Thursday, September 24, 2020

A day of hiking at Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanical Gardens

After a busy week, we thought going out for a picnic was ideal, especially before the cold weather kicks in. We all settled on Lake Katherine. It is located near Palos Height in the suburbs of Chicago. 

Our first stop in the park was at the beautiful human-made waterfall. It looked about 300 feet in length and it joined up with the lake on the east side of the park. The waterfall is a perfect fit with the overall look and flow of the park.

                                                In the background is the human-made waterfall. 

This adventure evoked reflection on how connected we all are;
within our inner selves, with each other, Mother Earth and the planet,  awakening of wholeness; that we cannot be separated from the cosmos as much as we cannot be separated from the air we breathe, the ground that we walk on or the food that we eat. How beautiful it would be if we felt this in our hearts and not just understood it at the intellectual level.

Quoting the book ‘Journey of the Universe’ by Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, “every time we are drawn to look up into the night sky and reflect on the awesome beauty of the universe, we are actually the universe reflecting on itself, and this changes everything.” We felt blessed to be part of this universe as we looked in awe at the scenic beauty, wildlife, nature trails, and exchanged smiles and hellos from bikers and those whom we shared the same walk trails.

God's touch through the sunrays – perhaps the universe reflecting on itself!

Lake Katherine has a canal that connects to Tomahawk Lake through a lush green forest. However, this canal is not in use since they discovered that Tomahawk Lake is two feet lower than the canal and Lake Katherine. The canal could have been excavated around 1911 to 1922 .….. Very interesting.

The canal connecting Lake Katherine to Tomahawk Lake

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sisters in Training

Anyone who has prepared for an athletic competition knows discipline, patience, rigorous training, and flexibility are all required.  It turns out these are all crucial parts to the CDN training plan also.  Let’s take a look.

Discipline: A typical week includes morning and evening prayer; shared household responsibilities; one-on-one meetings with a novice director; the InterCommunity Novitiate; online classes at Catholic Theological Union; in-house study; meals together; a day of reflection; and Mass.  To experience each of these things well, a level of discipline is needed to be truly present without letting things fall through the cracks.

Patience: Patience with ourselves, and each other, is needed as we build our community, especially as we find a balance of community responsibilities, class requirements, and personal needs.  Zoom fatigue is also very real, for some (I’m kindly calling myself out here) more than others, so patience is needed here as well.

Rigorous Training: I’ll just let this picture do the talking.  :D  Don’t forget the PDFs, videos, reflection and integration conversations, spiritual direction, monthly panel discussions, personal prayer, and unknown opportunities that will come up throughout the year. 

Flexibility: When you live on your own, or with roommates who tend to have their own schedule, your time is very much your own.  To live well in community, this cannot be the case.  Flexibility is required to ensure everyone’s needs are being met and we are all truly living together, not simply as 5 people under the same roof.  This means regularly being open to a spontaneous game of Crokinole or to dropping what you’re doing to help with supper, fix a fridge, or mow the lawn.

Have you ever seen such a fancy lawn mower!?

The reality is the novitiate is about being sisters in training with our relationship with God at the center of this training.  As we train, we can’t forget part of discernment is about remaining open to the fact God may have other plans for us.  To discern well, we need to be open to both the formation process and to what God wants to do with its fruits, even if it ends up not being what we expect.  This year, we are being called to say “No” to sprinting to an assumed finish line and say “Yes” to a slow, sometimes intense, run through the woods towards a finish line only He can fully see.  One thing is guaranteed though: the training process will be a beautiful adventure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Orientation to CDN 2020-21

The canonical novitiate year is a time for listening. Each novice listens intently to discover who God is calling her to become. This sacred year invites us to follow Jesus more closely by adopting the way of Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and his early companions. Jesus fulfilled his mission to announce the Reign of God by calling together disciples who would form a new family of sisters and brothers. Like Jesus, Dominic thought community was key to evangelizing. He founded the Dominican family to carry on the mission of apostolic preaching. Our congregations of Dominican and Maryknoll Sisters belong to this global family.


Names and Logos of our Congregations in the House Chapel


We three novices have been at the CDN for nearly a month now. The initial orientation introduced us to the goals and structure of the canonical year. At the heart of everything is contemplation. Opening ourselves to God’s presence, we embrace the Dominican motto, “To contemplate and share the fruits of one’s contemplation.” Through the practice of centering prayer, we learn to adopt a contemplative stance in all we do throughout the day. One of our weekly “reflection days” focused on contemplative living. Our orientation also included a presentation on communal prayer, the liturgy of the hours, and our Dominican Praise prayer book. 


Tabernacle in our House Chapel: “Be still and know that I AM.”


Dominic’s study of Jesus’ life inspired his vision for the Order of Preachers. Dominic valued study for the sake of the preaching mission, so Dominicans commit to life-long learning. We study God’s self-revelation through sacred scripture and creation. We study the history of the Dominican family and its charism (the particular gift of the Spirit entrusted to the Order): preaching. Dominic’s mission began when he saw a need to preach the goodness of God’s creation; at the time, some were teaching that the material world was evil. Dominicans carry on his legacy by contemplating the beauty of creation, which reveals God’s life-giving presence, and working for ecojustice. At the CDN’s new home in Hyde Park, Chicago, walks along the shore of Lake Michigan nourish an appetite for beauty. We care for a little corner of creation by tending the fledgling garden we planted in the side lot of our new home.


Cathy and Faithmary have worked hard to tidy up the side yard for gardening.


Dominic believed that we preach the Good News by the way we live. Our life in community is meant to be a sign of our unity in Christ, even as we respect the uniqueness of each Sister. To embody this spirit of unity and solidarity, we seek to learn more about ourselves and develop skills for healthy community living. During orientation each Sister shared something of her family values and cultural background. Living in community, of course, involves creating a home together, so we spent a few afternoons exploring the neighborhood, setting up the library, and gardening.


Amanda, Faithmary, and Annie biked the Lakefront Trail toward downtown Chicago for a picnic lunch and selfie.


Community living is the context in which Dominican preaching takes root and flourishes. We preached to each other by sharing our vocation stories – sacred stories of how God has acted in each Sister’s life, drawing her to religious life in a particular congregation. It was beautiful to hear the unique way each of us was called to choose this life and how each can identify something in her journey that resonates with being Dominican and Maryknoll. 


One important piece of wisdom we have inherited from Dominic: respond to the needs of the times. This canonical year begins in the midst of a global pandemic. Our classes and presentations and InterCommunity Novitiate gatherings are all meeting virtually. As chaos engulfs the world in which we live, we seek the inner peace and freedom that comes from total trust in God. May this sacred time deepen that trust in all our hearts.

Plants we potted with soil from each of our motherhouses during the opening ritual

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

A New Start in Hyde Park: CDN 2020-2021

 Collaborative Dominican Novitiate 2020-2021


Greetings from our new home in Hyde Park, Chicago! We arrived Friday, 14 August, and have now completed our two weeks of self-quarantine. What a blessing that our canonical novitiate year can go forward in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the three new novices and returning directors will introduce ourselves.





Sister Amanda Zygarlicke

Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa

I was born in central WI, where most of my family is, and raised in southern WI. At the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, I studied Physical Education, Health Education, and Adapted Physical Education. After graduating in 2015, I taught for a year in New Berlin, WI, before being accepted into the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). This took me to Phoenix, AZ, where I taught kindergarten through 8th-grade Physical Education and Computer Science. After my JV year, I continued to teach at this school for two more years. While in Phoenix, I was also involved in youth ministry at a local parish. 

Up to this point, I had been running from God’s invitation to religious life for many years but, in Phoenix, God made it clear it was time to stop running and start seriously discerning. In listening, even though the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa are no longer in the Diocese of Phoenix and I was not specifically looking for a Wisconsin-based congregation, I discovered the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa on the diocesan vocations page. After a visit to Sinsinawa in the summer of 2018, I started the formal application process and was received as a candidate on August 7, 2019. During my candidate year, I lived in Sinsinawa, studied, and taught Physical Education two days a week at a local Catholic elementary school. 

Since my first visit to Sinsinawa, I have felt at home with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa and in living out Dominican Spirituality. As a first-year novice continuing to discern, I am looking forward to learning more about this home and the lifestyle God is calling me to under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of St. Dominic.


Sister Faithmary W. Munyeki

Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic

I was born and raised in Kenya, East Africa. I hold a BS in Information Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, a diploma in Computer Engineering from Kenya Science, and a certificate in Teaching. I met Maryknoll's Sisters in Dodoma, Tanzania, where I was teaching in a Jesuit high school. The simplicity and ordinariness I experienced with the Maryknoll Sister I met struck me, and I got interested to know more about

them. Their missionary spirit – making God’s love visible everywhere and throughout all of the creation – awakened in me the desire to serve others, especially the marginalized and powerless.

That began my journey of discernment with Maryknoll Sisters. I came to the USA in 2019 where I was received as a candidate and began my integration year in Chicago. I took classes at CTU, ICN, and did my ministry in St. James Food Pantry. The pandemic situation caused me to change the ministry from food pantry to community gardening where we planted vegetables that would benefit those in need. I remain grateful to all Maryknoll Sisters for their love, encouragement, prayers, and support in this year of continued reflection and discernment.


Sister Annie Killian

Dominican Sisters of Peace

The oldest of four children, I grew up in Nashville, TN. Our parents both practiced medicine. We attended the Nashville Dominicans’ elementary school. Raised Catholic, I consciously chose to keep practicing my faith during my undergraduate studies at Yale University. I joined the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel on campus, participating in Small Church Communities and social justice ministry. After graduating with a B.A. in English Language & Literature, I spent two years at the University of Oxford, UK, and earned an MPhil in English, Medieval Studies. While at Oxford, I encountered dynamic Jesuits and RSCJ Sisters whose spirituality and common life resonated with my own desire for a life centered on God and dedicated to serving God’s People. It was there that I first felt drawn to religious life.

An abiding love for medieval literature, especially writings by mystics like Julian of Norwich, impelled me to pursue a PhD. I returned to Yale and, shortly after, decided to begin serious discernment. Providentially, the vocation director for the Dominican Sisters of Peace lived right down the street in New Haven, CT. Through spending time with the local community, I came to know the Sisters’ joy, generosity, and contemplative spirit. Their commitment to justice and peace-building touched my heart. They accompanied me patiently through the many years of graduate school. I completed the PhD in May 2019 and, the next month, entered the Dominican Sisters of Peace. As a candidate, I lived in our House of Welcome in Columbus, OH, and ministered as an English professor at Ohio Dominican University. Beginning this canonical novitiate year, I am filled with gratitude and hope, even in the midst of pandemic, trusting that “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”




Sister Lorraine Reaume, OP

Dominican Sisters of Adrian

            I am a Dominican Sister of Adrian, originally from Toronto, Canada. I am excited to be starting my third year with the CDN in this new location and to able to minister on behalf of the many Dominican Congregations that make up the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate. My own CDN experience in 1998-1999 grounded me in the Dominican Family and gave me a solid identity as a Dominican. I am grateful to be able to walk with women on that same journey. My undergraduate degrees are a BA in English and Psychology (University of Waterloo), and a B.Ed. (Lakehead University). I also have an MDiv and an MA in Theology from Catholic Theological Union. I have a certificate in Spiritual Direction, have completed the Collaborative Leadership Development Program, and have also done the ForMission program offered by the Religious Formation Conference. Before religious life, I was a teacher and then a Lay Missionary in Bolivia. I also co-coordinated the Lay Mission Program for Scarboro Missions for four years. In religious life, I have served as a Campus Minister at Siena Heights University, as a Pastoral Associate with a focus on Hispanic Ministry in both Anchorage, AK, and Detroit, MI, and as Formation Director. I love to walk with others as they discern and discover how God is calling them to life.


Sister Cathy Arnold, OP

Dominican Sisters of Peace

Another year, another transition! As we welcome the novices to Chicago, and I too learn to navigate a much larger city in the midst of Covid-19 conditions, I am happy to continue to help provide a nurturing and life-giving environment in this new community at the CDN. I participated in the CDN as a novice from 2000 to 2001 and have many wonderful and, yes, some challenging memories, which helped me to grow more deeply into Dominican life, especially in building relationships and on social justice issues. My educational background includes a BS in chemistry from Marietta College, an MA in theological studies from the University of Dayton, and completion of the Religious Formation Conference ForMission program. My final project for ForMission involved developing and leading an Inter-cultural Living mini-workshop with our Sisters and Associates. Since then I have also completed the Collaborative Leadership Development Program sponsored by LCWR. In the past, I participated in a Peace Ambassador Training program and helped co-ordinate a Leadership for Peace program for college age students. I have also ministered in special education and high school education. From 2007 to 2018, I served as a vocation minister and then as Coordinator of Formation for the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Walking with women in formation is a gift, a privilege, and a sacred task as they and we discern how the Spirit is working in the discernment of becoming Dominican. For fun, I enjoy baking bread, walking, reading, biking, gardening, and sharing time with my Dominican Sisters, friends and family.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Our Inter-charism Novitiate Comes to a Close

It’s hard to believe that the year is coming to an end!  It seems like such a short time ago that we moved in and together planted our individual plants in a mix of soil from our various Mother Houses into one pot.  And yet so much has happened, it also seems a lifetime ago.  The seeds of deepening faith, prayer, community, study and ministry planted in the years of formation prior to this canonical novitiate year continued to grow in the rich soil of the two charisms, Dominican (OP) and Providence (SP).  This year’s unique inter-charism experience only added to the gifts so many Dominican novices have received through the years at the CDN – classes and Masses with student brothers from the Priory, the ICN workshops and opportunities to share faith, conversation and fun together during over-night stays (this year through the hospitality of sisters and brothers at Ruma and King’s House), discussions on current issues in religious life with Sr. Elyse Ramirez, OP, panel nights, and educational and recreational outings.   All of these experiences spoke to the richness of Dominican life, rooted in the vows and the four pillars, and to God’s creative abundance.  

The S-Pops during the CDN opening ritual

Our community prayer at the CDN combined some of the traditions of both charisms.  The SP’s use the People's Companion to the Breviary, which Dominicans had been using prior to the introduction of Dominican Praise.  We used the former for morning prayer and the latter for evening prayer one week, and switched the next week, and always ended by singing the Dominican Blessing. The CDN tradition of chanting the psalms and canticles, and the variety of readings in the People's Companion, drawn from saints and powerful Catholic writers, enriched the communal prayer that I had already come to love.  When the pandemic forced Janice and Jessica to remain at their Formation House in West Terre Haute, Indiana after Spring Break they introduced the Dominican Blessing into community prayer there.   At the CDN we kept the SP tradition of exchanging the sign of peace after morning prayer on Tuesdays, and continued to follow their meaningful way of praying communal lectio divina, but missed our SP sisters’ input during faith sharing.  The SPs are known for bringing artistic creativity to their prayer; they inspired us, and the art supplies at the CDN got a wonderful work-out during our reflection days.   

Sisters of Providence Marsha Speth, Janice Smith, and Jessica Vitente

Our first dinner together with Jessica and Janice included Jessica’s Postulant Director, Sr. Marsha Speth, SP.  That evening in August bore special fruit after the conversation turned to liturgical dance, a creative talent that Marsha and Novice Director Sr. Cathy Arnold, OP, share.  The ideas that sprouted then grew into an Easter season (Zoom) “Moving Prayer” workshop that gave Jessica and me along with some other ICN novices and directors a chance to learn about and experience praying with dance and motion.

An ICN meeting before COVID-19

The pandemic, as tragic as it is, has offered many opportunities to practice communal discernment, and has helped me learn to hold things lightly.  ICN meetings on Zoom might not have been ideal, but we were all grateful to the speakers who willingly adapted their presentations to new circumstances and to technology, and to our creative novice directors who provided us with a remarkably meaningful closing ritual, and a chance to celebrate with each other using Zoom. 

An ICN meeting during the pandemic

In addition to COVID-19, this year of prayer and discernment offered other challenges – the personal ones that come with self-examination and growth, and universal ones including poverty, health disparities, racism and other injustices that remind us how far we still are from living the Gospel truths Jesus preached.  What role will God call me to play in the on-going work of establishing God’s “kindom,” as the SP’s taught me to say?  I look forward to continuing to discern that, and to growing in religious life, and learning to preach the Gospel more effectively.  As I move on to the apostolic year of my novitiate, I find myself more inspired than ever by the example of St. Dominic, the joyful friar who listened to others with compassion and shared God’s love with everyone he met, by the entreaty of St. Catherine of Siena to  “proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear” and by the advice of the SP’s foundress, St. Mother Theodore Guerin, SP, who said “Reflect seriously on what you desire to do. Above all pray much that our dear Lord may make known to you what He wishes you to do.”

Jessica and Sr. Joni Luna, SP - moving day, May 2020

So, with a grateful heart, and prayers of gratitude for all those who worked with us, prayed for us, and helped make this very special year of growth in God possible, may peace be with you until we meet again.

May God Creator bless you - with love from the S-Pops

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Easter Blessings

“Isn’t media technology a blessing?”  I never imagined I would find myself saying that as often as I have in these past few weeks.  On the other hand, I never imagined that this year I’d be watching not just Sunday mass, but Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter services on television, along with so many priests, sisters and laity throughout the world. 

Worshiping virtually with other Dominican sisters

Everyone has had to cancel plans to travel and/or spend time with friends and relatives at Easter.  At the CDN we abandoned plans to celebrate the Triduum at the Mound with the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, and had to settle for a virtual Easter get-together with our SPOP sisters, Jessica and Janice, who continue to shelter in place with their sisters at the Providence Mother House in Terre Haute.  While we’re grateful for instructors and guest speakers who’ve enabled ICN meetings and classes at Aquinas to continue on Zoom, we all miss praying, learning and spending time with each other.  I know I am not the only one who has felt more deeply connected to the women and men who followed Jesus to Jerusalem and on Holy Saturday found themselves living with loss, fear and uncertainty.   

Holy Thursday – wheat, wine and the Word

Yet, with technology, the rhythms of the holy days continued, and at the CDN they offered some unexpected gifts.  With the time we saved by staying home we were able to join women in formation and discernment in a virtual Palm Sunday retreat led by the Dominican Sisters of Peace vocations team, and a virtual, preached Holy Week retreat hosted by the Dominican Sisters of Adrian Weber Retreat Center.     

Holy Thursday Dinner

I had more reason than ever to be deeply grateful for the blessing of extra time to devote to prayer and reflection during this canonical year.  I was able to devote several hours each day to the retreat conferences themselves and to the Gospel passion stories they featured.  An earlier lecture on Feminist Biblical Interpretation by Sr. Barbara Reid, OP, and Lorraine’s reflection day workshop on Mary Magdalene added so much depth to my reflections on and connection with the women who witnessed Jesus’s passion and proclaimed his resurrection.

Easter Sunday - light and life

Of course, we also had fun, and a lot of laughter when we realized that with masses, retreats, and an evening watching Godspell we had heard or read the Passion nine times that week!  We enjoyed hot cross buns on Good Friday, decorated eggs on Saturday, and judiciously pruned our flowering tree to bring the beauty of God’s creation into our home for Easter.  Choosing to stick with our effort to minimize grocery shopping as much as possible, we collaborated on creative menus, using what we already had for holiday meals that may have been more delicious because of that choice.  Not exactly washing each other’s feet, but these days perhaps an even more practical and meaningful way of serving each other and our neighbors.  

Decorating Easter eggs

All of us at the CDN wish you the blessings of peace, health and joy in the risen Lord during this Easter season.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Celebrating Blessings

Life certainly took some unexpected turns this month.  At the CDN we’re grateful to be safe and well, and our thoughts and prayers are often focused on those struggling in any way with or because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also are aware of and grateful for our many blessings. 

SPOP's in the CDN Chapel

Like so many people who are separated from family, friends and loved ones, we’re also experiencing some separation.  Jessica and Janice, the Providence members of the SPOP’s, are sheltering in place at St. Mary of the Woods, where they had been on Spring Break.  We miss them but are grateful to be able to stay connected as a community using Zoom.  That same technology is also allowing us to continue with classes, the ICN and “Contemporary Issues in Religious Life.”

Enjoying the sisters' hospitality at Heartland Farm

I was very fortunate that my planned Spring Break visit to our sisters in Great Bend and Garden City, Kansas with Dominican Sister of Peace Diane Traffas and our candidate, Annie Killian, happened before we were advised to shelter in place and maintain social distance.  As we are so often reminded, religious women are prophets and ministers, working on the margins where people and creation are suffering the most – the sisters in Kansas are no exception.  Sisters who in other circumstances would have been retired for years create an oasis for body, mind and spirit at Heartland Spirituality Center and Heartland Farm ecospirituality center.  Others devote countless hours to knitting, sewing, crocheting beautiful craft items, and turning pounds of fresh fruit into jams and jellies, all of which will be sold at an annual bazaar that raises tens of thousands of dollars for ministries combating poverty and other challenges in Kansas and Nigeria.  Still others companion their sisters in the infirmary wing, and made sure that Annie and I heard about their sisters’ lives and accomplishments.  

Touring St. Catherine's Hospital in Garden City, Kansas

In Garden City, where the sisters once had a much larger presence, the hospital they established several decades ago still maintains ties to the congregation and provides outstanding healthcare with the same generous Catholic spirit that the sisters instilled.  Today, one sister ministers at St. Dominic’s Church, a parish of about 850 families, while two others have been walking with and ministering to people in and around the city, including immigrants, refugees, and women and children who have been impacted by trafficking and other forms of abuse.  As we drove around the challenging neighborhoods where many of these families live, they told us the stories of successes and disappointments (their own and those of the people they serve), and helped us understand more about the systems that keep so many people from thriving.  At the same time they told us about the many activities and learning opportunities that they and others have built in Garden City, and took us to places like Emmaus House where individuals and families can go for a hot meal, a safe place to spend the night, or food from a well-stocked pantry.  Woven through all of our conversations were the sisters’ deep love and concern for all of the people they serve, and rootedness of their almost palpable faith.  Sharing evening prayer that night and lectio divina the next morning were as moving as the stories they told. 

Emmaus House Kitchen and Cook

Emmaus House Food Pantry

The gift of that Spring Break was not just a change of scene and a chance to spend more time with sisters, and with Annie.  It was a witness to the fact that sisters continue to listen deeply to the signs of the times, discern the needs and the best opportunities to minister in response to them, and preach God’s message of love and compassion.  In this unexpected time of isolation and national and international distress, both the legacy and the on-going presence of these and so many other quietly dedicated religious women give me comfort and hope.

St. Dominic's Church Lenten Display

Annie with Great Bend Sisters

Diane with two of her friends at the Great Bend Mother House

Enjoying every minute with the sisters in Great Bend