Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Journey of Faith

Blog by Margaret Uche
We novices have just returned from our Dominican Spring Break tour of Dominican congregations in Akron, Ohio, Caldwell, NJ, Amityville, NY, New Haven, CT, A day at United Nations side events, Cloister convent in Guildford, CT, Hope, Maryknoll, Blauvelt, Sparkill, and Adrian, Michigan.
What an enlightening and inspiring experience. I have gained more knowledge and better understanding of the rich Dominican heritage. I was touched by the warm welcome, generosity, and hospitality extended to us by our Sisters we visited. I had the opportunity to learn more deeply about the history of each congregation, enjoyed meals, prayers, and conversations with members of our Dominican family.

I was challenged by the Sisters who were so brave and courageous to set out in faith from various countries to answer God’s call to minister and educate the children, and to care for the suffering and the marginalized with such love and compassion. These brave Sisters sacrificed everything and answered the call faithfully and tended to the needs of the church. They faced all kinds of difficulties, yet they did not let it stop them, instead they trusted in Divine Providence and came together as a family. These Sisters have encouraged and inspired me in my own journey to religious life. I am very grateful to all our Dominican Sisters! I am very proud and happy to be part of the Dominican family.

 This week the church honors St. Joseph who also answered the call of God with courage, sacrifice, and love. He was chosen by God to be the protector and supporter of Jesus and Mary. He safe guarded the honor of Mary. He teaches me how to dedicate myself and to respond to the Will of God and that God will be with me through all the trials and challenges. Although he suffered in several ways, he responded faithfully and did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him as we hear in the Gospels of Matthew.
He suffered and faced difficulties when the Angel warned him to flee to Egypt because of the threat of King Herod and he obeyed and protected Mary and Jesus. After Mary, it was St. Joseph who suffered most for Jesus when they lost him in the temple for three days.
His life was continues act of faith, humility, and obedience.
 
As a novice in my own journey to religious life, I was inspired by the stories of our brave Dominican Sisters who listened to the Holy Spirit and answered the call.
St. Joseph also reminds me to be open to God’s call to use me to do His Will.







Thursday, March 9, 2017

Living into Lent

Our chapel has been decorated beautifully for Lent.
            With the arrival of Lent, I’ve had the invitation to ask how this season is a time to deepen my relationship with God and with my community. On Friday, during our day of reflection, we were each given clay and the instructions to play and to see what the clay itself might be asking to make. I found myself building up a clay pot and reflecting on how I was creating a vessel that was waiting to be filled, and how that is an appropriate image with which to begin Lent. During this time, we’re asked to empty ourselves of distractions and bad habits, little and big things, in order to create more room for God to fill the spaces within us. My pot isn’t perfect, but then again neither am I, and the lumps and fingerprints are part of the creation process that remind me that I am still being shaped by God’s fingers.

            We had the opportunity to share our creations that night by candlelight. As a community, we decided to set aside a Friday evening when we’d fast from electricity, so we wouldn’t be using lights or other electronic devises. We sat around the living room, and I felt in awe of the beauty of that moment. During that gathering, the details were hard to make out, and we had to improvise by shining a flashlight on our creations like a spotlight. When we were finished, we sat talking in the candlelight catching up with one another. The evening was a reminder to me about how meaningful it is to have a discussion face to face without distractions of television or other devices.

            I love electricity as much as the next person, but I gained by letting go of it for a night. Like the pot I had made earlier, I had created a hollow space in me that is normally filled by doing work on my computer or reading a book. And God reached in and filled the space.



The pot I made for our day of reflection.
            On the Third Sunday of Lent, Gospel is the story of the Woman at the Well, whom Jesus meets in Samaria. The Samaritan woman desperately wanted to be filled up, and has looked all over to find ways to fill up that space, only to be left still filling empty. When Jesus declares that he will give the Samaritan woman Living Water, that he is in fact the Living Water, the woman immediately responds, knowing that she is gaining something she has desired about for a very long time: that the vessel created by God will finally be filled with God. As I move forward into Lent, and learn to live more deeply during this Lenten season, I find myself longing for Living Water that will fill up the space within my created being. I may have strange lumps, and I certainly have the marks of God’s fingerprints all over me, but when I am filled with Living Water, then all of my being takes on beauty and meaning. I will be living out the life I have been created to embrace.

Friday, February 24, 2017

February Highlights

February is officially coming to its end! This year it started with the threat from Punxsutawney Phil of six more weeks of cold weather.  In the lovely city of St. Louis, the month of February concludes with the initial sights of spring, the blooming of beautiful flowers like jonquils and crocuses and the last day of month ends with the festive Mardi Gras.

During the shortest month of the year, we experienced amazing insight regarding our vows of celibacy, poverty and psychosexual development. It has been an intense month with various invitations to go within and continue our spiritual and personal growth.

Following are some of the highlights of the month! 




We had the great opportunity to enjoy a delightful meal and intimate conversation with members of our Dominican family! We are very grateful to Br. Charlie Bouchard and Br. Carl Joseph Paustian along with the dynamic insight of Dominican Sisters of Sparkill Sr. Paulette Patritti and Sr. Mary Jane Bookstaver. 



February provided some very intense ICN speakers and insights! While the majority of our time was focused on our internal work, we did have a few moments to celebrate our comradery and friendship. 








Friday, February 17, 2017

The Invitation for Lent

Blog by Margaret Uche
As Lent approaches I have been reflecting on what is God inviting me to change that can help me into the season with a sense of purpose and opportunity to grow in my relationship with God. I know Lent is a time of prayer, penances, and sacrifices.
How do I open my mind and heart to carry my cross and follow Jesus this Lent?

I was reminded of Pope John Paul 11 words in his book Agenda for the Third Millennium where he said Christ suffering and cross is a message of salvation and light to all. I learned that suffering is Good News because I can be transformed by it. It is through Christ suffering that I can obtain hope and it gives meaning to all human suffering because if I share in Christ suffering I can also look forward to sharing in his resurrection. “If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (Roman 6:8).

This semester at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate, we are discussing the book written by Fr. Paul Murray called The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality.
I learned that Father Dominic and his early Friars preached the truth and preached it by Joy. His face was always radiant with Joy except when he was moved by compassion for his neighbor in trouble. I learned that their life was far from being easy or full of good times. They faced all kinds of suffering in their work of preaching the Good News, sacrifices, and following in Jesus footsteps. They believed and trusted in Divine Providence and were able to persevere through these things and bore it with patience.

In the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12), Jesus reminds us of the blessings and reward for those who persevered through difficult times. I am called to bear all suffering with Joy and rejoicing because Jesus alone can deliver me from my difficulties and can give internal life if I remain faithful and persevere to the end.


What is Jesus inviting you to change this Lent that will help deepen your relationship with him? How might it shine the glory of God for others?

Monday, February 13, 2017

All You Need is Love

One of my favorite songs is All You Need is Love by the Beetles and it seems proper as we approach Valentine’s Day.  We are officially in the season of “love” where pink hearts are in stores, schools and pretty much everywhere.  During this time we are invited to acknowledge our appreciation for those that we care the most through valentine cards and a personal highlight, chocolates and flower exchange!  On Tuesday many will take time to share love, gratitude in different forms of affection to friends, family members, etc. I am reminded that not too long ago we were participating similar actions as part of the Christmas Celebration. 

Both Valentine’s Day and the Christmas Celebration are enfolded with the embodiment of love.  During Christmas we are reminded of the AGAPE love of God to us. Through the incarnation of The Word, God not only gives a liberating testimony to the eternal love, but also provides with THE role model to follow.  It is in the example of Jesus that we are called be the love to all.  

As part of the Valentine’s Day celebration we are encouraged to let those that hold an important place in our lives know that they are appreciated and loved.  I am very grateful and truly blessed for the mentors, guides, wisdom figures, family and friends that I love.  During my prayer I say their names, see their face and realize that all of them have played an important role in my understanding of God’s love.  I also acknowledge that the sentiment of love and gratitude is not restricted to a day, but is a grace given to me every day.  

The bottom line is that the people in our lives all contribute to our relationship with God allowing us to be in communion! Through our participation in communion we are to be in relationship with diverse individuals, united in the wholeness that only God can provide. It is here that we can actually touch, embrace and give love to the God that resides in the individuals in our communities, but in turn we can have tangible experience Gods love for us.  A friend recently explained to be that common union or communion in community takes place through common unity. 

In looking back at my relationships, there are a few that did not start like the ideal friendships, others that have been very bumpy and others that have taken hard work to maintain. My personal network of loved ones involves relationships that have experience conflict.  While conflict was not pleasant, I realize that it came out of love and it provided me many insightful lessons.  I am reminded that Jesus is inviting me to love even when I and others are not very lovable.   I am invited to take a risk, be intimate in time of conflict and put into practice the skills that we are learning in the ICN; to be respectful of the differences and have the ability to negotiate and compromise.

So as we celebrate Valentine’s Day and every day, let us not forget that God loves us immensely; beyond all imagination.  Jesus is encouraging us to be in relationship with each other and embrace our need to be intimate with others and the God in them.

I conclude my post by sharing a rendition of “All You Need is Love” which was recorded at the same time in over 150 countries to share some love and create awareness. 


As a final note, I will gladly accept hugs and chocolates on Valentine's and always!

Some Fun Facts:

  • Everyday: We are invited to embrace God’s infinite love for us and are to share this love with each other every day!   


Saturday, February 4, 2017

We Are the Light of the World!

This week at our Inter Community Novitiate, we spent some time reflecting on the nature of religious life. Our liturgical celebrations mirrored our discussion as we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life on February 2nd. During our celebration of the Eucharist, I truly felt a spirit of thanksgiving to be gathered with others who had also discerned to walk on this pathway of discipleship.

ICN participants listening to a question from the group.
I am still pondering many of the strands that came up for me during our two days together, but I think much of what we talked about can be summed up in a parable our presenter shared with us, called the Gift of the Rabbi. In the story, an abbot of a monastery that has gone down to only five members goes out to meet with a rabbi in a nearby cabin to ask for advice. While the rabbi didn’t have the answer the abbot was looking for, his words as the abbot was leaving was, “the Messiah is among you.” The abbot took this back to the monastery and the monks tried to make out what this message could possibly mean. They kept asking, which one of us could be the Messiah that will save this monastery? In their questioning, they found a newborn respect and reverence for one another that ultimately was attractive, and people spent time among them in their prayer, and some even asked to join.
 
This parable illustrates for me how religious life is, above all else, about witnessing a life of discipleship. I can see this at work in my ministry this year, where my greatest gift is my presence to the women I serve, rather than any activity I might do with them. What matters most in my ministry is the act of showing up week after week and, through that action, giving the message to the women I serve that I value and reverence them.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world” (5:14). Jesus is not telling his disciples that they can be light of the world on some unforeseen and distant day, but today! Right this very moment! Likewise, all of us who follow the path of discipleship are light for the world, right this very moment.



The stage set for our morning prayer with the bags with our names
 written on them and a candle before each bag.
As we discussed during our time together, religious life, by following the example of Jesus Christ, who is our Light, we give light to those around us. We celebrated this among ourselves when we prayed on Thursday morning. We had been encouraged to write messages of encouragement for everyone there, and to put those messages in bags with our names written on them. At the end of prayer, we were invited to pick up our bag so that we could bring it home with us and read our messages there. Through our messages to one another, we were able to be light for one another on our journey and, hopefully, by showing each other honor and respect, give light to the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

January Highlights!



It is hard to believe that not so long ago we welcomed 2017 and now have the opportunity to reflect on the adventures of the New Year. Our January has been very active and memorable.  Following are some of the highlights of the first month of the year.


We hope you enjoy!



Our fellow ICN Brother Thuan and Sister Cecilia introduced us to the celebration of the Lunar New Year or TET! It was beautiful to learn the background of the celebration and experience the beauty of the traditional outfits, the blessing tree, among other items. As an added lagniappe, Daughter of Charity sisters, Michelle and Kara, made a delicious Mardi Gras King Cake and Sister Kelly found the “baby”! Overall the celebration and gathering was lovely and very educational.











Part of our novitiate experience includes study and learning about the foundations of religious life in the United States. We began the semester learning about our congregational roots and presented out findings to our class.  Sister Cecilia treated us to a show and tell of her congregation with a habit used many years ago and books from the archives! We also had the opportunity to celebrate our professor, Sister Regina, on her recent birth day!








We were very fortunate to conclude 2016 with an invigorating Dominican panel on study. The panel was part of a series of conversations with our Dominican family regarding the Four Dominican Pillars.  As we concluded the series, we had the opportunity to gain valuable insight from Dominican Brothers Keven Stephens and Brian John Zuelke and Dominican Sisters Carla Mae Streeter and Georgiana Stubner. We are very grateful for the conversation and awareness as it provided a detail understanding regarding study in the Dominican Life and it propelled us to embrace the new year with the desire to learn and search for the truth.
Sr. Megan McElroy, O.P., Br. Kevin Stephens, O.P., Sr. Carla Mae Streeter, O.P., Sr. Joye Gros, O.P., Br. Brian Zuelke, O.P., Sr. Katherine Frazier, Sr. Georgiana Stubner, O.P., Sr. Ana Gonzalez and Sr. Margaret Uche 



We have the lovely tradition to celebrate our community.  As we started the New Year, we began with the festive celebration of Katherine! 








During the month of January we had the opportunity to enjoy the company and sisterhood of fellow religious women in the area.  Among the joyful encounters we meet up with our sisters at the St. Louis Giving Voice gathering and some of us participated in the Women’s March on St. Louis.