Wednesday, October 30, 2013


As my housemates have previously so eloquently pointed out, a big part of this novitiate year has to do with building community.  This isn’t a game played with Legos or Erector Sets.  No, this is serious stuff, which at times requires first some individual deconstruction … of past behaviors, of ego, of the false self - things that prevent me from being and becoming the person God intends me to be.  As we each are being formed into the fullness of our own being, we are also building our parochial community.  We get to know each other.  We help each other grow.  We become family – not just in a local sense but also within the broader Dominican perspective.  In the “rebuilding” of our house, we’ve had to alter the architectural floor plan; we’ve had to expand our living room, add sofas and easy chairs.  Let me explain:

            When I came to the CDN on August 15, 2013, I really only knew my Dominican Sisters and Brothers of Sinsinawa.  I was so proud to have been in the delightful presence of Sr. Mary Ellen O’Grady, who spoke to us so passionately about the importance of collaboration.  I was so proud to have been part of the trip to Dominican University in River Forest, IL where Sr. Janet Welsh graced us with extraordinary hospitality and impeccable knowledge of the history of Dominicans in the United States.  I was so proud for my fellow novices to get the chance to meet Megan Graves, one of our Associates and a senior at DU. 

Others, like Honora Werner, Jim Barnett, Don Goergen, Maria Beesing, Joan Delaplane, David Wright, Ilia Delio, (among many others,) were for me simply the names of Dominican legends residing only in my mind and in books. (I know … Ilia Delio is Franciscan ... but that’s like a kissin’ cousin!)  Well, guess what?  They arrived at our front door, entered, kicked off their shoes and put up their feet in our living room!  They’ve become much more than legends – they’ve become my/our brothers and sisters!  We are kin.  And that, my friends, is pretty cool!  Pure grace.

            At a recent Reflection Day, we welcomed into our home and prayer space another legend and Dominican Sister extraordinaire ~ Annie Willits.  She came to us in voice, humor, wisdom and spirit through her taped “Coming Home” retreat series and a segment titled, “Thank You For Seeing Me”.  She was with us in a very palpable way.  We really could ‘see’ her.  And while she is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, I have come to understand that in truth she is everyone’s sister.  As am I.  As are you.  We are family.  We are kin.  Together, we continue to expand our living space; we continue to build God's house!  


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Common Life

The Common Life or Community was the big theme of the past week. Women and men religious have been living communally for centuries. I’ve lived this way for only a short time, and am still discerning its relevance, necessity, and personal fit. It’s noteworthy that each one of us novices has echoed time and again in our vocation stories that it was the incredible joy in the communities that we visited and eventually joined, which we found most compelling. So what is community all about? I’ve been pondering this for a while. As a phenomenon, it’s pretty complex. Here’s what I’ve found so far-
Romanticized. I’ve read about our corporate call to prophetic witness; this conjures up images of the traveling band of prophets of Elijah’s time or a group of wandering ascetics. In a separate vein, I could also see why some folks might be drawn to common life to fill some void for companionship or nurturing or perfection. The reality of it is far from these exaggerations.

Challenging. Ever go to a Fun House and go through the House of Mirrors? Well, living in close quarters with people with such diverse backgrounds reflects back to you your own limitations, as well as where your perception of things may be distorted, perhaps by past, but still-lingering, hurts. There is impact on the whole whenever we bump up against those limitations, resulting in countless opportunities to forgive and be forgiven.

Uplifting. There is nothing like worshipping together, especially in song. It is communion at deep levels of the heart, Spirit to Spirit, whether we are praying at home, at the Priory, at Aquinas Institute, with the Inter-Community Novitiate, or at other Dominican Sister congregations. Grace simply abounds.
Promising. We were also told, by others who have lived in community for a while, how it enables their ministry in such a way that even if done individually, their ministry is a wholly corporate act. Everything is done on behalf, and made possible as a result, of the entire congregation. I haven’t experienced this yet, but it sounds wonderful.

So in the tradition of biblical merism, I’ve seen community dynamics to be:

at its worst

at its best 
One thing we all agree on: God is the head of this household. And one thing Dominicans espouse in this way of life: all members are equal. Sounds like the kingdom of God to me. And perhaps a great place to grow holy preaching.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

So what?

This is a question we hear every single Tuesday by Sr. Regina, who is teaching us the Foundation of Vowed Life class. However, this very question has been coming to us pretty often during the novitiate - voiced and unvoiced.

Many people wonder what we do during novitiate, or even what's the point of the novitiate. Why would someone "ditch" her beloved home, congregational community, and workplace to live with others just for a year and then a year later (being enriched) go back to continue life where she paused it?

We follow the Canon Laws (646-653); however, reading those only, novitiate can seem a bit dry...

So what? Why is it, that the novitiate is something that every sister remembers as "one of the best experiences" of her life?! What makes it so special? Let's see what we have been doing... Is it the day of reflection that is set aside each week to hang out with God and reflect? Or is it the Cardinals game we went to? Or is it having fun watching Megan (novice director) waving her Tigers-towel and spinning it over the speed limit above her head as she is cheering for the Detroit Tigers? Or is it having a field trip to the very first Dominican convent for sisters in the U.S.? Or is it biking in Forest Park when leaves are changing colors? Or is it going to Jubilee Farm? Or is it having the joy of not having to do chores for hours each day like long time ago? Or is it getting up before the rooster crows and leave the house at 6:30 a.m. so that we can pray together and celebrate Mass with the Dominican brothers? Or is it Anne's (novice) delicious squash soup? Or is it trying to learn the impossible chanting tones? Or is it the yummy chocolates in the cabinet? Well, I guess, all of these above, but there is something else, too.

What makes novitiate special is that we come together and try to sort out - with fancy words: discern - God's desire, while we deepen our relationship with God, get to know ourselves (our inner Gumby) better, we pray together, live in community, study religious life, and do ministry. We get the time to reflect on everything we experience here: our prayer life, feelings, classes, scripture readings, preachings we hear or lead, community fun nights, community in general, being there for each other, ministry, and our novice directors, Sisters Megan and Joye, help us reflect and discern.

This week, we spent a day learning about discernment. While learning about how to sort out things, how to be attentive to God and to our feelings, and to what is really going on inside and outside, we also heard about great images. 
      One of the images was Jonah in the whale. So what? We are like as if we were Jonah in the whale's belly: having the time to reflect and awaiting where this journey is taking us. 
      Another memorable image was the metaphor of driving in the dark. Driving in the dark, we have headlights, but the light is only good enough to allow us to see what we need; there are no extra lights to see things that could take our attention away. This kind of driving in the dark is focused on the task, from point A to point B. So what? In the novitiate, we journey God's desire and see where it takes. No extra "noises."

During evening prayer this week, we heard another great reflection on Luke 11:5-13.  The Gospel describes how a father would never give a snake when his child asks for a fish, and how a father would never give a scorpion when his child asks for an egg. So what? In Kathy's preaching, the message was, that God would never give the opposite we ask for, but we won't get everything we ask in prayer either. If we ask for a fish, God would most likely provide a fishing pole. If we ask an egg, God would probably give us a hen to nurture and care for that later gives us eggs. So what? When we ask God: "what is your desire? or how am I to bring your love to others?" God doesn't whisper in our ears, but God does give us the tool, the novitiate: the opportunity to live together in community, study, have a deeper relationship with God through prayer, and enfold the journey with the help of our directors and the novices.

Discernment is a life-long journey. So what? The point is, that during novitiate, we are here for each other to help be attentive to and sort out God's desire with our life.

How do we know it? One sure sign is: we feel at peace, joyful and energized (wheee!) when we can be our very best self using the gifts God gave us. A spouse is the very best self within a marriage. A religious sister, brother or priest is the very best self in a community and ministry. If you are not married, or not ordained or a vowed religious, but have played with the thought, look for the help God offers you in your best buddy, or a spiritual director, or vocation director, how you can be your very best self.

Friday, October 4, 2013



noun: metaphor; plural noun: metaphors
a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

This week we have been encircled by metaphors, ways to describe the congregations from which we come, as part of our Vowed Life class. We described our communities as:






Do any of these resonate with you? What metaphor would you use to describe your call and vocation?