Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving... and November Highlights

Like many Americans, we had the great joy of gathering last night to express our gratitude to our creator for the many blessings bestowed upon us.  During this time of gratitude, we are mindful of everyone who is so vital to us through support and prayers! 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, please receive from the community at the CDN our gratitude and sincerest wishes for a peaceful day. We hope that you had a very happy Thanksgiving.  

The Inter Collaborative Novitiate had the insightful opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultural richness of its members as part of October meeting hosted by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Godfrey, IL. During the gathering, the INC group learned about cultural understanding and were able to experience the Indian festival of lights, Diwali, and Dia De Los Muertos. The gathering feature food, music and multicultural understating. 

The delightful sites of autumn and the energy of the supper moon provided the perfect setting for our ICN seminar on centering prayer.  The seminar lead by father William Sheehan, OMI and took place at the beautiful mother house of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in St. Louis, MO. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Between the West Wing and Jesus

Blog by Ana Gonzalez
I was introduced to the CDN tradition of watching the TV series, “The West Wing” during the pre-novitiate visit and orientation.  I became immediately interested in the program featuring Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlett.  As part of my novitiate experience I look forward to the evenings when we can sit, relax and watch an episode.  During the last three months we have been able to explore the first season of the series, and can share that I am enamored with the character of Josiah Bartlett.  While I know President Bartlett is a fictional character, I find his passion for justice, respectful and ethical approach to sensitive issue and reliance on his faith is inspirational.  After a disheartening election last week, my inner idealists wished for President Bartlett’s administration, and longed for the peace of knowing that our elected leader would embrace the moral, faithful and ethical approach displayed in my new favorite series. 

During the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election, I was shocked by the rhetoric disseminated.  As a Mexican-American, immigrant, woman, who takes pride in calling the United States home, I felt offended by statements made  during the presidential campaign and the permission granted for repressed voices to speak against love and compassion.  The morning of November 9, I found it difficult to believe the land of the free, the home of dreams and visions of justice for all chose to be led by a narrative of boundaries and fear against the other. The day following the elections I grieved thinking of Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the dreamers who risked so much so that I, a Mexican-American Woman, my family and many others, would have an active role in the American Dream.  I became afraid by the unpredictability of the election, yet I was granted hope by Jesus!
Group of youth encouraging voter participation.  

I am not sure if our Inter Congregational Novitiate (ICN) directors planned the topic strategically, but I was so grateful that the presentation of November 9 was on Jesus. I certainly was in dire need of Jesus!   I was granted tools for healing and the inspiration in the presentation lead by Sister Colleen M. Mallon, O.P. , Ph.D.  As part of her presentation, Sister Colleen reminded me that the foundation of my faith is in the invitation to be and live in God.   God is the animating source and completion of a creation overflowing in love. The ever loving creator is animating all by the constant pouring and self-giving, hence God is in the loving with creation.  We as creatures of creation are part of the divine in the giving of love. In Jesus, we have the full demonstration of God’s love and what it means to be human. Through the expression of Jesus we can experience the expression of the divine and are invited to be bold, humble and full of love.

I was blown away by the idea that God is always present, working in the midst of chaos and animating change. God is currently stimulating creation.  It is out job as creatures to live in God’s love and be God’s love! As part of love, we are granted the gift of choice, where we can choose to embrace God’s creation by love or not. All of our choices have consequences, and I, for one, am very conscious of the past choices that contributed to my brokenness and hurt. However, even in my personal darkness and failings, I am loved unconditionally by God and in the darkest moments God has been present.  As we all know, dark moments are not pleasant. During the presentation Sister Colleen reminded me that suffering is an element in the life of a creature. Suffering is a part of our complex and multidimensional story, but we are also meant to experience joy, and the embodiment of the vision of love.  Sister Colleen reminded me that we are all God’s by embracing love and following Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus is the paradigm of love, inviting us to give and receive love, even in the face of adversity.

Vigil for Peace at College Church
Shortly after the lecture by Sister Colleen I opened my newsfeed and was broken hearted again by reports of hate crimes championing phrases said by the President-Elect during the campaign.  A recent e-mail by Southern Poverty Law  indicated that there have been over 400 incidents of harassment and intimidation after the election. Instead of going into shock and a “patatus,” my response was different as I was inspired in the hope offered by Jesus. We are all called to love, and as long we love, there is hope.  Fear is useless, what I need to embrace is my trust in God and follow the example given to me by Jesus. I need to continue my prayer and be attentive to the divine in all creation, even in the face of challenge.

Through the beauty of technology and FaceBook live, I had the great privilege of listening to the activist and academic Angela Davis who spoke from the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel. In her presentation she spoke of the need to build up our communities, stand up to injustice, and accelerate our grassroots efforts.  Just like Davis, various voices are speaking up, encouraging us to take a stand against hate. Inspired by Sister Colleen’s presentation, I see the way to stand up by embracing the example of Jesus and loving. Hence, I here make my personal commitment to stand in peace against the wave of intimidation and harassment. I vow to speak up in love and trust that God is working at all times. Through inspiration, I invite you dear reader, to join me and consciously embrace love.  Be bold, humble and full of love.

I leave you with a light though from the Kid President!

You Tube Video - Kid President on Disagreement

Friday, November 11, 2016

Building Bridges Across Culture

Blog by Margaret Uche
The Inter-Community Novitiate (ICN) program has been such a valuable tool for us here at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate. We have novices from at least six different countries. The ICN provides a place to come together and share our prayers, music, and foods. It also provides informational classes and workshops for us in order to prepare us for commitment to vowed religious life in service of God. It brings us together and allows us to understand and appreciate the charisms of each others congregation. It provides spiritual and social support for each novice as we journey to deepen our relationship with God.

We meet once a week and have different speakers on different topics like transitions, discernment, the
enneagram, communication skills, theological reflection, and psycho-spiritual development.

We recently spent two days learning about building bridges across culture. We learned that the world we were born is just one model of reality. Others cultures are not separate but manifestations of the human spirit. In the novitiate we are also forming our own cultural community. We are learning about how to live inter-culturally, how to be attentive to one another’s differences. We are really learning about cultural awareness inside and outside. We learned about the iceberg analogy of culture. On top of the iceberg which is small, contains what we see. The inside of the iceberg contains what we do not see. Culture is similar in that it has different kinds of shapes in it. Externally, we see little but internally a lot is hidden. So we go down into the internal to see. 

I learned that when in a new culture, one is not to make any changes right away. Watch and listen to see what is going on. Being open to learn and know one another. Culture of Religious life is gift of grace and choice to be vulnerable and share the gift of our experiences. I learned that I do not grow in my comfort zone, but only when I am stretched, witness to people, discover others qualities, make new friends, and learn new things.

The Inter-Community Novitiate provides us the opportunity to come together, support one another, learn from one another, and share our gifts which is God’s desire for all of us, while we deepen our relationship with God and others.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Praise the Lord with our Saints

Every night at Evening Prayer, we read the names of the deceased sisters in our communities. While I don’t know the stories behind all of the names, I do know that each of these women contributed to building up our congregations. The Grand Rapids Dominicans, the Dominican Sisters of Peace and the Adrian Dominican Sisters would not be who they are today without these women.

Cartwright Creek, St. Catharine, KY
In our vowed life class, we talked about the origins of religious women in the United States. All of us in the class brought stories from our own congregation about the pioneer sisters who set off into the West and began to do whatever ministry was needed there, often while having very little for themselves. When we read the names of our deceased sisters at night, I think about these pioneer women.

We talked about our sisters who built great institutions to meet the needs of an immigrant Church in the U.S. These women built up grade schools, high schools, colleges, hospitals and other ministries to meet the needs of the large numbers of immigrants who entered the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While not all of these institutions remain, they helped create the Church as we know it today. When we read the names of our deceased sisters at night, I think about these builder women.

 We also talked about sisters who advocated that sisters get the education they needed for ministry before being sent out in mission. In many ways, those of us in formation today owe a large debt to these women who ensured that we would be ready to live religious life and all the challenges, blessings and adventures we will encounter in that life. When we read the names of our deceased sisters, I think about these discerning women.

St. Catharine Farm and Motherhouse, St. Catharine, KY
We talked about sisters who have embraced causes of justice, whether the sisters who marched for civil rights or the sisters who today call attention to the cry of the Earth. When we read the names of our deceased sisters, I think about these courageous women.

We celebrated All Saints Day on Tuesday. In the Dominican tradition, we have many wonderful canonized saints, all of whom show us new and different ways of being Dominican today. Yet, on All Saints Day, we remember the countless women and men who lived lives of holiness and who are now rejoicing with God in Heaven. In the Jubilee Hymn for the Dominican Order, there is a line saying, “We praise the Lord with our saints” that reminds me of all the saints whose legacy I stand on. When we read the names of our deceased sisters, I have a privileged glimpse of some of the many holy women who now rejoice with God.