helping her pack bags for the homeless.

“I didn’t expect it to be like an army of these ladies,” she said. “I didn’t expect them to be so very serious about this, pushing it forward, insisting we send them more stuff and more bags. They’re still insisting we do.”

She loved the sisters’ enthusiasm for helping people and their dedication.

“They’re not just talking it, they’re walking it,” Crawley said.

“These are all women who are later in their lives. They have not settled down, they’re going to continue to push forward and fight.”

Crawley plans to work with the sisters in the future and is thankful for their help.

“It does not escape me how important it is that they were willing to help me transform something that is a symbol of trauma into something that is a symbol of hope and maybe even transformation,” she said.

The sisters in the motherhouse, 97% of whom are vaccinated, are just beginning to venture out again after a year in quarantine, Olson said.

“Once they are able to get out again, I know they’ll be at the front line at city council meetings and working with public officials to try and make the world a safer place,” Reissland said.

Olson got the other sisters involved in a project of her own while they were quarantined and had them pack 50 bags for the homeless in February, a task they accomplished in 20 minutes, she said.

“They’re very efficient,” Olson said.

Most of the members of the Dominican Sisters of Peace have been quarantined in the motherhouse on the Northeast side due to COVID-19. Some, such as Sister Bea Tiboldi, were able to volunteer more actively. Sr. Bea delivers for Meals on Wheels.

Although most of the sisters are technically considered to be retired, Olson said none of them claim that. Instead, on cards they get each year, they say their lives are now of prayer and service, she said.

“One of the things I continue to be humbled by and in awe of is the generosity of spirit,” Olson said. “Even in the midst of very hard times — we were pretty much locked down for a full year —  the sisters still want to do outreach. It’s what they’ve known their whole life. It doesn’t stop.”

 

 

You can help the Dominican Sisters of Peace continue to “walk the walk” of Christ’s love. 

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Dominican Sisters of Peace Support New Center for Catholic and Dominican Life Albertus Magnus College to Open Meister Eckhart Center Fall, 2021

 

 

 

The Dominican Sisters of Peace are delighted and blessed to announce their support of a new center to promote the Dominican mission and charism at Albertus Magnus College, an educational ministry founded by the Congregation in 1925.

The Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of Peace has donated $1,000,000 to the new Meister Eckhart Center for Catholic and Dominican Life at Albertus Magnus College. This gift will further the institution’s stated mission to provide men and women with an education that promotes the search for truth in all its dimensions and is practical in its application.

“The Dominican Sisters of Peace are pleased to support the Eckhart Center for Catholic and Dominican Life at Albertus, where outreach to the local and global community will continue and deepen.  Founded on the Dominican Pillars of Study, Prayer, Community, and Service, the new Center will give our Dominican mission and ministries a permanent institutional presence on the campus of Albertus Magnus College. It will create a hub for ongoing reflection on the human condition, social issues, environmental care, and much, much more,” stated Sr. Patricia Twohill, OP, Prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace and Albertus Board of Trustee member.

“On behalf of Albertus Magnus College students, faculty, staff, and alumni, I offer a humble but hearty ‘thank you’ to the Dominican Sisters of Peace,” said Albertus President Dr. Marc M. Camille.  “This incredible gift from the Sisters, in our historic 95th Anniversary Year, will greatly enhance our ability to fulfill the essential Catholic and Dominican values-inspired mission gifted to us by the Dominican Sisters who founded the College in 1925.  The Meister Eckhart Center for Catholic and Dominican Life will be a visible, action-oriented example of the Sisters’ bold vision for Albertus Magnus College.”

Dominican Sisters of Peace Sr. Anne Kilbride, OP, Assistant to the President for Dominican Mission, and Sr. Ana Gonzalez, OP, Coordinator of International Admissions, minister at Albertus Magnus College.

The Eckhart Center will be dedicated during the  the College’s Annual Founders’ Day Celebration, September 24, 2021.

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Vocation directors say online ministry fills gap but isn’t the same

 

Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Before the pandemic, Felician Sr. Desiré Findlay’s calendar was completely full.

But when the vocation outreach minister came home from a retreat last March, all the scheduled conferences, college visits and other events she was planning to attend were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

At first, she thought she would love the unexpected free time, but then she wondered not only what she would do but how would she connect with young women who might have a calling to the religious life.

The sister, living outside of Pittsburgh, found an outlet on social media. To express herself and also show that women religious are not just one-dimensional, she posted some videos of herself dancing as an expression of prayer on Instagram and she was surprised by the following that gave her.

She also has used the platform to speak out on justice issues as a young Black woman, particularly last summer amid protests against racial inequities.

Encouraged by one of the young women she had been talking to about vocation discernment, Findlay started regular Zoom calls for the group where they could learn about what the sisters do, meet one another, pray and get resources to help think about what it would mean to be a woman religious.

“I feel hopeful because of the creativity we’ve been forced to find,” she said. But she also views the online chats as a stopgap until those discerning a vocation meet the sisters in person, which she said they need to do.

“The hard part is most congregations won’t allow women to move forward unless they have visited,” she said, which makes it frustrating for women who are stuck in this virtual setting.

More than 1,000 miles away in Grand Prairie Texas, Sr. Emmanuela Le, national director of vocations for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, similarly found her very full schedule come to a grinding halt a year ago. She also took her ministry online and is very ready to get back to meeting people in person and having women and their families visit the sisters.

Soon after the pandemic started, she took out her lists of young women she had been in touch with who were considering a vocation and invited them to join the sisters by social media in Holy Hour prayer each day as well as vespers, or evening prayers. Each day she sends out materials covering the readings and a reflection.

“It takes a lot of work, but I enjoy it,” she told Catholic News Service March 11.

After some of the prayer sessions, she has invited those who had joined to stay and talk about what’s going on or if they needed prayers, and she said this group has been like a small parish or family.

Le, who typically visits families of women interested in pursuing a vocation, has been meeting with families on Zoom but recently began in-person visits again. In early March, she flew to Las Vegas and rented a car to visit one of these families — 6 feet apart and in a park — and then flew back to Texas the same day.

The Vietnamese sister who grew up in New Jersey and never imagined she would be living in Texas, said she is excited about reopenings, particularly of their convent for open house and retreats to those who want to learn more about their lifestyle.

With the pandemic, she said, “there was a pause because of the uncertainty,” and although there was never a pause in dialogue with women interested in a vocation, “the need of being connected is even greater.”

Other sisters also have found that women are still interested in vocations even in the midst of the pandemic.

Sr. June Fitzgerald, OP

Sr. June Fitzgerald, vocation director for the Dominican Sisters of Peace in their New Haven, Connecticut, convent, said that in the past six months there have been about 30 different women attending Zoom programs run by the sisters for those interested in a vocation. The group runs the gamut of those slightly curious to those who definitely feel they are called.

Her congregation was already using monthly Zoom sessions for several years so that was not something new they had to pick up once the pandemic hit.

“By happy fault, we had that in place,” she said.

But even though they have been able to continue discussions online, she said she is “looking forward to meeting discerners in person.”

By being online, she noted you lose a sense of community, because it’s not the same as when you are getting a cup of coffee with someone or sharing a meal or a laugh in the hallway. And as she put it: “You can only do so many ice breakers and scavenger hunts” on Zoom.

Fitzgerald, like other vocation directors, similarly traveled a lot before the pandemic. She said she was typically on the road about half of each month. The extra time she now has she said is a blessing in one way to spend more time in prayer with the sisters who were not having to always rush off afterward.

Another pandemic adjustment that also has worked out, has been the order’s online welcoming ceremonies for new candidates, which she said enables people to see what this ceremony is like. The congregation also has been inviting people to join them in monthly prayer online.

When life returns to some normalcy, she thinks the order will continue its online outreach along with its in-person ministry.

“I’ve been meeting with discerners by phone for eight years — all my time in vocation ministry,” she said, stressing that starting and ending each call with a prayer helps to “contain that holy space together.”

Of course, women religious aren’t the only ones facing pandemic challenges of how to best meet applicants.

Benedictine Br. Zachary Wilberding, vocation director at St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana, said he also switched to online work when the pandemic started by interviewing potential candidates by phone, Skype or Zoom.

He said he was “kind of scratching my head for a while,” thinking about how men could visit the abbey safely during the pandemic until abbey officials worked out a plan for visitors to stay in another building, not even the usual guest house, and join the monks for prayer, some meals in silence and work periods with the novices.

“We couldn’t do it all digitally. They have to have contact with the monastery. They have to see the place. They have to have some contact with community members. They have to see what we’re like,” he said.

Ideally, Wilberding thinks those who feel they have a calling should really visit for several days.

“I tell people, I want there to be a point in this, where you maybe start to feel a little bored or like this is getting a little monotonous, because it does. That’s a reality. … Really part of what’s forming us as monks and as Christians is dealing with that. ”

“We like it to be a little challenging for them,” he added, which might not always come through on a Zoom call.

God continues to call – help the Dominican Sisters of Peace guide women towards their vocation. 

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Sisters find spiritual sustenance during year of COVID-19 hardship

Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans

 

Sr. Marie Duffy had it all planned out, she said.

Settled comfortably into her congregation’s retirement facility, Camilla Hall, the 87-year-old Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, a former guidance counselor, would embrace the “second calling” in her life. “I can’t wait until I can have coffee, have time to pray and not to drive, and just be with God,” Duffy said she remembers thinking. She enjoyed a year with friends on the independent living floor.

Then came the pandemic. After that, a fall. And on Sept. 11, 2020, Duffy entered a local hospital, where she had three surgeries on her leg and hip. For five months, she was bed bound.

“It was a year of very mixed emotions,” said Duffy. “I felt that God was playing a trick on me.”

Cut off from community life and aware that many others were struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 virus, she felt a “deep sadness” even though she was being treated, she said, with love and tenderness. “I found it difficult to talk with my God. I would say, ‘Where are you? Where are you, not just for me but for other people?’ ”

For Catholic sisters, as for many others in America and across the globe, it’s been a brutal year.

Isolation. Disrupted schedules and forced adaptation. Dark nights of the soul. Loss.

Sisters have experienced the death of community members, separation from loved ones, painful months of isolation, and uncertainty. Some sisters shared in candid reflections how the past year had brought not only lifestyle changes, but also prompted them to grapple with deep spiritual questions, such as the purpose of suffering, community and what it feels like when God seems to go quiet. Some provided examples of how — in addition to prayer — spiritual practices rooted in activities such as cooking, acts of kindness and dancing provided a sense of peace and stability.

‘Not in control’
“The pandemic has reminded us that we are essentially not in control of our lives,” said Sr. Sallie Latkovich, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph living in Chicago who serves as spiritual director and as part of her congregation’s leadership team. “For sisters there’s a fundamental belief, but [also] a new kind of questioning, coming to new awareness and probably actually a deepening of faith.”

Spiritual directors like Latkovich have logged many hours, mostly online, with those navigating uncertainty amid the pandemic. Their directees, a diverse group who often include people of faith who aren’t sisters, are struggling to find meaning and purpose amid pandemic upheaval, loss, and sacrifice.

Requests for spiritual direction have gone up by about 10% during the pandemic, estimated Sr. Carole Riley, 78, a member of the Sisters of Divine Providence who directs the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality. “I can only communicate with people through Zoom, and it’s been intense,” said Riley, who used to travel regularly to Pennsylvania and Ohio. While older sisters have had more training in quiet contemplation, “the loss of touch and ability to communicate [in person] has increased the need for spiritual direction, particularly among the younger 30s and 40s age group.”

The sheer number of people dying sparked deep reflections for her directees, she said, including wondering what they are supposed to be doing with their lives, and how to live them more fully.

Suffering, pain and anxiety were themes that surfaced often in conversations with sisters. Her directees had something else in common: “Across the board, they are talking about decluttering, how to lead a less hectic life. I don’t think we realized how hectic the [religious] life was,” she said. “Then we had to stop, there was a lockdown, and in the face of possible death we were forced to look.”

“My own policy is to feel the fear and the anxiety, acknowledge it,” said Riley. “My first step is to feel the feelings before I turn to prayer or Scripture.”

Sr. Dot Trosclair serves as a spiritual director in New Orleans, LA.

In New Orleans, Sr. Dorothy Trosclair, a Dominican Sister of Peace, said that her directees, who include sisters, have found themselves bringing their most profound emotions into prayer. “They find God working amid contemporary suffering, political unrest, racism and violence. All of these seem to bring people into deeper dependence on God and each other. They wrestle with suffering and understand on a deeper level that God is also suffering.”

Many faces of loss
In many communities, particularly where older sisters lived in large numbers, those who stayed healthy have been keenly aware that others were not as fortunate. Since May, 47 sisters in Camilla Hall have tested positive for COVID-19, with seven deaths caused by the virus or strongly related to it, according to Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Anne Veronica Burrows, Camilla Hall administrator.

“Being in a nursing home, you really do think of suffering and how you would relate to it,” said Camilla Hall resident Sr. Anne Kelly, 83. But “being in a situation where everyone is experiencing some diminishment, you can feel blessed. We pray for the sister who is in great suffering.”

Even younger sisters admit to at times feeling overwhelmed by the pain around them. In the early months of the pandemic, 40-year-old Sr. Erin McDonald, a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Detroit, Michigan, who serves as chaplain, said she felt helpless, unsure and scared. She wrestled with some big questions, she said, “how do I respond to the dear neighbor? How do I stand in solidarity with the needs of the time? How do I pray?”

She sought solace by adding two long walks a day to her routine, and a lot of cooking from scratch. “Cooking for me is a contemplative practice,” she said. She answered the question of how to pray by praying more, adding 45 minutes to her evening prayer practice.

Sr. Amanda Russell, 29, said that she’s been praying for a year to be a light in a sometimes-dark world. “I think we religious have had a very important role in the midst of this pandemic,” she said. Given the blessing of time to pray, said the Immaculate Heart of Mary sister, “if we don’t share what we’ve received as grace, then I don’t know what we are doing. Even if it is saying, ‘This is a struggle for me,’ and standing with someone in their struggle.”

She’s had her own struggle, moving from Philadelphia to Savannah, Georgia, to be a teacher at St. James Catholic School mid-pandemic. Because of the timing of the move, she had to miss her renewal of vows ceremony. Though she’s adjusted to her job and the sisters in her new convent, she’s ached for the companionship of her family, still living in a Philadelphia suburb, and her close friends.

“Virtual isn’t the same in any sense as being able to spend time with people.”

In spite of the difficulties, she has tried to do everything in a spirit of joy, she said “because you’re doing it for other people, for God. It all sounds beautiful and holy and sacred until you have to live it.”

Prayer, whether it was personal, communal or part of the Mass, was an anchor, many of the sisters said. The upside of a lockdown is that there’s “lots of extra time for prayer,” said Kelly at Camilla Hall. “I have spent a lot more time in the chapel and feel a closeness with the Lord. There are no distractions.”

In addition to solitary devotions, she participates in the liturgical cycles of morning prayer, evening prayer, special prayer services for national events like the election and the insurrection, and community Mass.

“During the shutdown, we had Mass every day in the convent chapel with the priests of our parish. It is hard to put words on what that was like,” wrote Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Danielle Truex in an email from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where she is the principal of Sacred Heart School. “First, I felt very privileged and guilty that I was able to attend Mass and receive the Blessed Sacrament when so many others were going without. At the same time, I felt blessed to be able to carry all that was in the hearts of God’s people with me during that time. One of the most meaningful things we did in my local community was to have Adoration each afternoon in our chapel. Normally, our school schedule wouldn’t allow for that amount of time for prayer together and it, along with Mass, became the pillars of each day.”

Some sisters said that they were taking advantage of the opportunity to experience virtual liturgy outside their normal parishes or convents. “I certainly do miss being in person with the community of faith.  However, there is a sense of the community as people post comments through the service,” said Latkovich, who noted the “exquisite” quality of the eucharistic liturgy at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago. “It’s as good as livestream liturgy gets,” she wrote in an email.

Riley said frankly that she doesn’t miss attending Mass. She’s enjoying the experience of exploring online services in other venues — like the Vatican. “Emotionally, I’m free to pray rather than fret I’d bring home the virus and kill my sisters,” she emailed.

The biggest impact the pandemic had on her, said Felician Sr. Desiré Findlay, 34 was that as vocation minister for her community she couldn’t travel to the schools and churches visited regularly before. Nor could she lead in-person retreats. Yet as she moved retreats and discernment opportunities to Zoom, Findlay found that “it opened up an opportunity for us to journey with a wider audience.” Findlay, who has long expressed her spirituality through movement, also began to host liturgical dance Zoom groups.

‘Powerful learnings’
Several sisters said that they made an intentional connection between the social unrest of the past year and the tragic impact of the virus. The killings of George Floyd and others by police, the resulting Black Lives Matter protests of last summer and grappling with pervasive racial injustice will always be intertwined with their experience of the pandemic, they said.

A member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Sr. Mary Kevin Rooney called this past year a “backward grace” that offered the possibility of awakening to some uncomfortable truths about American life. “We can never walk away from what we know about the injustice to our Black brothers and sisters. We can’t go back to ‘that doesn’t involve me.’ ”

The epidemic of inequality has reinforced the “urgent need to look at Black lives in general,” said Findlay. “It definitely got me to ask more questions about these issues. When people of color say that they are worried about getting the vaccine in the first place, I get it.”

In St. Louis, Missouri,  Sr. Clara Mahilia Roache, a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, said in an email that the hardest part of the pandemic for her had been “seeing the disparity across the nation in handling the pandemic and the effect on the poor.” For help, and a sense that God is present she has turned to “prayer, podcasts and people,” recommending in particular the podcast “Ask Father Josh” and the weekly audiences held by Pope Francis.

Sisters said that they have developed an even deeper appreciation of the bonds of community. “I see people learning to appreciate the time we can spend with each other, celebrations, all those things,” said Findlay. “God gave us each other, and what we do affects the other.”

In addition, she said, the pandemic has sparked creativity and a deeper desire for connection with sisters here and around the world. A discernment retreat she hosted via Zoom included women from the U.S., Nigeria, Australia, Ireland and Canada. Some have continued these conversations once a month via Zoom, she said.

That sense of community goes beyond congregations. Latkovich praised the mutual care taken by neighbors in her apartment complex, where residents often now check in with each other or offer to shop for someone else when going to the store. “There’s a new sensitivity and a desire to help. The gospel of ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ is happening. I find God present in all of that,” she added.

For sisters here and abroad, the pandemic has been a time of “powerful learnings”, suggested Sr. Lynn Levo, a member of the community of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “We have been strongly reminded that we are relational, emotional beings, with a humanity that is rooted in connection with others,” said Levo. A therapist, Levo said she has been busy since last March helping American and global Catholic leaders, sisters and first line responders understand the impact of the pandemic and how cope with it.

As spiritual people, sisters already know that their own pain is integrally connected to that of others, she said. “It means the opportunities to respond in some way to the injustices happening all around us.” As one elderly sister in a meeting Levo facilitated put it: ” ‘It’s o.k. to be sad.’ I was there offering assistance, and here was a sister who allowed accompaniment.”

In such an unsettled time, cultivating human relationships based on similar candid self-disclosure is crucial, added Levo. She recommended that everyone to have a go-to confidante, even if they aren’t a close friend. “Now we have the gift of time, not only to talk to God but to feel the support of a loving God. One of the things we want to include is our feelings, which are really a deeper sense of who we are.”

New beginnings, new hope
Now on a walker after months of confinement, Duffy is retooling her original game-plan. Still hopeful that she will be able to return to the independent living floor by August of this year, she’s also willing to adjust her expectations if she can’t.

In the meantime, she’s making the best of the situation, taking the opportunity to talk with those on her floor with Alzheimer’s that she sees on her walks up and down the hall, or who stop by the door of her room to chat. That may be, she said, a way she is being called to serve in these circumstances. “I feel that God is somehow using this as a teaching moment for me,” she said. “This is why you have a second calling: time to reach out to people.

Dominican Sisters of Peace find God in those in need. You can help us minister.

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Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, New Haven, CT

Sr. Barbara Kane, OP

Sr. Barb Kane moved on from her ministry as the Director of the Dominican Learning Center in 2018, but she is still involved with the Springs Learning Center in New Haven, CT, while she ministers as a Chaplain Intern at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, St. Raphael Hospital.

A grant provided by The Leadership Collaborative and Catholic Extension with the generosity of the GHR Foundation helped her to assist families who utilize the Springs Learning Center who have been hurt by the COVID-19 19 pandemic.

The Center serves the New Haven Latino community with English language tutoring and citizenship preparation. Many of the Center’s learners lost their jobs and suffered economic hardship during the months of pandemic shutdown.

The Center’s tutors and learners have good personal relationships. When the Center reopened in September, the tutors shared that some of the learners still had not been reemployed and were in danger of being evicted.

Springs Learning Center Tutor Laura; learner Rosa, and Springs Learning Center Director Margaret Mary Kennedy.

Rosa and her husband were employed for over 18 years with a company that cleaned school buildings but lost their jobs when the school found another vendor. Tutor Laura shared this information with Center director Sr. Margaret Mary Kennedy, and thanks to this gift from The Leadership Collaborative and Catholic Extension, the Center was able to help this family stay on their feet.

Sr. Margaret Mary is the tutor for Aurelia, who with her husband and two sons live in New Haven. Aurelia was a preschool assistant teacher before COVID-19 but was laid off. Her husband does landscape work, but jobs have been scarce. Aurelia was in tears with the Center’s gift. She hopes to return to work in the fall.

Sr. Barbara says, “It’s an honor for me, as a Dominican Sister of Peace, to see the joy on the faces of Rosa and Aurelia as we helped them maintain their homes.”  

Your donation helps us offer Christ’s welcome to the marginalized in our midst.    

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