Sunday, December 18, 2011

Going Home

Part of our Novitiate experience is to return to our home Congregations to celebrate Christmas with our sisters and re-connect. Our agendas include meetings with leadership, volunteering at holiday festivities, doing research in the archives, spending time with the elder sisters, and absorbing more of the culture of our communities. Another important part of our time “home” is to explain our novitiate experience to the sisters. Our experience is very different from theirs, which leaves a lot of questions, but the larger goals are the same across the generations.
We also have a chance to see our families whom we left behind when we moved to St. Louis in August.

During our break we will not be updating the blog as often, but will be back on schedule in mid-January.

Thanks for your prayers and support.

Friday, December 9, 2011


It takes about 9 months to make a baby.  Garlic has to stay in the ground for 10 months before it is ready to harvest.  Apparently, it takes approximately 10 months to create a better novice!  So, why are we given only 4 weeks to prepare for the coming of Christ?  Maybe that's why we need to repeat the process year after year after year.  One month is simply not enough time.

The season of Advent is unique, because in it we are called to be both incubator and incubatee.  We are called to bring the Christ child more fully into our lives, but at the same time to give ourselves over to God to continue the work begun in the Incarnation.  We at once hold God within ourselves and are asked to become God for all the people of the world.  All this, and we have four weeks to prepare.

What I pray most for this advent season is patience.  Patience to celebrate one season at a time, and not start siging Christmas carols before we're done with Advent hymns.  Patience to be preset in this tme and space, and not always looking forward to the things Ill do when I go home to Texas.  Patience to remove myself from this busy, hectic time and just sit and be with God.  The patience to prepare to celebrate, to wait on God and with God, and not rush the process.  The patience to incubate.


PS.  Speaking of incubation – say “Hi!” to my first-ever niece AND nephew!!  Anyone got any name suggestions?  Dominic and Catherine have already been ruled out :(.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Allowing God to be born today

This week we start the season of Advent. Every year I commit to set aside more time for quiet prayer during this season of anticipation and waiting and every year it doesn’t happen. Holiday celebrations get scheduled, last minute shopping looms and the everyday details of life need to be attended to. As I approached the season this year a couple different quotes have taken up long-term residence in my head… “What good is it that Jesus was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart” (Meister Eckhart) and a song we sang at a previous parish “let me be your Bethlehem”. This year my intention is to reflect throughout the day how I am being Bethlehem for God. How am I preparing for God to touch the world through me? I know that readiness will not come overnight which is why we are given a whole season to prepare. But actually, God already is using me to touch the world…so my preparing will just be to become a clearer vessel.

What are you doing to prepare in this season of anticipation?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

God of Grace,
You humbled yourself, and became human
To show me even more how I can become like you.
In your humanness, you wept.
Selfishly, I wanted more.

God of Patience,
You lead me, though at times in my stubbornness,
I do not go.
I choose not to let go of what is tangible,
what is here.
But you patiently wait.
And in my heart, I wonder,
why can’t I just be comfortable with the question?

God of Light,
when darkness surrounds me,
please find the smallest crack
in my dryness to let your Light in.
Remind me to challenge the darkness,
and to not be comfortable in my own
understanding, but to strive for
something more.

God of Discernment,
I sit with Jesus in His Garden, and
in my heart, I wonder,
did Jesus ask if it was “really” time?
Did He wonder if He had done “enough”?
Did He think there was still more to do?

God of Acceptance,
I pray my hands will be strong,
and that my heart with long
to reach for the cup You lovingly want to give.
Help me to be comfortable with the question.
Help me sit with the emptiness of not having the answer.
You will tell me,
and only then will I know.

God of New Beginnings,
as the earth loosens around me,
help me to trust in the life that is to come.
I will be trampled.
I will be parched at times.
I will be overwatered.
But through it all, You will be with me.
You will make Your presence known.
In You will I grow.
With You, will I seek.
Through You, I will find my home.


Thursday, November 17, 2011


How's that old quote go... “You can choose your friends, but you're stuck with your family?”  Something like that.  Now, here's something for you to ponder --- what's the difference?

In part, we are defined by our relationships.  I am currently a member of the Biddle family (Hi, Mom!), a member of the Dominican Sisters of Houston (Hi, everyone!), a member of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (I say Hi to them everyday, so there's no need to do so here), a member of the Intercongregational Collaborative Novitiate, a member of the Sierra Club, a member of the St. Louis Public Library System, etc.  Some of these are friends, some acquaintances, and some (more than one!) are what I would truly call family.  The definitions of family is a lot fuzzier than most of us realize.

A big part of this year has been spent interacting with and getting to know our extended Dominican family.  That's what our field trips are about (Chicago and Notre Dame, most recently).  We've also gotten a great chance to interact with the men of the Dominican Family here in St. Louis, including the student brothers of the Central and Southern provinces (Hi guys!).  We've got Dominicans from all over the US coming through our house all the time.  Some come to visit and/or teach us, some because they are in town for other reasons, and others are passing through on their way to bigger and better.  The Dominican family is so extended, it's impossible for us to truly know them all, but that doesn't keep us from trying.  After all, as the adage goes, we are stuck with them now – and they with us.

Here's one possible definition of family – the people that respond to one of your more inane blog posts!  So come on, people; drop us a line and say “Hi!”


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Holy Saturday

Throughout my ministry education and career I have heard that the Liturgical Calendar of the Church often will not match the season that any particular person in the pew is experiencing. I have never known that to be truer than the last couple months. According to the Church we are nearing the end of Ordinary Time. In my life I have been traveling through Lent and Holy Week. It has been a time of stripping away old behaviors and ways of knowing and being. It has focused on introspection and self-reflection. It has been an individual journey alongside others making individual journeys that sometimes converge for support and fellowship. It has been a time away from the usual life, the typical life, the known life.
About a month ago, I entered Holy Week as I was dealing with medical issues along with the inner work that is expected in the Novitiate. Knowing and preparing for the something important that was coming while also trying to stay focused on what was going on in the present. Experiencing many emotions and changes. This last week has taken me through Good Friday and I am currently in Holy Saturday. I journeyed through the desert and the dying and I am now waiting in the in-between for the Resurrection. Honoring the past and also looking to the future while trying to stay present.

As I write this, it all sounds well and good, and like I have accomplished a great deal… but I know I will be traveling through this Lenten and holy season again this year. I have only been here for 2 ½ months and there will be many more chances to die to myself and look toward the new life to come.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Seed Within

On the corner of my desk is a card with the painting of the Trinity, with a bowl on the table and an empty seat waiting for me. As I look at this picture, I see a tree off in the distance, up on a mountain. Its leaves are a strong contrast to the sky behind it, but it is funny I never paid much attention to it before. I suppose it is my reminder of what is before me, what is behind me, and what is within me. I cannot see the future, and as silly as that sounds, it is also something I am struggling to accept. In the past, when I have begun school, I know I will graduate. Going on for my doctorate was my first educational attempt I never completed. I did not fail in that attempt, I know. When choices I have made lead me to question (doubt), I am always reminded of what I would have missed if what I chose was my will and not God's.

When a tree grows, it does not choose where it will be planted. Whether a bird drops a seed on just the right soil, or a person plants it to enjoy its shade, the tree has no choice but to grow if the soil is rich, or die if its roots have no where to go. It does not know how long it will live, if someone will find it in the right place at the right time, or if someone chooses to move it or God forbid, cut it down. It enjoys the sun when it comes, absorbs the rain when it falls, and provides a home for those who seeks its shelter.
As I continue to look at this picture of the "Old Testament Trinity", I am aware of the waiting that is happening. Both perhaps of the Trinity and its one empty seat, and the tree as its leaves reach toward the sun. How much the tree longs to stretch over the desert that appears to be between it and the Trinity. My desert is long, though many have told me that this year will pass quickly. It is busy, with small seeds of contemplative time that I must seek to find. I am struggling in my present, and while I remember the past, I recall the struggle I had then to believe that "today" would be here at all.

Our journey is an invitation from God to stop, look and take in the life that surrounds us. In the busyness of our days, may we take time to pause, to sit and listen, and to be open to the growth that is within, and around us.


Monday, October 24, 2011


File:Expansion de l'univers 2.gif

It's amazing how much time is spent preparing us for our future by looking into our past.  Part of our novitiate year includes a “History of Religious Life in the US” class taught by Regina Siegfried, ASC.  The class has been fascinating, but the last two weeks in particular were quite a milestone because we (the novices) presented on the individual histories of our respective congregations.  I know I learned a lot in preparing my presentation (Hey Houston – how come no one ever mentioned it took us over 20 years AFTER the storm of 1900 to get from Galveston to Houston?  I didn't know we were ever in Lampasas!)

A few hours after giving the presentation in class, we were on the road to Springfield, Illinois, to visit the Springfield Dominicans.  This visit included a trip to Jubilee Farm, where we discussed the new cosmology – a new way of looking at the 14 billion years of creation and evolution that have occurred since the Big Bang.  Just like we novices can learn and better ourselves by looking back on the histories of our congregations, so can the entire Homo sapiens species learn more about ourselves and our future by looking back on our shared history with all of creation.  We are but the newest ripple in the pond of life – there's an entire ecosystem out there that we need to get to know better.

By the way, here are some links for people interested in learning a little history themselves:

Jubilee Farm, which we visited on Friday –

Women in Spirit, a museum exhibit on the role of women religious in the US, which we will visit as part of Sr. Siegfried's class –

An Introduction to the New Cosmology (warning – it will change the way you look at EVERYTHING) – or


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What so ever you do...

During one of our classes this week we talked about what we chose to bring to the Novitiate and what we chose to leave behind. As I was going through my things recently I came across a paper with this prayer I had written when I was 12 years old.
“What so ever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me”


I live in a strange world of war and peace. Help me to love my brothers and sisters and you. But, God I do not understand. Why must we live in a world of “ask and we receive?” When other people just like ourselves, get treated with hunger, disease or war. It just doesn’t seem fair? Many go through life without parents or without anyone to go home to. God, help us to help those who are in need, so that we will follow the footsteps of Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Younger Dominican Sisters Gather

This past weekend the CDN novices joined 30 some other Younger Dominican Sisters in Freemont, CA at the motherhouse of the Mission San Jose sisters. Not only was it exciting to go to California during my novitiate year but I loved meeting other Dominicans who were close to my age wherever they were in their formation. The criteria was that a woman be 45 years old or younger and a Dominican who’s motherhouse is in North America, even if the sister was from a different country. We spent time getting to know each other, having fun, seeing San Francisco, praying and of course having good food. But one of the main reasons we were called together by a conference of our Superiors was to form relationships and start to vision for the future. Through conversations at our tables we looked at what brought us to Dominican Religious Life, what difference it makes that there are younger Dominican sisters, and where do we go from the conference with what we have learned and shared. We don’t have all the answers by any means, but we have made a start and each community brainstormed how they could get the word out about our presence and about what we had energy around at the conference. Our ideas included international dialogue (and possible trips), enhanced communication within the country through technology, collaboration between communities, and future ways of gathering with our peers.
I know I am not being very specific, but that is because I am still processing it in my own head…still deciding what I commit to do to keep the fire going as I am clothed in the Gospel.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Days of Reflection


Our house has set aside Fridays as“Days of Reflection”--times of intense inner reflection and contemplation, usually centered on a certain theme or topic. What's been interesting about these DORs is the novices are planning some of them. I organized a day of reflection about prayer beads two weeks ago, and Chris presented one about putting ourselves in the stories of the Gospel this past Friday.

Preparing a spiritual experience for a group of people is more difficult than I thought it would be (and I realize as I'm writing this that I've said that about practically every part of the novitiate. Hmm...that's a subject for a different blog post). As I was preparing for my day, I was very concerned about having a variety of possible prayer styles or activities available, and I didn't want it to be too simplistic, but I didn't want it to be too esoteric, either, list of possible problems went on and on.

However, what I remember most about the day, looking back, is that a) nobody did what I expected them to do, but b) everyone talked about having a positive and significant experience. In hindsight, the day really wasn't about anything I said or did – the DORs are about each novice (and director) setting aside a time to journey with God awhile. What happens during that journey is beyond anyone's plans.

In that regard, I think the DORs can be a microcosm of our entire novitiate year. Alot of good people have put effort into setting up our classes, our days of prayer, our talks and one-on-ones, etc. In the end, though, this year is about a novice's individual journey with God—and the ways, means, and outcome of that is far beyond anyone's planning.

(PS The photo this week doesn't have anything to do with days of reflection – I just really like it.)


Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Gift in the Journey

Ten years ago, I was given the gift of spending 2 weeks in Cuernavaca, Mexico as part of a peace and justice mission trip.  Today, the album of pictures and my journal sits open on my dresser.  A quote speaks to me…

“Knowledge had opened the door to compassion… To take the risk of loving, we must become vulnerable enough to test the radical proposition that knowledge of another and self-revelation will ultimately increase rather than decrease love.  It is an awe-ful risk.”

In the weeks since we began this journey together, I have felt challenged, torn, confused, and tested more than I have ever been.  Someone once told me I was on a “two year career path”, and as I approach the two years since I began the official process of discernment, I recognize the churning that is within me.
I have learned through our vows class, that the difference between living a religious life, and living the life of a Christian layperson is the fact that we, as religious, live in intentional communities.  As much as we don’t choose our families, we also don’t choose our communities.  I have been blessed to grow as a child in one, and as a woman of faith in the other.
I do not know where God is leading me, or how long the journey, but I thank God for the women who continue to say “yes”, who are my example of fidelity.  Who encourage me to go where I feel God is calling, though I want to run the other way.  Whose love for me teaches me I am worthy of that love, even when I fall and can’t go further.  We are each on a journey, and the people we meet along the way are God’s gift. 
May our eyes be open to see the gift, our hands be open to receive God’s mercy, our hearts be open to love the God within.  And may our faith be strong enough to know it is worth the risk.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

After a month...

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since we moved in and started our intensive orientation to Dominican Religious Life. Sometimes it feels like only four days ago and other times it feels like four months. I finally feel like things are settling down a bit and that I am getting the hang of the routine (I know that will change soon). As part of this year we are each to do a few hours of ministry a week…preferably in some area that would be a stretch for us. We were introduced to many different options and they each didn’t quite fit right or would have been too easy for me. I knew I would know my ministry when I found it and I didn’t really want to settle for something else because I knew it was out there somewhere. This past week, I found it. I attended a presentation about the epidemic of Human Trafficking and how large of a problem it is right here in St. Louis. I was appalled at the statistics I was shown. Most of the children (average age is 13) are either runaway or throwaway (parents kick them out of the house) kids looking for someone to love and support them. My heart broke to hear about some of what these children are going through and I knew I had to help this organization in some way. We are still figuring out the details, but I know that I need to help spread the word about this hidden industry in our society. It should NOT be happening and we need to recognize and stop it before more children are victimized.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Weekend of Prayer

The theme for this first month of the novitiate seems simple enough – “Prayer.” I remember when I heard that I thought “Oh, good, we're starting off slow.” I don't think that any more.

In typical formation fashion, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my current patterns and modes of prayer, how they fit into my new life as a Dominican sister, and what aspects of my prayer life can and should change during this time. There were two significant instances that occurred this past weekend that I am still trying to process and blend into my prayer life.

The first occurred during our Friday day of reflection, when Don Goergen, OP came to lead us in a reflection on “Contemplation.” I had been looking forward to this day ever since I asked the question of the group “So, what is contemplation?” (Might was well get to the heart of these things!) In the end, I wasn't disappointed. Judging by the group sharings at the end of the day, I think we all learned quite a lot in those few quiet hours. I know I did, most of which I am still trying to integrate into my day-to-day living. (Hey, it's only been four days! It's still a work in progress).

The second prayer experience of the weekend was Sunday night at the Interfaith Memorial in Music, which commemorated the 10thanniversary of September 11, 2001. This was a very moving experience, featuring Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish prayers, all in their native languages. I realized that language isn't necessary for true prayer – the soul can interact with God just fine through the lilting children's prayer sung in Arabic by a group of mothers or the soulful petitions made in Hebrew by a single man on stage.

I think what I have learned most in these past few days is that our hearts can and will commune with God all of their own accord, when we allow ourselves to get out of the way.


Monday, September 5, 2011

How much we have learned, seen and been a part of since we began our journey at the CDN just three weeks ago!

Our opening Mass for the school year at Aquinas Institute ( was attended by novices, priests, sisters and brothers, as well as lay people all searching for knowledge through faith.  God’s sense of humor was present the moment we walked through the door.  Krissie sang in the choir, Kelly brought up the gifts, Chris shared the reading, and Joye was Eucharistic Minister.  Megan did a wonderful job as “congregational participant”.  The Dominican women were present indeed!

Being open and willing.  In this short time together, we have shared prayer, brought out our culinary talents (really), discovered our surroundings, and learned we can travel together for 6 hours in one car!  During our trip to St. Catharine, KY (home of the first Dominican community in the USA), our past and our present were examples of perseverance and faith.  “We are many parts” is certainly apparent as we learned the gift of the “Dominican Family”. 

We continue to thank each of you for your interest in our journey, for your prayers, love and support.  This year will be one of challenges and new discoveries.  We will seek to know God better, and who it is we are becoming.  We hope you enjoy all we have to share, and we look forward to your comments as the Spirit moves you to do.

“This is what God asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”  - Micah 6


Monday, August 29, 2011

Meet the Novices:

Christine (Chris) De Anna is a second year novice with the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill.  She was born in Ontario, Canada, and entered the United States in 1986 as a freshman at St. Louis University.  Chris has a passion for learning, and caring for the sick and dying.  She holds a Bachelor degree in both nursing and social work, and a Master degree in social work and public health.  During her first year as a novice, Chris’ ministry was working as a registered nurse, visiting patients in their homes on the north side of St. Louis.  Chris met the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill in 1995, when she became a parishioner of Epiphany of Our Lord parish.  Her journey of discernment has been a growth experience, and one she describes as continuing to build upon the foundation she received from her family.  Chris is grateful for the gift she has been given of spending this year deepening her relationship with God, and discerning with others the call to live one’s vocation as a vowed religious.

Kelly Biddle is a novice with the Dominican Sisters of Houston, Texas. She is a native Texan from the small town of Bridge City, Texas. Kelly has been in discernment of her religious vocation for the last approximately five years. She earned a Ph.D. in plant genetics, worked designing educational computer games at Rice University, spent a year as a Dominican Volunteer in Columbus, Ohio, and, more recently, taught introductory biology and genetics classes It may have taken a long time to figure out where God was leading her, but she did not sit still during the discussion! Kelly comes to St. Louis hoping to deepen her relationship with God and prepare a strong foundation for Dominican Life. It is a chance to fully immerse herself in the Dominican ideals of community, prayer, and study (even if the idea of theology classes gives this hard sciences major some apprehension!) She is grateful to her community for making this year of discernment, self-reflection, and preparation possible, and for all of their prayers and
support during her time here.

Krissie Koll is a first-year novice with the Dominicans of Sinsinawa. She attended Dominican University in River Forest, IL, which is where she met the Sinsinawa community. Krissie has spent time as a Dominican Volunteer in Spokane, WA, directing youth retreats west of Chicago, and serving the youth and young adults at two different parishes near Milwaukee, WI. During this time she became a Lay Associate with Sinsinawa and then felt called to a deeper relationship with these women and more seriously discerned entering the Congregation. She was welcomed as a Candidate and moved to Whitefish Bay, WI to live in community of twelve and then this past August Krissie was received as a Novice. She is entering her Canonical year which brings her to St. Louis to study, minister, become grounded in Dominican Spirituality and Life and deepen her love for God. She hopes the year is filled with blessings and fun times between the classes, workshops and reflection days. She says she is ready for this year and is looking forward to it.