News

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.


 

Reflecting on Jeremiah 20:10-13

Reflection by Pat Schnee, OPA

In this scripture, we find Jeremiah in deep weeds.  He is being persecuted because of his message. Seems not everybody wanted to hear it, wanted to change their ways.

In the gospel, Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples on their mission going forward.  Interesting words: “Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body…”  Not what you want to hear when you set out on a mission! That doesn’t seem to bode well. Again, it seems like sharing the message might be dangerous…especially if the message asks hearers to change their ways.

Change is hard. And we especially fight change if what we have is working for us.

Our country is finding itself in deep weeds these days. What has been true for a long time is that our way of life is not working equally well for all people. And a significant factor in how well the American way of life is working for a particular person is the color of his or her skin.

Now that is hard for me to hear. It is hard for me to hear because I try at all times to treat everyone with respect. It is hard for me to hear because I have never used a racial slur and would be horrified to hear one.

And it is hard for me to hear…because my skin color is working for me.

Really…hard to hear.

Like everyone else, I’ve had challenges and sorrows and losses, things I wanted very much but did not get. But none of that happened to me because of my skin color. No options were unavailable to me, no suspicions have been directed at me, solely because of my skin color.

Living the gospel…

Jeremiah and the disciples were entrusted with a message: The Lord hears the cry of the poor.  God considers each and every life valuable, even a sparrow’s.  It is the message I am entrusted to live, to share, to facilitate, not only in my personal life but in society, with all that implies for  health care, housing, employment, education…every facet of public life. None of us can do it all; but each of us entrusted with that mission can do something.  And do it we must, just like Jeremiah, just like those first disciples.  Even if it put us in deep weeds.

Posted in Just Reflecting, News

Know Better, Do Better

Blog by Associate Michelle Gray

Last week, in a long overdue move, Quaker Oats announced it is doing away with its Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup brand, saying that “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”

A new name and packaging will debut later this year.

You are familiar with Aunt Jemima, of course: a Black woman, who originally was dressed as a minstrel character. She then appeared with a “mammy” kerchief, which had been removed in recent years because of racial stereotyping that dated to the days of slavery.

The current logo features a smiling black woman. Nevertheless, the racist origin remains.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the internet to react to Quaker’s news. And it was what I’d come to expect with anything involving race: those who applauded the move and those who thought their world was ending.

One gentleman (a white man) claimed the change ruined childhood memories of pancakes in his grandma’s kitchen. Ah, memories, like the heritage of the South we “erase” by removing Confederate statues; a separate but similar issue.

His comment brought to mind the time when I was a reporter and Warren City Schools (Ohio) had to merge its two high schools. Committees made up of administrators, students and citizens were formed. A building was chosen and its name retained, but the mascot and colors of the other school remained. The students took the change in stride, but the adults!

I took a phone call from a woman who was in tears, saying her memories were ruined. Yeesh!  She wasn’t the first to call and I finally decided to speak up: “Memories are kept in our hearts and minds, not in bricks and mortar. Your memories are yours to keep, regardless of what happens now.” She hung up on me, but I wasn’t sorry for what I had said.

This remains true for pancakes and syrup. You can keep your fond memories of grandma’s kitchen while recognizing the racist origins of a logo on a package.

Another (white) woman lamented: “This is ridiculous. Who’s next? Charlie Tuna?” As if anthropomorphizing a fish somehow equates to enslaving humans. But the answer to her question is Mars, Inc., which owns Uncle Ben’s. Just hours after the Quaker announcement, Mars said it would rethink the logo of its rice products.

My own reaction was “about time. I can’t imagine why it took them so long.” But I don’t want to commend myself, as I have moved through this world with relative ease as a white woman and I am embarrassed at how long it has taken me to be “woke.” And sometimes I wonder if I am at that.

I remember in 2013 watching “Fruitvale Station” and really realizing, for the first time, that I have never, ever had to fear for my life at the hands of a police officer. And sadly, that is something my black brothers and sisters deal with daily. It was a sad and sobering realization.

I came across this on the internet by Instagram user @shes_mightymighty: “No matter how open-minded, socially conscious, anti-racist I think I am, I still have old, learned hidden biases that I need to examine. It is my responsibility to check myself daily for my stereotypes, prejudice, and ultimately, discrimination.”

I posted it to my page as a reminder. And I tell myself to remember, and follow, what my hero Maya Angelou said: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Life as a Novice

Blog by Sister Ellen Coates, OP

The canonical novitiate year, governed by canon law, is a particularly special time in the process of formation and discernment of a religious sister.  I had heard that it flies by quickly, but I can hardly believe that my ten months at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate is already over! It’s been an extraordinary journey of exploration and discovery.

While Dominican life is a balancing of four equally important pillars – community, ministry, study, and prayer – the canonical year includes all four but emphasizes study and prayer.  I lived in community with one other novice and three very experienced sisters.  I loved volunteer ministry at a home for women living with both poverty and cognitive or mental health challenges, a population I had no experience with before.  I learned more from these women about God’s love and the dignity and value of all life than any book or lecture could ever teach.  Although the pandemic brought my ministry to an abrupt end, these women remain in my thoughts and prayers, and in my heart.

I studied the vows, preaching, the prophets, St. Dominic, St. Catherine, and Dominican life.  Weekly seminars and discussions with other novices covered everything from transitions, communications, and intercultural and intergenerational living to Catholic social teaching, discernment, spirituality and more.  We also had opportunities to hear from both recently professed and “older” sisters about their joys, challenges, and hopes for the future.

The knowledge and skills I gained will last a lifetime, but of even greater value is the new relationship I developed with prayer, scripture and with God.  Prayer, both private, personal prayer and communal prayer, were certainly not new to me when I moved to St. Louis last August, and I’d already moved well beyond the rote recitation of prayer that I had grown up following!  But the doors that opened in the last months were beyond anything I could have imagined.  I had extra time to explore diverse prayer forms including centering prayer, lectio divina, and praying with art, movement, and music. I’ve found different ways of meeting my different prayer needs, and my understanding of scripture as God’s living word has deepened beyond my dreams.

The year included visits to a number of communities of religious women.  Conversations with sisters about their congregations’ histories and their own lives and ministries brought home to me how pioneering religious women in the U.S. have lived and continue to live according to the Gospel teachings, turning their passions into action such that their lives become a visible preaching.  We explored ecology centers and social services programs. In Great Bend, we helped endlessly energetic, dedicated sisters (most well past ‘normal retirement age’) prepare for and run an annual bazaar that provides thousands of dollars to communities in need in Kansas and northern Nigeria.

We also participated in the Religious Formation Conference Congress, where I was challenged and inspired by Sr. Teresa Maya, CCVI, Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, and Fr. Bryan Massingale, who spoke passionately and eloquently of our society’s failure to treat all people with the dignity every child of God deserves, regardless of race, sexual orientation, place of birth, etc. I was filled with great hope for the future after witnessing their passion and after having conversations with formation directors and congregational leaders who are filled with new ideas and open to new possibilities.

The pandemic certainly impacted my year and meant giving up not only my ministry but other planned experiences. Yet, I discovered graces in the limitations.  I also discovered that however aware I was of God’s abundant blessings, there were so many I never recognized.  I also learned more about my own shortcomings, and find myself profoundly humbled by God’s infinite love, compassion and forgiveness, and by the knowledge that as I continue to learn and grow, God will always be with me.  The lyrics of the famous hymn, The Summons truly describe this past year, and will forever guide my future:  “Will you come and follow me if I should call your name?  Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?”  

Is God calling you to something new? If you think God is calling you to a life of prayer, study, community, and ministry, please contact us.

Posted in God Calling?, News

On Laudato Si’: The Week and The Year

Blog by Associate by Jo Hendricks, a member of the Eco-Justice Committee.

Five years ago, Pope Francis signed an encyclical which represented a major step forward in the Church’s Social Doctrine and is a road map for building more just societies that are capable of safeguarding human life and all Creation.  The encyclical Laudato Si’ : On Care for Our Common Home, had its 5th Anniversary May 24th.

The document seeks to “call attention to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” On this year’s anniversary, Pope Francis has invited everyone to take part in the Laudato  Si’ Year (May 24, 2020, to May 24, 2021) by caring  for our common home and our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”

Laudato si’ Week – and the year dedicated to the encyclical – represent a way to promote initiatives, ideas, experiences, and good practices. These various initiatives help bring out what the document has set in motion in communities throughout the world. They also help us reflect on its relevance in the here-and-now.

One of the merits of the extensive papal text, which starts from the fundamentals of the relationship between creatures and the Creator, is that it has made us understand that everything is connected. There is no environmental issue that can be separated from social issues, climate change, migration, war, poverty, and underdevelopment. These are manifestations of a single crisis which, before being ecological, is, at its heart, an ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis. This is a deeply realistic view.

For this reason, the Pope writes, “The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society” (LS 116). The crisis that we are experiencing because of the pandemic has made all this even more evident. “We did not listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet.”

Thus, He encourages everyone to pray a new prayer dedicated to the Laudato si’ Year:

Loving God,

Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all therein contained.
Open our minds and touch our hearts,
so that we can be part of Creation, your gift.

Be present to those in need in these difficult times,
especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
Help us to show creative solidarity
as we confront the consequences of the global pandemic.
Make us courageous in embracing
the changes required to seek the common good.
Now more than ever, may we all feel interconnected and interdependent.

Enable us to succeed in listening and responding
to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.
May their current sufferings become the birth-pangs
of a more fraternal and sustainable world.

We pray through Christ our Lord,
under the loving gaze of Mary, Help of Christians,

Amen.

 

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

Justice Updates 6.15.2020

JUSTICE IN POLICING ACT
Please join our colleagues at NETWORK in advocating for policies that advance justice and equity by supporting the Justice in Policing Act.

Email your elected officials to support this legislation NOW.

The Justice in Policing Act will hold police accountable and fundamentally change the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they are meant to serve. We need legislation that will hold law enforcement officers accountable for misconduct and excessive use of force, de-militarize the police, create a National Police Misconduct Registry, and end racial and religious profiling in policing.

Passing the Justice in Policing Act is an important immediate step for our nation. Email your Senators and Representative today!

SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR LAWSUITS
We are celebrating some great news from the Supreme Court this week. Monday, the Court declined to hear 10 gun-rights cases brought by the gun lobby.

This is a HUGE victory for gun safety nationwide and an important defeat for the gun lobby! This decision leaves in place crucial restrictions on assault weapons, concealed carry licensing, and other lifesaving gun responsibility laws.

One of the laws that the gun lobby objects to is Initiative 1639, a ballot initiative already approved by the people of Washington State that:

  1. Defines the term “semiautomatic assault rifle” to include all semiautomatic rifles.
  2. Raises the minimum age for purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21.
  3. Imposes a 10-day waiting period before being allowed to claim a rifle from a firearms dealer.
  4. Expands background checks to include medical records requiring a waiver of HIPAA rights

Despite the fact that this bill was APPROVED BY THE VOTERS, The NRA and the gun lobby have filed THREE lawsuits in an attempt to stop Initiative 1639. This is just one of the lawsuits that the Supreme Court has refused to hear.

DEATH PENALTY RETURNS
It was almost exactly a year ago that the Dominican Sisters of Peace adopted a corporate stance against the death penalty. Sadly, the Justice Department under the Trump Administration has reinstated the death penalty for criminals convicted of federal crimes.

The following prisoners are slated for execution by lethal injection this summer at the  U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, IN.

  • Daniel Lewis Lee, July 13,
  • Wesley Ira Purkey, July 15.
  • Dustin Lee Honken, July 17
  • Keith Dwayne Nelson, Aug. 28

We believe that the death penalty should be abolished because it is contrary to our Catholic faith. Please put your faith in action by calling your representatives or the Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb. Ask them to respect the dignity of God’s people by cancelling these executions.

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates