Saturday, November 30, 2019

CDN Celebrations

It’s hard to believe that we’re already celebrating Thanksgiving weekend!  This semester has flown by, and as I was reflecting on all that has happened, I was struck by how much we have had to celebrate.  This semester has offered me an opportunity to explore and celebrate the richness of the Catholic faith and the diversity of ways of living and expressing it. 

We’ve participated in many celebrations of the mass at a number of different parishes in St. Louis, some very traditional, some offering beautiful music from a range of periods and cultures, and others focusing on social justice.  Each week we also join the Aquinas community for mass, where Jessica sings and I’ve had opportunities to serve as lector and Eucharistic minister, and the Dominican brothers at the Priory where chanted morning prayer before mass is so beautiful that getting up extremely early is worth it.  We also chant at home, and have had opportunities to learn different prayers and celebrate feast days from both the Dominican and Sisters of Providence traditions. 

The ICN singing God's praises

 At the ICN, and in the A.I. Vows class, which most of our fellow novices from the ICN are also taking, we’ve celebrated the gifts of the different charisms we’ve each been called to, and the cultural approaches to worshipping God that we bring to our gatherings.

The ICN Novices

We’ve learned some of the myriad ways available to us to learn about, be in relationship with, and praise God in sessions on topics such as spirituality, theological reflection and the Christ of Faith.  As we each lead morning prayer, or evening worship during overnight gatherings, we’ve learned different prayer styles and traditions, including body prayer and TaizĂ©.   Two days on contemplative prayer, specifically centering prayer and lectio divina, have brought my personal prayer life to yet another level. 

So, too, have sessions on the joys and challenges of intercultural and intergenerational living, further enhanced by the diversity of cultures represented in this year’s ICN.  We have men and women from Africa, Asia, Poland, and Central, North, and South America. Each brings his or her own cultural traditions and individual wisdom and perspective to our discussions and our community prayers.  As our vows class comes to an end, I am so grateful that the ICN will continue to offer us the opportunity to share with and learn from each other, and I look forward to the mass we are coordinating next week as it will include music and prayer from our different cultures and languages – a community celebration of God’s love of diversity.

Playing Canadian game Crokinole for Lorraine's birthday
At the Cardinals baseball game

Of course, community life has included many celebrations as well!  All 3 of our novice directors celebrated birthdays this semester. Lorraine, who is from Canada, introduced us to the game Crokinole as part of her birthday celebration. We've shared meals that felt like celebrations with visiting Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Providence.

Missouri Botanical Garden

We celebrated the beauty and abundance of creation at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and American culture at a Cardinals baseball game.


A CDN community celebration

Because of sisters coming and going over the holidays we celebrated Thanksgiving twice, and had much to be thankful for this year.

As we enter into Advent, we hope that your own season of preparation for the coming of Jesus will be abundantly blessed.

Wishing you the blessings of peace and joy during the holiday season

Thursday, October 31, 2019

P Stands for Preachers

Several years ago, when I first learned that the “P” in “OP” meant preacher, I thought “Oh, this is definitely a mistake, I can’t possibly belong here!”  I very quickly learned that I was confusing preaching with proselytizing, and that Dominican preaching encompasses not just public speaking but a whole world of ministries that support the mission of bringing the light of God’s truth to the world.  That was something I could get excited about. 

Preaching respect for God's creation by participating in the Climate Strike

Today I’m at the CDN, and my Introduction to Preaching class with Sr. Sara Fairbanks, OP, has been a much richer experience than I dreamed it could be.  Although I have been going to mass all my life, I never understood the difference between a homily and a sermon, nor did I appreciate the concept that good preaching doesn’t simply occur between two parts of the liturgy, but rather it draws us from hearing God’s word to celebrating the Eucharist.  The semester isn’t over and already I listen to preaching during mass very differently, and find myself focusing more deeply on the Gospel in light of the gift of the Eucharist.   

Dominican Panel Night with Elyse Ramirez, OP; Ed Ruan, OP;
Brother Andrew Martin del Valle and Sara Fairbanks, OP

Social media is not my comfort zone, so our first assignment – writing a preaching tweet for each of the daily gospels for a week – was more than a little daunting, but the challenge was rewarding.  Capturing the key point and a meaningful message from the gospel in only 180 characters, and then finding an image to pair with the words, required a whole new level of reflection.  It turned into an opportunity to explore prayer styles like lectio divina and Ignatian spirituality in new ways, with new kinds of fruits.  Since we posted our tweets on a private electronic bulletin board, we were able to see and learn from each other’s work.  It seemed each of us found a different jewel to highlight in each Gospel reading, and a different way to reflect that jewel’s beauty and wisdom.

Luke 6:1-5  We’re tired, hungry, and wondering if the road will ever end.  
We need nourishment if we’re going to keep going.  And there’s Jesus, 
standing in a field of grain, arms open wide saying “Don’t be afraid, 
see what my father has provided – come, take and eat of God’s goodness!”

The same has been true of our oral preaching in class.  Fortunately, my knees don’t knock and my hands don’t shake nearly as much anymore, perhaps partly because I’m so excited to hear the insights my classmates offer in their preaching.  Each one brings such creativity to presenting their insights and challenging us to incorporate the Gospel into our lives.  Somehow, God’s word speaks to each of us in ways that are as unique as we ourselves are.  The Gospels remind me of a rainbow, the Old Testament symbol of God’s covenantal relationship with us – myriad shades of color woven together into a visible manifestation of God’s love and creative power.  I now understand that oral preaching itself is a gift that is as diverse and as exciting as that broader Dominican definition of preaching.

Luke 5:1-11  Simon fell at Jesus’s knees in astonishment; he would have been more astonished to
know about the blessings that leaving the life he knew to follow Jesus would mean for himself and
the world. We too can’t imagine the future our loving God has planned for each of us.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

A New Community

A new look for the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate
SP-OP Community Living


What is SP-OP?
The Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) is a joint effort by the sisters in the Dominican Order in the USA to provide its members in initial formation with an experience of the larger Dominican Family. Each year a new group of novices comes together to create its own unique experience of community with fresh spirit, abundant gifts, and eagerness to grow in the Dominican tradition. The purpose of the canonical year in the CDN is to provide a quality experience of community life, prayer, study, ministry, exposure to and practice of preaching skills, and personal growth. The process of this collaborative experience is intended to offer a rich novitiate experience, encourage a supportive peer group, share the giftedness and resources of the congregations involved, and promote the charism of the Order.

With one novice this year in the Dominican congregations, and with a request by the Sisters of Providence (SP) of St Mary of the Woods, Terra Haute, IN, to share space with us at the CDN, we, the co-directors, CFR’s, and the Board of the CDN, agreed to the idea that we share space and community life with the SP novice director and novice.  Their bios are included in this newsletter so that you can get to know them, too.  The Dominicans and the Sisters of Providence each retain their own times for formation in their specific charisms.  We do share prayer, community life, meals, and participation in common elements of both programs, including the intercommunity novitiate, Aquinas Institute’s vowed life class, talks related to social justice, and social activities.  We are mindfully attending to the blessings and challenges, especially how this may affect the novices.  Please pray for us that we may each be true to our charisms while building bridges and learning more about the charism of each.  We have informally named ourselves the SP-OP Community at the CDN.

Mingling of the soil, watering of the soil, and planting

“Step down, Sisters. You have arrived!” Well, Sr. Jessica Vitente and Sr. Janice Smith didn’t have to step down as St. Mother Theodore and her companions did because the 21st century SPs arrived not by coach, but by car – actually two cars! On August 15, the SPs were warmly welcomed by Dominican Sisters Cathy Arnold, Lorraine Reaume and Ellen Coates. The two congregations refer to their new communities as “The SP-OP Community Novitiate.” However, they now affectionately call themselves the “S-Pops!” So in addition to the shared work of formation, the S-Pops know how to add a little fun into their new community life.  The S-Pops all send their greetings to everyone in our SP and OP communities and cordially invite you to “meet them in St. Louis” if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

Meet the OPs

Sister Ellen A. Coates, OP
Dominican Sisters of Peace

I was born and raised in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.  After receiving a BA in art history from the University of N. Carolina at Chapel Hill and working for a Smithsonian Institution art library for a couple of years I shifted to a more service-oriented career in public health. My degree in international public health from Boston University opened the door to a challenging and rewarding career, focused primarily on women and children in the developing world.  I also served as a Eucharistic Minister in my parishes in Washington, DC and Massachusetts. Although I loved opportunities to live and pray with missionary sisters during professional trips abroad, it wasn’t until after taking time off to care for my parents that I began to feel a call to religious life.  I had made several retreats at the Dominican Retreat in McLean, Virginia, so when I realized that the pull toward religious life was growing I went back there and met with Sr. Agnes, who put me in touch with a sister in vocation ministry.  In 2017 I entered the Dominican Sisters of Peace and as a candidate I lived at their House of Welcome in New Haven, Connecticut and taught English to adult immigrants at their Siena Learning Center.  I am very grateful and excited to be starting my canonical novitiate year at the CDN, and hope to deepen my relationship with God and my understanding of religious life and the Dominican charism.

Sister Lorraine Reaume, OP
Dominican Sisters of Adrian

I am a Dominican Sister of Adrian, originally from Toronto, Canada, and am excited to be starting my second year with the CDN and to be 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 look forward to walking with women on that same journey and to broadening our experience by sharing our home with the Sisters of Providence Novice Director and Novice this year.  My undergraduate degrees are a BA in English and Psychology (University of Waterloo), and a B.Ed. (Lakehead University).   also have an MDiv and an MA in Theology from Catholic Theological Union. I have a certificate in Spiritual Direction and have completed the Collaborative Leadership Development Program. I am finishing up 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

Beginning my second year at the CDN feels different from the first having had a year of experience, plus welcoming the Sisters of Providence to share community life.  I am happy to continue to help provide a nurturing and life-giving environment in this new SP-OP 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 Intercultural 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 coordinate 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, 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 friends and family.

Meet the SPs

Sister Jessica Vitente, SP
Sisters of Providence
St. Mary of the Woods, IN

I am a Filipino-American born and raised in Southern California. I consider Pomona, CA as my I am a Filipino-American born and raised in Southern California. I consider Pomona, CA as my hometown. I am an only child and grew up with a large extended family. My educational background includes an AS in accounting from Mt. San Antonio College and a BA in human development from Cal State University of Long Beach. My most recent employer was a distributing company, Mutual Wholesale Liquor, where I worked for 7 ½ years as an assistant manager. My ministerial background includes serving as treasurer and corporal works of mercy/outreach coordinator on a core team for young adult ministry. When I was seeking direction from the Spirit as where to begin my discernment process as a future woman religious, I providentially met the Sisters of Providence Saint Mary of-the-Woods, Indiana when I attended the 2015 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress at the Anaheim convention center. On September 10, 2018, I entered the SP community and spent the next ten months at our motherhouse ministering as a volunteer at our Providence Spirituality Conference Center and our HOME (helping each other meaningfully engaged) team. I am excited to spend my canonical novitiate year at the CDN in St. Louis, MO. I am looking forward to deepening my relationship with my God through studies of history, scripture and theology, and deepening my understanding of Providence spirituality through the charisms of justice, love and mercy. For leisure I like to go running, biking, hiking, watch Netflix and color mandalas. 

Sister Janice Smith, SP
Sisters of Providence
St. Mary of the Woods, IN

As I enter my eighth year as Director of Novices for the Sisters of Providence, I am excited about the opportunity to walk with the Dominican sisters of the CDN in this new community living experience of the Canonical Year.  I have always supported the idea of participating with other experience of the Canonical Year. I have always supported the idea of participating with other communities in this special year of discernment. Like others, I have found the sharing of the novitiate year with other communities very rewarding when I was a novice in the early 2000s. The Intercommunity Novitiate program helped deepen my relationship with my God, my global relationship with God’s creation  and connected me more closely to my own community’s spirituality and charism of Providence and our founder, St. Mother Theodore Guerin. During my spirituality and charism of Providence and our founder, St. Mother Theodore Guerin.  During my academic studies, I received a BA in Ancient Studies from the University of Maryland, an MA in Greek and Latin from Ohio State, and an MTS in Theological Studies from the Franciscan School of Theology at the GTU. In addition to my current ministry, I was director of Adult Faith Formation at a parish in California, campus minister and theology teacher at Guerin Prep High School in Chicago, and an English instructor for Biblical and English Studies at Providence University in Taiwan. Prior to religious life, I taught German and Latin in a public school in Columbus, Ohio.  At Hewlett-Packard in California, I was an instructor for computer systems and a manager for Customer Education for 14 years.  Living throughout the United States and in Taiwan has certainly given me a love of the diversity in our world. Living life as a woman religious has opened my eyes and heart to the needs of God’s most vulnerable and our imminent call to care for Earth. I enjoy reading, traveling and having steamed crabs and beer when I am home with my large Polish-American family in Baltimore.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Grateful Good-Bye

      As we are in the last week of our stay at the CDN, we do our spring-cleaning at the house and begin to pack our things, getting ready for our next destination.

It was only ten months ago when we unpacked our luggage to begin our CDN days. 

Time went by quickly!


At the beginning of my canonical year, I learned that “unpack” meant to empty and to let go. I came to the novitiate with an open mind, open heart, and open hands, willing to learn and adapt to something new. For instance, I learned to let go of some of my self-interests, such as personal travel and being present for some family and friend celebrations.  I learned to let go many of my old habits, so I could integrate into a new community at the CDN and focus on discerning my religious life. Now that I am at the end of my canonical year, what will I pack and bring with me?

   When I came here, I had one box of books and personal belongings.  After ten months, although my books have doubled, my experiences and my knowledge have multiplied many times.  I entered the novitiate year with a simple understanding of the vowed life. My novitiate year has given me a much deeper understanding of religious life through the three vows: obedience, poverty, and chastity. My novitiate year has helped me grow in my spiritual life, vowed life, and cultural living. Additionally, I have also learned to appreciate more of the CND, ICN Communities, and Dominican family. The time at the CDN gave us many opportunities to meet other Dominican Sisters, Maryknoll Sisters, Dominican Friars, and novices from many different congregations.  

  Wednesday is the scheduled time for Rolande and me to depart the CDN. I will go back to my motherhouse in Columbus, Ohio, to prepare for my new ministry, and Rolande will go back to Maryknoll’s Center to prepare for her next step.  We are grateful for the companionship of our co-directors, Sr. Lorraine, and Sr.Cathy. I am thankful for the gift of unity the CDN community has given us.  We cooked, carpooled, and did house chores together. We shared meals, laughter, faith-sharing, community prayers, and conversations.

   We are very thankful to each of you whom we have encountered this year.  

  We will miss the faculty, staff, and classmates at Aquinas Institute, the ICN novices and formators, and the speakers at the ICN workshops. Each of them has a unique identity, but all are in the same community of love and joy.    

  We could never thank you enough for the graces of love, support, and friendship that we have received during this past year. Your cards, emails, gifts, and prayers meant a lot to us.

 Please receive our sincere gratitude and continue to keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.

                                               Your novices, Rolande and Phuong.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


I was very privileged to be part of this rich group of different congregations coming together to learn, to socialize, and to get to know and appreciate each other.

We started the journey together in September 2018, and in May 2019 we bid each other good bye, hoping to meet again in the future. We were a group of 16 novices and 12 directors. We all learned together, but primarily it was meant for us novices and sometimes we were taught by the directors. That has been a new experience for me here in the USA to learn together with the directors in the same room. One day we had a conversation with them in a fish bowl method. They shared with us and were so open about how they lived their three vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience.

We had topics like: Catholic Social Teaching, Restorative Justice, Embodied Prayer, Family Systems, Sexuality, Vows, Mission, and Pastoral Theological Reflection, among others. I also enjoyed our last trip to White Violet Center for eco-justice.

The communities represented were the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Houston, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Saint Antonio, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Providence, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the Maryknoll Sisters, the Daughters of Charity, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the Adrian Dominican Sisters and the Congregation of Mary Queen. We learned about each community represented during the first sessions.

It was quite an intercultural group; we had people from the Americas, Asia, and Africa. I appreciated how those who knew Saint Louis well took the initiative to show us around. We visited the zoo together, we had some games in the park, and we went to see the biggest chair show, etc.

Another cultural experience was playing in the snow, making snow angels. I couldn’t believe that it was possible for one to just lie flat in the snow without feeling extremely cold, until I experienced it myself and knew it was possible!

We carved pumpkins and exchanged them among communities during our Halloween Celebration.
Another topic we had together was Intercultural living, in which the presenter pointed out  that in intercultural living sometimes there can be two parties, the guest and the host, and that both the host and the guest can experience being strangers in a particular intercultural setting. At first I could not understand how the host could be a stranger while living in his or her own culture. In our table discussion, one of us gave an example of how she has experienced being a stranger even though she is in her own culture as a host: this is when we have an intercultural mass together and we sing and dance during mass. This is unusual in her own culture. This example made me understand how it is possible for the two parties to experience being a stranger.
We can’t thank our communities enough for this opportunity they gave to us to learn together, to expand our horizons, and to grow together.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Celebrating Easter 2019 in Sinsinawa

   I often hear about the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa,” Sinsinawa Mound,” and “Sinsinawa Cinnamon Bread,” but I have never visited this place before. Over the last weekend, the CDN went to Sinsinawa Mound to celebrate the Easter Triduum with Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters.  We are so grateful for having an opportunity to visit them.
   We left Saint Louis on Thursday morning and drove back home on Sunday. Three days passed very quickly, but it was an excellent experience for us. The Sisters welcomed us with their loving hearts. There were Sisters we met for the first time, but I felt very close. They told us to consider this place as our home.

 The Sisters took us to visit the heritage rooms, explained the history of their congregation, prepared the meals, taught us to make Ukrainian Easter eggs, and gave us a presentation about the Dominican Global Family and the Paschal Mystery. We enjoyed being with the Sisters. Especially, we celebrated the Easter Triduum with the Dominican family (Sisters, Friar, Lay, and Associates) at Sinsinawa Mound. We especially thank the Sisters for taking time with us although they are busy.  
 The presentation “Global Family and the Paschal Mystery “helped us to understand more about the connection between the Dominican family in the world. They are present all over the world, Asia, Europe, Africa, America, and Latin America. Sister Toni said that if something happens in one place, it will affect the whole Dominican family. Her statement helps us understand in a broader way the role of each of us. In this world, there are places where people live freely, and peacefully, and others where people are living in war, and are not free. 
  We are all children of God, so what will do when we hear that our brothers, and sisters are suffering? 

  Jesus gave the disciples a model for how to love one another. By humbling himself and washing his disciples' feet, Jesus showed them the full extent of his love. In the washing of feet, Jesus teaches us how to serve others with a loving attitude and humility.

  On the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, the Sisters celebrated the ritual foot-washing ceremony, which re-enacts Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.  Instead of the priest washing the feet of twelve people, the Prioress washed the feet of the Mound Prioress who then washed hers in return. Everyone else in the congregation washed hands in pairs. It seemed new to me. I realized that we can serve others in many ways and allow ourselves to let others help us. In serving each other, we show people that we are connected.

-Are we willing to serve others and also to receive from others?

We are called to continue the Christ mission. We are to render the same kind of love and service to others despite our failures, flaws, and imperfections. 

We pray that we might be faithful to this new commandment of Jesus - that we might love others in the same way that Jesus loves us.


            Happy Easter !

Saturday, March 30, 2019


It was quite a delight to have some time away from our CDN routine and be with our sisters from Columbus, Adrian, Grand Rapids and Maryknoll (Chicago). On Saturday March 9th  we left the CDN community after our directors sang for us the Dominican blessing. Joy filled our hearts as we felt them sending us forth, believing that God is with us in our journey.
Joy filled our hearts when we met with our Dominican Sisters of Peace in Columbus, who received us with open arms and hearts. We shared stories, meals, laughter, prayers, and peace as was written
at the entrance''PEACE TO ALL WHO ENTER HERE.’’

Thank you sisters for your peace, love, and kindness towards us.


The following day, we left for Adrian. And there, the sisters received us with a lot  of joy too. They had been waiting for us for the evening meal.   We attended the funeral of Sr Margaret and all the rituals involved. We noted how things are done differently from our own communities and even cultures, but there are some things we have in common .


Dear sisters, we were really impressed by  your different ministries and how you make God's love visible to the people around you through your literacy program, at Siena Heights University, the Dominican Young Adult program, the care for the earth, the Weber Center, and of course the Dominican joy which you show to the  many people you meet. Thank you sisters for your time with us and most specifically to those who generously gave of their time in giving us different tours. 

We then proceeded to Grand Rapids, and there we spent one night. Even though there only one day,  we received a lot by being with the sisters. We experienced once more  Dominican joy when we attended the birthday celebration of the sisters, the sharing during our meals, the famous chicken foot game- we learned from you sisters!  
We also learned about the history of the Grand Rapids Sisters, we met with the affiliates and shared a meal with them, and they all blessed us before we embarked  for Chicago. Thank you our dear sisters!

Chicago Maryknoll formation house was our last stop.  Our Maryknoll Sisters living in Chicago and the Maryknoll Society received us with a lot of joy in the Chicago Maryknoll formation house.  We shared vocation stories, news, and meals, first on the  men’s side and the following day on the sisters’ side. It was a good time for me to reconnect  with them after some months of absence. We made sure to visit the beauty of nature for refreshment after the long trip; we had a quick walk to Lake Michigan which is not far from Maryknoll formation house.
Thank you our dear brothers and sisters!We very much enjoyed being with you during our spring break and especially by experiencing the particular joy in every house we visited. We were always encouraged and affirmed by you as our elder sisters in this journey.  Your stories, your joy, community life and your commitment  made us ponder in  our hearts about what  faithfulness  to one’s call means. From all your affirmation, encouragement, support, joy, and love, we came back to our CDN community very refreshed and more enthusiastic. Even though we had wanted to stay longer with the different communities we visited, we could not. We thank our directors who are very considerate. During all the planning they had told us that just in case it snows, stay wherever you are for one more day; but it never snowed for the whole trip, so we had to leave!